7 Tips to Build a Customer-Centric Culture and Increase Sales Revenue
In a world where the buyer is in control, happy customers are the secret to growth. In fact, the probability of selling to an existing, happy customer is up to 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer.
Join Lisa Rose, Regional VP of Sales, and Russ Sharer, Director of Sales Effectiveness, as they reveal the 7 tips your team can implement today to become more customer-centric and increase overall sales.
In 19 hyper-focused minutes, we’ll cover:
- What a customer-centric approach looks like, and why it’s a non-negotiable in today’s marketplace
- The questioning strategy your sales and service reps must adopt to provide the level of service your customers expect
- The secret to quickly identifying a customer’s behavior style—and tips for adapting to it
- Ways to align your sales and customer service teams to keep clients delighted and uncover untapped revenue opportunities
Read the Full Transcript of the Briefinar Below:
Lisa Rose: Hello, and welcome to Briefinars for sales leaders. We promise to be brief, bright, and bring it all to you in 19 minutes. Remember, we’ll be sending out a recording of the presentation after we’re done so you have access to it. Today we’re going to cover seven tips to build a customer-centric culture and increase sales revenue. I’m Lisa Rose, regional vice president of sales at Brooks Group, and I’m joined today by Russ Sharer, a director of sales effectiveness at Brooks Group.
Russ Sharer: Hi Lisa, great to be a part of this web briefinar today.
Lisa Rose: Yeah, thanks for joining us today Russ. Russ, I want to start out by asking you, what’s the best customer service story that you know of, or that you’ve encountered?
Russ Sharer: You know Lisa, a number of years ago I was in a restaurant in Dallas, and one of the people in our party had to send their meal back, which is always an intimidating thing and potentially could create a bad Yelp review, if it wasn’t handled well. The waiter went back to the kitchen, came back, and his first comments were, “The chef compliments you on your good taste.”
Lisa Rose: Oh wow, I’d be worried that you’d come back with something extra on your plate.
Russ Sharer: But affirming the decision, it was a great way to create great sense that the restaurant cared more about the customer than it did about the ego of the chef.
Lisa Rose: Yeah, that’s great, and especially with restaurants. I mean so much hinges on that Yelp review, customer service is critical in that regard. I think we’ve seen examples of other great customer service companies, very customer-centric companies, like Amazon, Southwest, Zappos, that’s a couple of examples. They bring a new standard for customer service and people expect that same level of convenience and attention no matter what they buy.
Russ Sharer: Experience is so much of the buying process these days. People want to not just have the transaction, or buy the product or service, but they want to have a great experience, they want to feel valued.
Lisa Rose: Right, and we all know that customer service, you want to keep your customers happy, and it really translates into bottom line. So here’s some interesting stats that tell us how important it means to the success of our organizations.
Russ Sharer: One of the key things is that you want to be able to have repeat customers, especially in this ever increasing world of competitiveness, and marketing metrics has said that you have a 14 times greater likelihood of selling to a customer that’s happy, than you do going out and finding a new customer.
Lisa Rose: That’s true, and if you think old school where word of mouth has always been the best referral, but word of mouth is the number one source of referral for businesses today, according to HubSpot, and that includes social media too. So keeping customers happy is important.
Russ Sharer: Absolutely. Things like Trip Advisor and Yelp have really changed the way in which we pick the companies that we want to do business with.
Lisa Rose: Absolutely.
Russ Sharer: And then the last fact is that those companies that really create a good customer-centric strategy create greater profits. They’re able to have customers that tend to fall in love with them and then choose to do business with them over and over again. So greater percent of the customers that stay, being able to get good word of mouth, and greater profitability, all the things businesses really look for.
Lisa Rose: Absolutely. So what is a customer-centric approach? Most companies know they need it, but what’s the definition of that and how do we implement it, is what they’re asking. So a customer-centric approach is a way of doing business that puts the customer’s needs, their wants, and their communication preferences at the center of the buying process. So remembering what’s important. So needs, wants, communication preferences, and it goes way beyond the sales department. It’s customer service, it’s marketing, and account management as well. So that’s really the key. Not only sales, but the whole organization.
Russ Sharer: Every interaction that an organization has is viewed by the customer as a part of that experience, and so you have to make sure that everyone they come in contact with is focused on the customer.
Lisa Rose: Yeah, it’s critical that you align all your client facing teams to be able to do it. So today we’re going to cover seven tips that all customer facing employees can use to help build a customer-centric culture and increase sales for the company.
