Clients expect service, but agents, salespeople, and clients often have trouble defining “service”.
Driving across town to deliver donuts often gets listed as a service call. Dropping in to see how things are going often appears on weekly call reports as service. To some sales agents, service is what they do when they don’t feel like selling. Service can be a way to put off more important activities. Servicing your customer is very important. Just be careful. Don’t use service calls as a way to convince yourself that you’re selling. A service call should have definable objectives.
One problem with service calls is that there’s very little short-term reward for doing it. Few agents or sales managers greet returning salespeople at the end of the day with, “Did you provide great service to your clients today?” Instead, managers ask, “Who did you sell today? Did you put any freight on Sunteck trucks?” There’s more financial reward for, and more attention paid to selling than to servicing.
Let’s define SERVICE as anything that builds trust and confidence in Sunteck and the services we provide to the customer.
Following is a list of services that are specific and measurable. The purpose of this list is to help you develop an ongoing service system for Sunteck that kicks in when you make the sell. You can use this checklist to make service a more specific part of your sales planning. There’s enough lip service paid to it already.
- Write thank you notes. I sometimes write as many as 10 thank you notes per day. I’ve made sales calls where I’ve seen my handwritten notes on my clients’ desk months later. Carry cards in your car and fill them out at the end of the call while still in the customer’s parking lot.
- Clip an article you saw about the client’s industry and send it to them. This works best when you send the original article, not a copy. Your client will appreciate the special attention.
- Conduct a training session for the client and their staff. Perhaps you have sales training or customer service programs that could benefit salespeople and customer service personnel. Make them available to clients and add value to being a shipper or consignee with Sunteck. This says you care about the client’s future growth and not just about the business you get from them today.
- Schedule a visit of upper management to your client. This is a symbolic and information gathering visit. Agents, corporate executives and managers, dispatch supervisors, and customer service managers are ideal for this purpose. It says to the client that you appreciate their business, and also gives management the opportunity to stay connected.
- Conduct agency or corporate office tours on a regular basis. Clients need to see the agency or corporate office, especially large shippers, so that they can see the depth of the professionalism and dedication that goes into moving their freight.
- Hold round table discussions about business trends and opportunities with key clients. I love the idea of customer councils. It’s a great way to improve your business and your customer’s business. Getting successful people from other businesses to talk and help each other is another service Sunteck can provide. These meetings can help you get good information about how to serve your clients better.
- Throw a client appreciation party, cookout, or breakfast.
- Bring Sunteck service people to meet your customers. Those people within your organization that actually make the decisions about how the freight moves can be your best sales associates. They can also solve problems on the spot that you might not be able to handle yourself.
- Bring coffee and donuts. It’s cheaper than buying lunch, and most of the time easier for your client. Get stickers to put on the box with the Sunteck logo and your agency’s telephone number. This gives you a dozen chances to register name awareness. It helps to be known by many people in the organization from the boardroom to the breakroom.
- Help clients with long-term planning and strategizing. Offer to participate on a project planning team.
- Send a thank you card to your client when he makes his first shipment with Sunteck. This sends an important message to the customer. It shows that you appreciate their business, and that you stay abreast of what’s going on at Sunteck. Be sure to work closely with customer service and your dispatching staff to ensure that they alert you of all first shipments.
- Surprise a customer with a little gift that relates to a hobby or special interest that you know they enjoy (i.e. golf balls, a souvenir from their home state, a gift that contains their favorite sports team logo, etc.).
- Invite your customer to accompany you to seminars, speeches, and functions.
- Return all phone calls immediately. The simple act of returning a phone call can differentiate you from the competition.
- Establish a follow-up schedule. Remember that last month’s no may be this month’s yes. Try to touch base with prospects regularly without being intrusive. Also, group prospects according to when you expect them to buy (within 30 days, within 60 days, etc.). Consider their unique shipping cycles. Is their product seasonal? Do they have a contract expiring soon with another carrier? When will they accept bids? The sooner you expect a prospect to buy, the more frequently you should stay in touch. Design a follow-up contact calendar to help you keep track of your prospects and the contacts you make with them.
- Vary your modes of contact. A call or email will have more impact if it’s reinforced with another form of contact. Follow phone calls with an email outlining the highlights of your conversation and confirming any action steps your prospect approved. Call your prospects and current customers within a week after you send an email to confirm receipt and offer to discuss any questions or issues they may have. Personalize your method of contact and show your customers that you’re persistent in your desire to help them.
- Collect leads on follow-up calls to established customers. Repeat customers need to know they aren’t being taken for granted, so contact them regularly to make sure you’re still meeting their needs and expectations. If you’ve provided good service to these customers, don’t hesitate to ask for the names of business acquaintances and others in their own company who might benefit from the shipping solutions offered by Sunteck.
- Send literature sparingly. If prospects are interested in Sunteck’s services, you can withhold literature and make additional contacts to provide more information and build rapport. Withholding literature selectively also keeps your service information (late pick-ups, customized billing, early delivery, etc.) customized for each individual prospect. Use your customers’ requests for information to gauge their level of interest in your service.
- Make buying fun. Selling doesn’t have to be all serious business. An upbeat, exciting attitude often makes customers want to join the party. Lighten up! The appearance of desperation or extreme seriousness can cause doubt in the customer’s mind. Relax; show them you’re at ease with what you’re doing. You’re not worried about Sunteck’s ability to deliver their product on time and without damage, and they shouldn’t be either. Adopt an energized, off-the-wall approach to show your customers you’re a forward-thinking, innovative go-getter. You don’t have to sacrifice professionalism to make buying an energizing, enjoyable experience that will keep your customers coming back.
- Make sure internal employees are well-trained in good customer service techniques. Your customer or prospect will probably have lots of contacts with Sunteck’s customer service reps., shift supervisors, operations coordinators, administrative personnel, agents, and Sunteck Drivers. Your co-workers are your best sales assistants. Treat them like gold, and they’ll do the same for your customers. It’s up to you. Make sure they’re as excited as you are to provide outstanding customer service.
- Most importantly, do what you promised, do it when you promised, and do it more often than the competition.
Sales professionals in our industry who don’t take care of their clients are shortsighted, and in the long run end up on the short end of the stick. If you’re worried about showing your face at your customer’s office, then you’ve got a serious problem.
Constant communication is the key to building a lasting relationship with customers and prospects. You must stay in touch.
Many customers are suspicious of freight salesmen. They think that we’re there at the time of the sale but not when they need us if something goes wrong. Many people get buyer’s remorse. Soon after the sale they think, “Did I make the right decision? Maybe I should have chosen 3PL or kept using ABC Trucking.” When they get that follow-up email or phone call, or they experience the other customer service techniques discussed here, it makes them think, “Yes, I made the right decision.”
Outstanding customer service means more money in your pocket. Research has shown that companies who use service as their primary competitive weapon can charge about 10% more for their product or service compared to their competitors. With increased customer satisfaction you can increase your income by at least 10% starting today.
So start today— Make service an integral part of your sales strategy.