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Match Inside Performance to Outside Promises

By: Tammie MacLachlan and Mark Lusky
Posted: May 10, 2013, from the June 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

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5. Be an educator and advisor, not just an ordertaker. Most customers appreciate expert counsel and guidance about ways to do things better if offered in a supportive (versus condescending) way. As customer depths of knowledge differ, it’s wise to ask the customer what level of interaction is desired at the outset—and then periodically thereafter. When there seems to be a need in the moment to further educate or advise, simply ask if it’s okay to offer some insights. Most people appreciate input; it just needs to be presented in a way that doesn’t leave them feeling stupid or insulted.

6. Build relationships, not just transactions. This can be trickier than it appears at first glance. Put these words in front of a salesperson, and the message likely received will revolve around upselling. Generally, this is not what’s at play here. Building a relationship does not necessarily require you to know a customer’s personal history—customers simply want to feel they are not just another “income generator.” Also, using “please” and “thank you” is simple and appreciated.

What is at play is the opportunity to make customers feel valued, heard and supported. In turn, this will drive upselling without having to utter a sales-oriented word. Unfortunately, in the mad rush to capture everyone’s business all the time, it’s hard to even be on hold for a customer service rep without getting some type of sales pitch. Often, this produces an undesired effect—making an already agitated customer more upset because of the sales bombardment.

Instead of trying to sell, craft a pitch that addresses ways to serve the customer better. The sales will follow naturally.

7. Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth. This one should be easy. Why is it so hard? Is it so awful to admit your company isn’t perfect? Think about the Domino’s Pizza campaign, wherein a company principal acknowledges their past failings and presents efforts to make it right. Backed up by a better product, the chain is gaining ground.

8. Make marketing claims that you can fully support and document. In many ways, this goes hand in hand with No. 7. Market what you can justify, not any spun tale that you think will bring in customers. There’s an old adage that advertising can get people to try something once. But quality will keep them coming back.

In today’s “here today” marketplace, customers will quickly spread the word about marketing claims that don’t live up to performance. For example, rampant wireless telecom industry marketing claims about the best and biggest networks only have validity if customers get what they want when they want it. Dropped calls, slow data downloads and inconsistent performance will drive consumer ire no matter what the ads say.

9. Go the extra mile routinely for customers. People appreciate extra effor, and often will overlook other less-than-optimum issues in the process. While ultimately customer loyalty must tie to consistently high level of performance, it’s better to deal with someone who views you as a friend of sorts than an unfeeling institutional entity.

10. Challenge yourself to keep doing better. F.G. Bonfils, co-founder of the Denver Post, once said, "There is no hope for the satisfied man.” The same holds true for the satisfied company. Most companies invested in the status quo ultimately will fail.

While it’s important to stay connected to historical developments that helped build your company, it’s critical to stay on top of current trends and developments that will propel it forward in the future.

Tammie MacLachlan is the customer service manager of Lightning Labels, a Denver-based all-digital custom label printer providing full-color labels and stickers of all shapes and sizes, as well as custom packaging products. She has been in the printing industry for 19 years and with Lightning Labels for over seven years. Find Lightning Labels on Facebook for special offers and label and printing news.

Mark Lusky is a marketing communications professional who has worked with Lightning Labels since 2008.