Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Sales With a Smile, Customer Service, And My Honeymoon
By Cory Treffiletti I was on my honeymoon recently and I got an idea for an article (Yes -- my lovely newlywed bride, Gretchen, thought I was crazy trying to draft an article while on our honeymoon -- but she supports me in everything I do). We visited Bora Bora and stayed at a beautiful Luxury Collection resort from Starwood. The location was amazing and the weather was fantastic but what surprised me was the difference I discovered between customer service and what I refer to as "sales with a smile." When I had the epiphany, I was immediately convinced that I had to share my insights with all of you since many of you practice customer service on a daily basis.
Many people practice "sales with a smile" but very few people practice true, effective customer service. "Sales with a smile" is best defined as the occasions when you smile and respond to inquiries with specific, detailed information. Customer service represents going beyond the response to a question and offering supplementary information that may be of interest to your client or customer and may represent an opportunity for cross-sell or up-sell for you.
In Bora Bora we interacted with many of the resort's staff. Everyone would smile and say hello -- but when we asked a question, we received only the most basic response. When I asked for a special dinner for two in our suite, we were told that they couldn't do it because they were booked. They said it very politely and were very nice about it. It took some coaxing and more questions for us to realize that there were some options available to us -- and we were able to have our special romantic dinner for two after all!
From time to time you will hear about salespeople who are "order takers." An order taker is someone who pretty much drives the boat down the river and the fish jump out of the water into the boat. An order taker may practice "sales with a smile" and provide a customer with whatever service they are asking for, but they rarely are practical customer service reps. A strong customer service rep is someone who knows that rarely is the question being asked the entirety of the inquiry. True customer service would come with a response that provides what customers were really looking for.
In that Starwood example the "sales with a smile" response was, "No, I am sorry. We cannot accommodate your request."
In the same Starwood example the "customer service" response would have been, "No. I am sorry that we cannot accommodate your request, but there are a couple of other opportunities that may be of interest to you. Let me tell you about those as well."
Customer service includes up-sell and cross-sell. It includes problem-solving, not just the dissemination of information.
In our business of online marketing, truly effective salespeople, the ones who are valued by their clients and are compensated justly, do more than just take orders. They are problem-solvers and they are focused on true customer service.
In the current state of the economy you'll come across all sorts of marketers who are faced with problems -- and a strong customer service relationship would provide solutions. A strong customer service sale will always come back -- and it will come back higher than before! Don't get me wrong. We had an amazing honeymoon, and I'd recommend that anyone visit the location where we stayed, but from a revenue generation opportunity we both witnessed missed opportunities for up-sell and customer service that could have resulted in even more opportunities for the resort.
Sales with a smile will never leave you upset, but true customer service can drive growth and loyalty and the other metrics that sustain a long-term, successful business.
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Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.
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