Who’s in Control of Your Customer Service?

Here are several ways you can make your sales process visible for your customers and give them the feeling of control that is so important to them.

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In the 1960’s, when the fast food industry was brand new, most restaurants had a wall between the order counter and the kitchen. Customers didn’t know how their food was being prepared or how long it would take (or if it had been pre-prepared and resting under heat lamps awaiting an order).

In the seventies, some restaurants took down the wall so that customers could see who was preparing their food, how it was being prepared and about how long it would take.

This gave customers psychological control of the “order-to-delivery” process by making it visible: if customers wished, they could see the process and thereby be mentally involved in it every step of the way. This gave them the feeling of control without actually being in control of the process.

Here are some ways you can make your sales process visible for your customers:

Provide your customers with a small, concise booklet which gives a thumbnail sketch (maybe even a colorful flowchart) of each of the steps in your sales process.

This booklet should also contain an approximate time the entire process should take as well as the value of each step for the customer. If you don’t think through your sales process in these terms from your customers’ point of view, how can you expect them to want to go with you, a stranger, into unfamiliar territory? They will find many ways to resist your efforts to take them “down the road” to the sale.

Hyundai gives its retail sales personnel colorful and graphic-intensive booklets which provide a brief explanation of each of the sales process steps. Customers can quickly read and easily understand the “Big Picture” of what they’re about to go through. They also learn of the sales person’s commitment to developing a long-term relationship with the customer to ensure complete ownership experience satisfaction.

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Customers are given a sense of control of the process when they know what all is involved, how long it will take and what value there is for them all along the way.

Use the P.T. Barnum method of communication throughout your sales process: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em; Tell ‘em; then, Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” When prospects know what to expect, they will be much more willing to give you their time and attention; they will also feel much more comfortable and confident in taking every step of the sale process with you..

For many years, automobile manufacturers have been conducting ongoing, in-depth research to keep abreast of customer wants, needs and expectations.

Hyundai Corporation has determined that there are nine “core values,” or “needs,” that customers want honored every time they interact with the dealership:

1. Need to feel in control.

2. Need to be treated professionally and respectfully.

3. Need for consultative guidance.

4. Need to feel comfortable and confident.

5. Need to feel valued.

6. Need to have an ongoing relationship.

7. Need for quality product.

8. Need for quality, personalized experience.

9. Need for “value added” experience.

These “core values” are not unique to automotive customers. In fact, they are what any retail customer interacting with any business wants, needs and expects.

The first customer “core value” is: “Need to feel in control.” Read it carefully: It says, “need to feel in control” not, “need to be in control.” In the sales process, if you are meeting the prospect for the first time, it is crucial how you greet him/her. Whether or not you get to move closer to the sale depends upon how well you take this initial step.

However, most prospective customers make it difficult for you to take that first step with flair and confidence. Retail shoppers across the country have “loaded their lips” in preparation to fire off the usual response familiar to sales professionals everywhere: “No thanks, I’m just looking.”

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It is my belief that the primary reason people respond this way (no matter what question the sales person asks) is because they don’t want to be led into unfamiliar territory by someone they don’t know and don’t yet trust. Customers know that sales professionals have an agenda in talking with them in a retail setting. It’s not the fact of having an agenda that bothers most people; rather, it’s not knowing what the content of the agenda is.

At the beginning of any sales process, every customer has at least the following questions in mind, even if they’re not consciously aware of it:

1. What are the steps of the process you will be taking me through?

2. How long will the process take?

3. What’s in it for me to go through this process with you?

When you answer these three questions at the beginning of the sales process, you have given the prospect the feeling of control of the process. Even though you are the one in control of the process, the prospect feels in control by being aware of exactly what the process is, where they are in relation to all the other steps, what’s coming next and what the value in each of the steps is for him/her.

When you can answer these three questions at the beginning of the sales process, you will be well on your way to making both a sale and a very happy customer.

About the Author

Ken Wallace, M. Div., CSL has been in the organizational development field since 1973. He is a seasoned consultant, speaker and executive coach with extensive business experience in multiple industries who provides practical organizational direction and support for business leaders.

CCW EU 2019

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