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Volume 7    Issue 4           July/August  2005

Customer Service
Tips for quality service

Your People Resource
by Carl Tompkins

In the last two issues, I’ve been talking about the resources you have to help grow your business in a profitable manner. I’ve discussed your personal commitment, time and money-three valuable resources. Now, I’ve saved the best for last and my final resource for discussion is: people.

This is a large subject, so I’ll break it into specific categories.

The first category is employees. Right up front, it is critical to have your employees prepared to become a resource rather than a liability. To ensure this position, consider how your employees would answer the following question: How do you feel about working for your company? 

Your targeted response should be, “The ownership and management of this company truly make me feel as important as they are and as equally accountable for our success.” When this becomes the response volunteered by every employee, congratulations! Your staff is prepared to reach new heights of productivity. 

The steps to take in gaining better results through your employees is to get their input on how best for your company to proceed in gaining results. Because you only possess one set of ideas, why not get additional perspectives? Statistics indicate that when this becomes a steady management practice, employees feel a real sense of worth and then confirm that the company is on the right track or provide better direction in how to achieve improved results.

The second step to take in better utilizing the resource of employees is to assign them more than one job. Now this does not represent having employees take on two full-time jobs but, instead, that their primary job description should include a stretch into additional responsibilities within a normal work schedule. Examples of this might be having a CSR take on a minimal assignment of assisting with accounts receivable, or a technician adding the further responsibility of becoming fleet manager and a store manager taking on some outside selling effort.

This is important to do in order to test employees’ interest levels to grow in their job function and such stretch in their work assignment helps eliminate the ruts that people fall into that often result in reduced productivity. The outcome of this approach adds growth to corporate revenue without the addition of further expense. 

A side-note benefit is that such additional assignments allow employees to see business from more than one perspective that, in turn, reinforces their ability to respond more favorably to business situations. Your provision of additional and expanded assignments meets some of the top needs of employees which categorically are challenging and exciting work, and the opportunity to grow and learn.

The final task in allowing employees to become a better resource is to make sure each takes on the responsibility of being a salesperson. There are two categories of selling and the first, and most commonly understood, is concept selling. I am referring to outside sales efforts that require the development of partnerships with customers where customer needs are explored and solutions are developed and delivered over a long-term relationship.

 This is best left up to the professionally-trained outside salesperson. Companies need to promote participation in the area of service selling by their other employees.
Service selling asks that each employee always looks for opportunities to invite customers to have work completed by your company. A great example of this is when technicians are completing mobile work for a particular customer and, while on the job, be looking through the parking lot for other vehicles with broken glass. Within this same scenario, technicians should always be aware of people passing by and provide a warm greeting that may lead to an introduction of your company.

Personally, I’ve been overwhelmed to witness such opportunities when out training technicians in the field, yet so many stick their head into the pinchweld and fail to ever look up and pay attention to such chances to secure additional work.

CSRs need always to be sharing with customers, either by phone or in person, the many services and products that your company has. In most cases, CSRs simply meet the immediate need of a quote, missing the opportunity to expand the conversation to include the additional lines of work that their company offers.

For you to take better advantage of such opportunities, be sure that your employees are provided directives to service sell, training in how to accomplish this, tools to promote your company (brochures, etc.) and also incentives for achieving new business. 

The next class of people to take better advantage of, in terms of becoming a more valuable resource, is customers.

First, you must live and breathe the philosophy of “customers for life,” meaning that while you’ve worked hard to earn customers’ business, you had better be taking every opportunity to incorporate practices that ensure their return if they ever have a future need for the products and services you provide. The steps to accomplishing customers for life are as follows:

1. Utilize business practices that provide a “dazzling” customer experience when having work completed by your company.
2. Utilize procedures that allow your company to stay in touch with customers. This requires that you maintain a detailed data base of customer information including addresses, phone numbers, the type of work completed on what type of vehicle and any other personal information that can be attained without appearing intrusive.
3. A personal phone call or visit within 3 to 7 days from the time their work was completed to learn how they enjoyed the experience of doing business.
4. Sending holiday greeting cards or small gifts during specific seasons. To think outside the box, what would your customers think if they received a personalized birthday card from your company?
5. Inviting customers to future company events. If you don’t have any, then make some! You may have a Christmas party, a customer appreciation night, or even an open house. I personally travel each year to one particular glass shop and provide a keynote presentation to its customers at its annual customer appreciation night. The guest list includes the police department, fire department, mayor, school superintendent, car dealerships, insurance agents, club presidents, chamber of commerce, as well as others. This event has grown each year and has become a major annual event of that glass shop’s community. Talk about becoming the cornerstone glass shop of the area!
6. If you are prone to running special promotions throughout the year, get on the offense and call your customer base to share the good news. You’ll be surprised how much additional business can be generated.
7. Keeping your name in front of your customers is critical. Here you need to provide token gifts of appreciation that become useful items around the house. Be sure that such gifts as coffee cups, glass cleaner, refrigerator magnets, welcome mats and others are of a quality nature and don’t over-advertise. Small logos are all that is needed to create the necessary impact.

The next category of people to better utilize is suppliers. While you have a multitude of products to choose from in supplying your business, never overlook the different types of suppliers that can provide you with more than a quality product. Look for those that also provide quality consultation and programs to support your business growth.

The most profitable companies in any industry are those that create special relationships with suppliers. In times of real need, a great supplier can support a dedicated customer with more help than any cheap product or low invoice can provide.

To prove this point, consider a real situation in which a retail glass shop was struggling to survive. The company began its corrective action by soliciting the help of an outside consulting firm that was to come in, assess the business, and then provide a play book of corrective action that would right the company’s wrongs. The cost of this service was going to be $30,000. Before a contract was signed, the glass shop owner called on one of his suppliers that he had grown to trust for its abilities to know his specific industry and teach how to improve revenue and profit. 

The supplier came in, confidentially reviewed the glass shop financial reporting, assessed how the company was spending its time and then formulated an action plan. The result was that the owner of the company achieved better advise at no charge. The motivation of the supplier to do so was that it was being supported by the customer’s purchase of its products and would achieve growth in sales through the improvement of the glass shop’s own business. 

Carl Tompkins is Western states area manager for the Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash.

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