As I believe any commercial entity is sales driven (even if it's selling service) I believe it does make a difference when it comes to customer experience and how the customer will perceive the sale either sale or service driven.
I work in the IT/communications sector and more specific, systems communication. (Making things that are meant to communicate, communicate with other things or more to the point. That is how I provide the solution) everything I do before and after providing the solution is service, and yes even my service is sales driven.
I see a common scenario where because service appears as not being a physical thing it is dismissed/ queried or just denied by the customer where actual item/parts are justifiable (most times)
Also the common link to this theory is the fact that it appears if a sale is perceived by the customer as a sales driven sale, questions will be asked and usually results in conflict (sometimes can be resolved which leads to a "bad" customer experience or sometimes cannot which then leads to customer dissatisfaction and we all know where that goes)
If the sale is perceived by the customer as a service driven sale, all is well (at lease any problems along the way is handled correctly and in only the most extreme cases may lead to only a "bad" customer experience)
So it seems weird that a customer requires a service driven sale but only wants to pay for a physical object.
So how do I create a service driven sale? I think it comes down to the customer there are a few types that I will be in contact with.
Customer A. Knows what they want, and how to do it!
Customer B. Knows what they want, but not how to do it!
Customer C. Doesn't know what they want, or how to do it!
Customer D. Only wants information so they can do it themselves!
The first thing I need to do is make service, a non physical thing be understood by the customer that it is actually more important than the product/item/part.
And why, because at the end of the day even if I never hear or see the customer again I want them to come back in five years time so we can replace that item because it has come to the end of its life
But if we have created a service driven sale chances are we'll see and hear from our customer on a regular basis.
The first problem is, which customer am I dealing with? Or how do I find out?
Well I can only do that by asking questions. I believe I have about 30 seconds on initial contact to decide after that you could be risking asking to many questions and wasting time and/or customers' money
Using the above mentioned Customers.(create a service driven sale)
Customer B and C — well we have plenty to play with here, after the first 30seconds of initial contact and deciding our customer is either B or C, we now have plenty of time to "hold their hand" and step through the process of providing a solution, the service driven sale will be self created. But still the basic process will differ from a Customer B to Customer C
Customer A - (Knows what they want, and how to do it!) generally leads to a sale with a "bad" customer experience. The reason I find is we will risk our own personal reputation and the business reputation to grab the cash and run. Or it may seem easier to comply with the customer's demands because of our empathy towards to customer to solve the problem quickly rather than correctly. Miscommunications and/or misunderstanding of requirements by both the customer and the personal handling the situation often happen. Remember the customer knows what they want and how to do it, so they will tell you I need this, I need that, and it would seem strange that after you provided what they wanted/needed, nearly every time results in customer dissatisfaction in some form.
So we need to create a customer relationship as soon as possible after the first 30 seconds. The very next question that requires an answer by the customer is Why are you here? Or if you are going to ask the customer directly "So what brings you here to see me?" (Or words to that effect)
At this point the customer only has one option and that is to answer you directly, and whatever the answer we have just created the first step in creating a customer relationship and the door is now open to provide a service driven sale.
I find we now have full control to do as we wish with the customer, If I'm having a bad day and just don't feel like dealing with this, I can just as easily show the customer the door as I could "hold their hand" to provide a solution even if it's not what "they needed" when they walked in.
Customer C — (Only wants information so they can do it themselves), Remember I'm personally employed to sell product and service not information and then back up what I just sold with funny enough...service which then leads to more product sales. I deal with these customers by being up front, "it will cost X amount for this product or we charge hourly X amount, do you wish to continue?" And don't forget "we are currently out of stock, do you wish to place an order?" Generally speaking these customer's have no intention to spend money (whatever the reason) and once again empathy could drive you to do what is not your responsibility and as soon as you start building a customer relation based on what is not your responsibility, you could be heading down the dark alley with only a torch with minimal vision. This leads me to the reason for this topic.
You now have a basic understanding how I work and classify customers and then provide a service driven sale. In fact this way of operating has been extremely successful for how I work and have built a large client base with a long term customer relationship.
But is there a flaw in my way of operating or have I been leading some customer's down the dark alley with a torch (possibly with flat batteries)
Of course there are some flaws of any form of theory or attempt to rationalize and explanation for unproven concepts. So when things occasionally don't go to plan we take a step back, do a little problem solving and continue on, but when things start fall into a pattern. We are prompted to "really take a close look".
The flaw within the above topic is based on understanding that the types of customers as mentioned above is based on how the customer see's themselves not how I/we see them. And unless that is completely understood throughout the complete customer relationship even it's for a few minutes or several years we are unable to build a truly sustainable relationship.
So it doesn't matter which type of customer you are dealing with at the current moment there is always opportunity to provide a service driven sale. But as the relationship grows chances are that particular customer will change as well, and missing the change you will find you will back at the start of trying to build the relationship again and all your work has become undone (even years of building could be at risk)
But I see this leading to an open can of worms,
What causes a customer to change? — My personal influence, outside influence, global financial issues
And is it possible to predict when a customer will change and can I be ready for it
I've noticed any type of customer can change to any other type so is it also possible to predict where this customer will go?
Or if these changes in customer attitude are from outside influences not from within my control, do I just let it go as these influences are obviously over powering their understanding of my/customer obligations within the customer relationship?
Any comments welcome!
I'm now going through a process of how to deal with customer changes in attitude. And trying to understand if it's something I could have approached differently in the early days or is it a something out of my control.
Common theme is un-usual number of long term customer's attitude change in a short period of time and at this point no obvious connection what is causing this trend?