Today’s guest post was written by colleague Richard R. Shapiro, Founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) and a leading authority in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
When I walk into a bookstore, I expect that a principal hiring practice for a sales associate would be a love of reading. I always ask the person behind the desk at Barnes & Noble what he or she has read recently and would recommend. How disappointing if the response was “Sorry, haven’t read anything in the past year.” Not the right fit for a bookseller.
There is no sales tool as powerful as knowledge.
Highly knowledgeable and discerning customer service is more important than ever today. Customers can get rudimentary questions answered online or on their phones. Shoppers are so proficient in gathering information that they don’t need much guidance until they’re just about ready to make their critical buying decisions.
Call center executives have noticed a somewhat similar changing dynamic in caller behavior. Agents are presented with increasingly complex issues to solve. Companies would benefit from updating their FAQs and information posted on social media to make sure that it is reflective of what the agents are responding to. Even the difficult questions and answers can be posted. Bottom line: all the matters that fall between the cracks wind up being handled by call center agents and sales associates.
The era of simple answers is over. We live in a complex society, and it takes a person with the ability to size up a customer’s needs and match those needs with an appropriate service or product offering. It also requires more effective knowledgebase systems and quality monitoring processes that judge the quality of the call and not just the call time. Sales representatives of all kinds must be patient and understanding listeners, first and foremost, but they also must be solution-oriented problem solvers who know their stuff.
When customers get their complex questions answered and intricate problems resolved, they remember. Many will take the time to post positive comments on social media sites and become the most loyal brand advocates. When I contemplate the meaning of loyalty and what drives it, I think about people—not places, not stores, not even brands. I think of people who know their merchandise and also know me well enough to guide me toward what’s best for me.
For many companies, the point of initial contact, when the phone rings or the customer walks into a store or visits a website, the issue the customer has will be the one that impacts whether the relationship with the brand is renewed or diminished. In order to gain repeat business and earn long term loyalty, companies need to ensure their staff is armed and ready to answer more than just simple questions.
If you’re interesting in developing a road map for long term loyalty, start here by downloading a free chapter of to The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business.
Richard R. Shapiro is Founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) and a leading authority in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty. For 27 years, Richard has spearheaded the research conducted with thousands of customers from Fortune 100 and 500 companies amassing the ingredients of customer loyalty and what drives repeat business. His first book was The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business and his newest book is The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business.