Russ Sharer: And that’s really key. These seven tips can be applied really to any industry, but the focus is by handling a customer issue as it arises well, you do create additional opportunities, and that’s what you’re looking for, this ability to be able to go back and service that customer with additional business.
Lisa Rose: Absolutely. So we’re going to go through them one by one. Number one is one that I’ve always prided myself on, is responding quickly. Customers are busy, they need a solution quickly, they want an answer quickly, and because I used to pride myself on it, used to be unique, but nowadays it’s required. People expect immediate gratification, they have a need right now.
Russ Sharer: The internet has really changed the way in which we expect to get information.
Lisa Rose: Absolutely, yeah.
Russ Sharer: If we can’t get it immediately then our attention span jumps to the next supplier, or the next supplier. So responding quickly is really important, and that includes not just the response, but making sure that, depending upon the channel with which you’re selling, they’re trained in a way to be able to get that answer quickly. No one person in an organization has every answer, but by responding saying you’re researching the information, following up that process and those communication guidelines to be able to do the common handling of situations is really important to an organization.
Lisa Rose: Yeah, I think putting those guidelines in place so everybody has an understanding on how to handle it is critical.
Russ Sharer: The number two tip that we would give is to choose enthusiasm. Way back in the broadcast days they used to always say, even on radio, smile when you were speaking-
Lisa Rose: Yes, absolutely.
Russ Sharer: Because people can sense that warmth coming through the microphone, and it’s the same today with customer service.
Lisa Rose: Remember in the old days, they used to put a little mirror up in your cubicle, so you could see yourself smiling or not smiling, so that you reminded yourself to do that. So some things you can coach your reps to do is to just come in with a positive attitude. In fact, you can help raise the enthusiasm in the office by trying to create that culture. So, especially it’s hard when a customer comes in angry. If you stay positive, you can diffuse them very quickly, and sometimes that half of the battle right there.
Russ Sharer: Absolutely. People really want to know that you are recognizing their issues, we’ll talk about some of the other tips, and you want to respond to it but you don’t want to push blame in a certain direction, but you want to enthusiastically solve their problem.
Lisa Rose: That’s right, and remember, in the beginning, the tone you set from the beginning often carries through. So the first impression rule rings true in this. So, how fast is a first impression? I think many of us have heard over the years that if you’re in person face to face with someone you have 19 to 34 seconds to make a good impression, or make an impression, whether it’s good or bad, but it’s different by phone, right?
Russ Sharer: That’s correct. In phone it’s even faster, within the first 16 to 21 seconds people have decided whether this is somebody who not only is going to be able to help me, but is going to be able to bring satisfaction without having to go to a higher level. Unfortunately we probably have all had the experience of talking to a customer service rep, and very quickly deciding this person is never going to get beyond the basic checklist.
Lisa Rose: Right. “Can I speak to your manager?”
Russ Sharer: Exactly, and we accelerate, we go up the channel because of that.
Lisa Rose: Right.
Russ Sharer: So all of that is about that first impression.
Lisa Rose: Yeah, very true. And sometimes that first impression is made by asking great questions. It requires right away to get you to understand what the problem is. So you can get to the heart of the questions if you ask them to ask some probing questions, to uncover those needs and wants we were talking about. Asking some open-ended questions and using the 3-Deep method, which I’ll talk about in a few minutes. I read some research recently that was really inspiring, it was interesting. It was from Gong.io, they said the top performing sales people ask questions differently than their peers. There is a point of diminishing return. So if you ask too many questions it feels like an interrogation, whereas top performing sales people tend to scatter their questions throughout the discussion. I think that would come with customer service people too, they make it feel more like a conversation, and what was that, the diminishing returns was 14 questions. Sweet spot’s right in that 11 to 14 spot. So I just thought that was interesting, because we’ve all been interrogated.
Russ Sharer: Well, you remember we talked about earlier how you need to have some process and procedures around common situations, and one of the things that frustrates people the most is when they do tell their story to a rep, and then they get transferred to somebody else and they start all over again-
Lisa Rose: Start all over, yes.
Russ Sharer: With the exact same story. So that’s a case where the process is not in place to be able to hand off information successfully, and that’s just a part of what it takes to have a great customer experience.
