This came into crystal clear focus for me a few months ago because of a “reverse sales pitch.” I returned a defective vacuum cleaner to Costco and was about to pick up another just like it when a competitor’s sales rep came up to me and started to offer a buying recommendation. I told her I wasn’t interested and to leave me alone. Turns out she was recommending a product that was another competitor of hers. She told me that she had seen many of the models I had purchased being returned, and cautioned me about their reliability.
So, in the end, she proved to be a wonderful customer support person. And, it wasn’t even for her product.
In the label business, there are ample opportunities to sell. In many cases, the best opportunities to build customer goodwill are to avoid selling and offer helpful information that may not result in a near-term sale. It well could set a positive tone for many sales down the road, however.
The lines between selling and customer service are also being blurred by the rising popularity of “survey” companies trying to capture a quick review of their product or service that can be posted on Google, Yelp, Facebook and other review sites. While they ask for a rating of their service, which ostensibly is a customer service function designed to let them know how they’re doing so that they can improve, they also may be looking for a promotional push via good reviews.
With so many companies seeking feedback these days, this can wind up feeling like an intrusion – and create ill will instead of capturing comments of goodwill.
That said, the best litmus test of the best customer service is determined by the degree of authentic desire to help, resolve and inform versus just trying to make a sale. While she probably doesn’t know it, that vacuum sales rep did more to plant positive feelings about her company’s product – a strong future buying criterion, at least for me – than anything smacking of a direct sales pitch.
On a day-to-day basis, here are a few tips designed to keep your company in a positive spotlight, instead of appearing obsessed with sales, sales, sales everywhere you turn.
- Offer helpful recorded advice when your callers are on hold. Way too often, on-hold messages bombard callers with sales pitches. If you’re a label printer, how about on-hold “how-to” information addressing a variety of ways to make the buying experience faster, easier and “pocketbook positive?” This may be a refreshing change of pace from the relentless sales appeals, as well as provide a respite from the seemingly endless “go to our website” pitches.
- Make customer service with a real person easy and relatively fast. Even Amazon, which does make you work to find a contact number, has a great protocol where you key in your phone number – and they call back almost immediately. And it’s a real, live person. So many companies now try to keep customers off the phone via live chat, email and website customer service systems. This may work well for some, but for those who want to talk to someone – not just something – it can be highly frustrating and create a strong feeling of dissatisfaction.
- Ask before presenting information that can be perceived as a sales pitch. If the information you’re going to present may be interpreted as a sales pitch, simply ask permission first and explain that you’re really trying to help. Sometimes, help and sales information can get intertwined.
- Fill your website and blog with helpful, educational information that truly supports a customer. Don’t overdo popups, special deals or banner ads. There’s nothing more annoying than opening a website – news sites are particularly aggravating – and getting a series of unwanted popup pitches that obscure your ability to read the information you went there to access. A general rule of thumb when developing your website comes from a Franklin D. Roosevelt quotation about speaking: “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.” Be authentic and transparent with website/blog information, keep it concise, and then be done.
Mark Lusky is a marketing communications professional who has worked with Lightning Labels, an all-digital custom label printer in Denver, CO, USA, since 2008. Find Lightning Labels on Facebook for special offers and label printing news.