I recently needed to contact a vendor regarding a delivery question. Without naming names, I can tell you that the vendor is a small business and I do a not-insignificant amount of business with them.
The person who answered the phone (not the owner) sounded as if my call were an interruption in her day (ever have this happen to you?). She was not pleasant and wanted to get me off the phone as quickly as possible. She was able to answer my question and off I went - not feeling appreciated and not feeling valued.
So be it. I went about my day and needed to contact another vendor to see if I could use an American Express card for payment as their invoice didn't state. This should have been a minute-long phone call. It wasn't.
The accounts payable person - also apparently having a rough day based on her tone - told me that they did indeed accept Amex. "Great - more points!" is what I thought and happily gave her all the information.
About an hour later my phone rang. It was the same woman, clipped tone and no sense of friendliness whatsoever, now telling me that they do not accept American Express and I would need to pay in another manner. Not a big deal and I gave her another credit card. Once she had the information, she said "goodbye" and hung up the phone.
It obviously wasn't my day to call vendors.
These two companies - one large and one small - have forgotten to train their employees in the art of common courtesy. There are several ways that both of these employees could have made me, their customer, feel valued:
- Answer the phone while smiling (people really can tell)
- Be helpful without making me feel that I was an intrusion on their day - I won't even mention that had their respective ordering and invoicing documents been done correctly, there would have been no need for my calls.
- Say "thank you" for calling
- And, in the case of the confused accounts payable person, apologize for not knowing whether or not the company accepted a certain credit card (whether her fault or not, she should have apologized to me on behalf of the company). This very easily could have turned into an amusing part of the day for both of us.
Companies of all sizes need to understand a very basic concept:
Everyone in the company is involved in marketing. Every customer/client contact is a chance to positively OR negatively affect how the customer feels about the company. Do it correctly and a customer is happy. Screw it up and they may forgive you - screw it up too many times and you lose the customer.
Let me tell you another quick story:
A client of mine recently had several cartons of brochures delivered from a printer. There were four different types of brochures. The driver, smiling, wheels in several cartons and asks where he should leave them.
My client asked him to just leave them in a corner of the store room as they needed to sort them by brochure title before placing them on the shelves. Turns out the driver had already done that and put the names of the brochures on the sides of the cartons (not just on top where you can never read them) to make them easier to read while on the shelves.
As he was leaving, he thanked my client for his business.
Surprising? It shouldn't be. This is common courtesy and what a good company instills in each of its employees. Every employee who has the slightest contact with a customer or client should know that each customer/client is THE most important person to the company.
The truck driver in the above story "gets it." Be sure that you do as well.
Courtesy is often overlooked as a means of getting, and keeping, clients. Another example is the doctor who calls a patient at home the evening after a treatment; just to be sure everything is okay.
Want to really impress your clients? Take it a step further and thank them for their business. People like, and need, to feel appreciated and valued - show them gratitude for doing business with you and watch them turn into great sources of referrals.
Some simple ways of saying "thank you" include the following:
- Send birthday cards/gifts depending on the size of the client and your budget.
- In the U.S., send Thanksgiving cards or letters - everyone sends holiday cards, be a little different.
- If you are located near your clients, occasionally drop in with a small surprise gift.
- If it works for your business, remind the client a week before his/her partner's birthday/their anniversary.
- Be sure your invoice includes a line thanking your clients for their business.
- If it works with your business, have some type of a customer appreciation event.
In this world of running here and there, email, voicemail, blackberries and MDAs, the personal touch combined with a little courtesy and gratitude goes a long way.
Thank you for taking time from your busy day to read this today.
Sandra Martini may be contacted at http://www.SandraMartini.com
For the past 5 years, Sandra Martini has been showing self-employed business owners how to get more clients consistently by implementing processes and systems to put their marketing on autopilot. Visit Sandra at http://www.SandraMartini.com for details, compelling client testimonials and her free audio series "5 Simple and Easy Steps to Put Your Marketing on Autopilot".