Consumer satisfaction is not just the goal of any customer-driven business model–it is also a key ingredient of its development strategy. Consumption choices of people across the globe are guided by personal recommendations from friends and loved ones.
Customers function as force-multipliers, and can do more to generate interest in a brand than any advertising blitz could. The ability to transform customers into defacto company representatives is what distinguishes a truly dynamic organisation from a more pedestrian one.
Value Addition through Service Delivery
As a key point of contact between a company and its customers, service-delivery personnel are in a position of some power. How they deliver the service is crucial not just for customer retention—it can also spur existing customers to enthusiastically recommend the brand to friends and family, thus widening the consumer base. Zappos, an apparel vendor, is hugely popular among its customers—75 per cent of whom are return customers.
Zappos has an exceptional service-delivery model, with features such as return shipping assistance aimed at making the return process as painless as possible. Its success spurred Amazon to buy it in 2009 for $1.2 billion. The first step in instilling a ‘selling through service’ ethos, therefore, is to recognise service-delivery’s potential to add value to a product.
The Sales-Service Spectrum
Sales and service delivery aren’t two discrete categories, but constitute two ends of a service-centric continuum. Actively promoting this perception among service (and sales) staff can exponentially improve customers’ experience of service-delivery, taking it from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘outstanding’ while transforming the customer from ‘satisfied buyer’ to ‘enthusiastic brand advocate’. This happens when service-delivery personnel have recognised and taken ownership of their role as active agents of growth, rather than as mere conveyors of goods.
The key to triggering this shift is to create awareness among service-employees of its nuances and benefits. In concrete terms, it means training service personnel to recognise and actively pursue future sales or value-addition opportunities.
The service person might, for example, learn to diagnose potential product-utilisation problems during the delivery process, and alert the sales team and product engineers in advance. Service personnel can also incorporate actual sales pitches into the delivery process. When identifying potential issues, they might also practice offering tangible, revenue-generating solutions to customers.
This type of ‘enlightened service delivery’ is possible only when service personnel’s capacities have been built. This requires an investment of time and resources on the part of the company.
A Service-Oriented Philosophy
Making customer-service the cornerstone of their business development strategy requires that companies treat each employee-customer interaction as an opportunity to build trust. When a customer calls with negative feedback or to complain, a customer-oriented organisation will listen carefully, giving the other party the benefit of the doubt. If the customer is handled with care, you strengthen their loyalty to the brand, and create a stronger bond than would have existed had there been no issues to begin with.
Create a small sector of your consumer service representative as a project group that aims at selling through service. Use this pilot study as a beginning to see how you can apply the practices that work across the customer service department of your business.