Lisa Rose: Well, you know what, I have had a conversation, when I’ve been on the phone with Delta Airlines, for example, I think when they are transferring you they take a moment to fill them in. That makes a huge difference. You do get so frustrated restating the issue and starting over.
Russ Sharer: Exactly, and that’s what makes you feel appreciated as a customer, they know your time is as valuable as theirs.
Lisa Rose: Right. So let’s talk about 3-Deep questioning. We talked about the strategy there. So it means getting beyond the issue and finding out why. What’s the emotion behind it? And your reps can use this as you train, you can role play this and practice it, and Russ and I are going to role play it a little bit here, so you get a sense of what it means. So I’m the customer service rep, I’m going to say I understand you’ve run out of laboratory equipment you need and that’s an issue, can you tell me who places your orders?
Russ Sharer: So I’m the customer, and the first thing I’ve done is I’ve realized I’ve got a problem in my lab.
Lisa Rose: Right.
Russ Sharer: And I want to immediately as fast as I can solve my problem, which means I want you to deliver this particular laboratory equipment as quickly as possible, but by taking the time I start to explain my situation. So I’ll say, well I’m the one who places the orders, but you know what? I have a million things to do and sometimes the order isn’t placed on time. I just forget, I get too busy.
Lisa Rose: I understand. From your order history it looks like you’re ordering at least six boxes of equipment per week, is that correct? So they’ve asked a question.
Russ Sharer: Right.
Lisa Rose: First question, right? Second question.
Russ Sharer: And I say, yes, that seems to be about right, we go through six a week, sometimes maybe a little bit more, but on average that’s right.
Lisa Rose: So, well it looks like you could benefit from setting up an automatic bulk order. You’ll save on shipping, and your order will automatically be placed for you. Does that sound like something you would be interested in?
Russ Sharer: And see how when you do that, you not only solve the immediate problem I have today, but I’m solving the bigger problem, in terms of what’s behind running out once, as well as being able to now know that you’ve got continual revenue, that every week or so you’re going to get the right order placed for the right level of equipment.
Lisa Rose: I think the key there is to listen, a lot of this is to listen. We talk to our sales people a lot about stop talking and listen. Same thing with people that are working in other customer-centric roles, customer facing roles. All a customer wants to know is that they’ve been heard. Sometimes they want you to take action, but the customer service people who really listen carefully the issue will be in a better position to assist. If reps jump right away into the problem solving mode, oftentimes they’ll miss fully understanding the situation, and the people don’t feel heard, right?
Russ Sharer: And this really is a training issue, because the typical response when someone hears a problem is they’re going to want to solve. Stephen Covey says that most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply. So what you have to do to train your reps is to take that extra half a second or a second, ask another question, and see if you can solve the problem for a lifetime, as opposed to solving the problem just in this one single instance for it to reoccur again in a week or so.
Lisa Rose: Right, and that last example, maybe we should set you up for automatic orders, that solves it for a lifetime hopefully. So that’s a good example of that.
Russ Sharer: Exactly, and the other thing you’ve done is you’ve helped an overburdened person who had a million things to do to now have one less responsibility. So you’ve not only solved the customer’s problem, but you’ve created a friend or an ally, because you’ve now made just one less thing on that endless to do list.
Lisa Rose: Made their life easier, yes. And if you’re meeting in person you can look for nonverbal cues, so gestures, facial expressions, things that say even more than what they’re communicating by words.
Russ Sharer: Absolutely. Most of communication is nonverbal, as opposed to the words we use.
Lisa Rose: Absolutely. And let’s talk about that. So everybody has a communication style, and customers receive information in the format and style they prefer. So if you can train your reps to pick up on somebody’s preferred style of communication and then adapt to that, that’s half the issue right there. We talk a lot about that in all the training’s we do, trying to be able to pick up on cues over the phone, in person, by email. How do they want to be communicated with? How do they want you to talk with them?
Russ Sharer: Absolutely. There’s some real clear ways in which you can identify that style and know whether it’s a person who just wants to get the job done, who wants to build more of a personal relationship, share more about the experience that they’ve been having, either good or bad, or maybe they’re just looking for information and want more or less information about what’s going on. So I believe we have some tips here, in terms of how you can ask yourself questions that relate to the kind of communication styles that people have. The first of those questions is, do they communicate with higher energy or lower energy? Are they excited and there, or is it still a pretty calm and pretty low key kind of communication style?
