The Happy Customer

July 18, 2009

The Happy Customer will give you more businessCustomers are essential for a business. Therefore, keeping the customer satisfied and happy is critical for you as a supplier. So, what does make a happy customer? Is it just about saying “yes” to all their requests? Although many salespeople seem to think that saying “yes” is the answer, the reality is quite different. Customers understand and accept “no” for an answer when they realize that they can have a better deal than “yes”.

Quite often, I have heard statements such as “we exceed our customers’ expectations” or “customer first” and I have seen that they are rather ineffective, and in some cases counterproductive, because they neither create true loyalty nor establish a respectful relationship. To me, such statements are just hollow marketing slogans that rarely serve the customer or the supplier’s business for that matter.

To make a happy customer, it does not take all that much, but there is a combination of areas that need to be covered properly.

Before even claiming that you will exceed the customer’s expectations, you need to identify and understand what the customer really wants and needs and why. To achieve this, there is this simple, yet highly effective technique that, unfortunately, many salespeople seem to ignore: LISTEN!

To me, listening is the easiest thing in the world: all you have to do is keep quiet and let the customer speak. Just moderate the conversation by asking a few relevant questions, and take notes! Another important part of listening is that it shows that you respect your customer’s knowledge of his business and of yours to some extent. Too many salespeople fail a sale because they annoy the buyer by pretending that they know everything better.

Another area that is critical to make the customer happy is to never any promise that you cannot keep. Saying yes and not delivering is probably the most effective way of destroying trust and credibility. Since they are already difficult to establish the first time, trying to gain them back is an even harder task. If in doubt, you do not have to say “no”, but tell the customer that you will do your due diligence and get back to him as soon as possible. Since this is a promise, do not forget to indeed do the thorough follow-up, unless you wish to lose your credibility. If you cannot promise this, then you must ask yourself if you really should be a businessperson at all.

If you want to establish a long-term relationship, which is what everybody claims, you also must make sure that your service or product is actually adding value to your customer. By asking and listening, you will find out where the customer has a need for added value, and you must demonstrate clearly to him/her that you indeed can help him/her build a stronger business.

Also, never forget that solid relationships can last only if there is mutual respect. You must show this to your customer, and always negotiate in a give and take approach. The best way to earn respect is to be honest and tell the truth. Saying “yes” only works for a while until the day you disappoint the customer. In my sales career, the best compliment I have had came from Marks & Spencer. My contact there told me that what they liked about our company was that, unlike many of their other suppliers, we dared to say “no”, explain why and come with a workable solution. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Last, but not least, always remember that the customer is the one who pays for your salary, so serve him well and in a way that also supports your business. You also must not forget that to have your salary paid, your business must be profitable, so do not forget to make the customer pay a fair price to you for all the great service you deliver him as listed above!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

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Be happy that your customer complains!

May 24, 2009

All businesses have it, and most hate it: the customer complaining about the product or the service.
Receiving that awkward callProperly handling customer complaints is actually one of the most powerful ways of creating loyalty. Similarly, poor handling will guarantee your company bad publicity and a poor reputation.
One of the main reasons why complaints are handled in the wrong way is when you take the complaint personally. This happens very easily because in many cases the customer brings his emotions in the picture and makes accusations using “you” while he means “the company”. Entering such a personal argument only escalates things and the discussion usually ends in a conflict.
Not only must you realize that complaints are rarely of a personal nature, they are in most cases legitimate. Of course, there always will be the customer who wants to get some financial advantage by complaining, or those who never will be satisfied regardless of how good your product or service is, but there is a good reason why your customers complain. It might always be rational or logical to you, but be assured that it is to them.
The art of proper complaint handling is in finding out what the actual reason is. Be aware that this can be different from what the customers said at first. You must also realize that emotions are part of complaining and that the customer may need to blow some steam. Unfortunately, he will do so to you even while he knows that you have nothing to do with it. It is just part of the process. Just ask questions, and listen to the answers. If the customers yells, let him yell and do not get involved in a war of words.
Once you have identified the real cause of the problem, deal with it professionally and correct it in the proper way! Once the customer gets what he expected to get in the first place, he will be satisfied again. Just make sure that he realizes that he owes it to your dedication to him.
Be assured that he will remember that special personal service. Thank you very much!This way, you will win his loyalty.
So, be happy that your customer complains, because it will give you precious feedback about the actual quality of your product and service, and it offers a unique opportunity to secure future sales! The worst that can happen to your business is losing a customer without knowing why he is not satisfied, because this does not give you any information on how to improve your product.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.