Lisa Rose: Right. The second question would be are they formal and businesslike, or informal? Are they willing to tell you about their family, and their kids, and their dog, or are they all about business? That helps in understanding how they want to be communicated, and you should communicate back in that way.
Russ Sharer: Exactly, and then the last one is, do they tend to be more focused on the relationships, or on getting results? And that combination of questions is important, because without thinking through those questions, we tend to want to respond in exactly the same way that we want to be communicated to.
Lisa Rose: Right.
Russ Sharer: So if I’m very results oriented, and someone I’m talking to on the phone is very relationship oriented, I may solve the problem, but I’m going to not help the relationship, and so therefore that connection is not going to be there, the person’s going to feel less connected.
Lisa Rose: Especially on the phone. How many times have you called somebody, and you might be driving for results, you might be in a hurry, and they’re slow and methodical and you feel like, “You’re wasting my time. Please, please.” But sometimes it’s diffusing, but oftentimes if you can pick up the pace a little in that regard, it does go a long way.
Russ Sharer: Absolutely. Tip number six is to develop a problem-solving attitude. You want to be able to train your reps so that they never use the expression, “It’s not my job.” Right?
Lisa Rose: Yes.
Russ Sharer: Or to try and-
Lisa Rose: It’s so easy to be defensive too.
Russ Sharer: Absolutely, or to push blame to somebody else.
Lisa Rose: Right.
Russ Sharer: You really want them to feel that they have the ability to solve that customer problem, no matter what it might be. That empowerment, if you will, will go a long way towards making the customer feel better. That includes taking a consultative approach to try and find the solution, and look for opportunities through that conversation to either upsell or cross-sell, as a result of solving the problem. This is a challenge again, that takes training, because most customer service people believe that their job is to provide customer service, not to sell. But you can teach them with just a few simple questions that really trying to sell them a service, like in our case that we went through, this weekly order is a way of solving your problem. That’s what sales is, it’s solving problems.
Lisa Rose: Absolutely, yeah, and teaching your customer service people that it’s not being pushy to do that. You’re actually helping them. They want you to help them and make their job easier. So cross-selling and upselling is helpful.
Russ Sharer: Absolutely.
Lisa Rose: So, tip number seven, say thank you. So this is my hot tip for the year. I read some research earlier in the year, it speaks to, it’s hard to overestimate the psychological value of a simple “Thank you.” Customers want to know you appreciate their business, and I read some research from Boomerang that spoke to just changing the sign out in your email. A lot of times people have “Kind Regards” or “Best” or “Sincerely”. It said forget those, get rid of all those old fashioned ways and just say “Thank You” at the end. Just say, “Thanks in advance,” “Thank You,” “Thanks,” just changing to that kind of salutation at the end, or closing line will up your response rate to 60% or 65%, whereas the old school “Best” or “Kind Regards,” you’re only going to get responded to half of the time.
Russ Sharer: Exactly. People don’t want to see themselves as a transaction with you, they want to feel like they matter, again, as a customer.
Lisa Rose: Right.
Russ Sharer: So by being able to say thank you, it shows that gratitude and is meaningful, and the reality is, we all appreciate our customers because without them we’d be out of business.
Lisa Rose: Right, and I think you could even go as far as building customer gratitude programs internally, and get your customer service reps to come up with some ideas in that regard if you can. Coupons, referral bonuses, things like that.
Russ Sharer: I think we all know from our lives how when we’ll get an email that says, “Hey, this weekend only you as a special customer get this special coupon.”
Lisa Rose: Right.
Russ Sharer: The first thing we do is we go look at the website to see if there’s one more thing we can inquire.
Lisa Rose: Yeah, absolutely.
Russ Sharer: So we respond to being told, “Thank you, you’re important.” Your customers will as well.
Lisa Rose: Absolutely. Well, we’ve talked a lot today about why excellent customer service is a nonnegotiable in today’s marketplace, and some steps that you can take to build customer-centric culture for your team. The Brooks Group offers customizable training program called Impact For Customer Service, and it’s designed to give your customer service team skills that they need to delight customers, grow customer loyalty, and differentiate your company from the competition. If you’d like to learn more about the program, feel free to reach out to me at my email. It’s LRose, like the flower, @thebrooksgroup.com. Thanks for joining us this afternoon, taking some time at your lunch. I think we kept it to just about out 19 minutes, right?
Russ Sharer: Absolutely, and let me just say thank you for listening.
Lisa Rose: Yes, thank you.