Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

How to Best Profit: Word-of-Mouth Advertising, Customer Service

When was the last time you explored options for improving your word-of-mouth opportunities? Here’s a hint: Customer service is the No. 1 key to good word-of-mouth advertising and repeat business.

My firm’s research shows that consumers usually respond favorably to marketing after receiving five positive messages. Conversely, they will divorce your company if they have five or fewer unfavorable experiences.

So we’re talking about performance and delivery. If your company fails to meet a customer’s expectations, it’s important to respond instantly with empathy and problem-solving skills.

ID-10054005 Stuart MilesIf customer-retention is an issue, it’s worth noting why: Customers start patronizing your competitors 70 percent of the time because they feel taken for granted. Most won’t warn you.

And if customers feel your service is horrible, they’ll vehemently complain and tell acquaintances about their unhappiness for years.

You might recall how Verizon learned a lesson in understanding customers from customer criticism on social media.

In the eyes of many consumers, customer service has developed a split personality. A boss is usually adamant about customer service being paramount. But the employees don’t seem to get the message.

It appears companies place too much importance on sales as a profit center while treating customer service as a cost center.

Naturally, it’s important to look at business processes and understand the emerging dynamic in consumerism. Thanks to the Internet, consumers are in charge. They can easily obtain competing information about products and services, and they blog about their experiences.

Your employees need to realize that consumers are serious about demanding service. Only then, will you be ready to develop and implement customer-service strategies for higher profits.

For your business to stand out to earn more word-of-mouth opportunies, here are ten reminders:

First impressions. Value perceptions about your customer service start within seconds of the first contact. In order of priority: Consumers psychologically evaluate your company by the quality of your people, your company image, product or service utility, convenience factors and price.

Last impressions count, too.

Dialogue techniques. Develop unique, value-selling propositions. You’ll want to establish a dialogue, but never start by asking a closed-ended question, such as: “Can I help you?” Great salespeople know an 80 /20 ratio of listening vs. speaking yields the best results. Use an open-ended question to entice the customer into talking.

When the customer leaves – whether making a purchase or not – it’s vital to thank the customer and close with a statement to prevent buyer’s remorse. But never close with this trite, over-used phrase: “Have a nice day.” Upon hearing that phrase 15 times a day, I’m tempted to respond: “Thanks, but I’ve made other plans.”

My questions are:

  1. How boring do you want your company to be in the eyes of your customers?
  2. Why would you want diminish your chances by 50 percent to make a sale?

Attitude gratitude and service. Look for opportunities to show a positive attitude. Never end meetings with customers or employees until you consider saying the magic words, “thank you.” In 98 percent of conversations, if you think about it, these events translate into golden opportunities to bond with others. That goes for emails, letters and faxes, too.

Centers of Influence. Some customers are Centers of Influence – their emphatic word-of-mouth advertising provides the prospect for a competitive edge. It’s then possible to kick sales to the next level with new cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

Event factor. In the mind of a consumers, even the smallest of purchases represent an event  their lives – sometimes a celebration. That means the bigger the purchase a customer makes, the bigger the event. So be attentive before, during and after the sale.

Surprises. Consumers don’t appreciate negative surprises. They expect seamless service. When several steps are needed in the sale process, proactively keep the customer apprised with status reports with e-mails or telephone calls.

Commitments. Keep all promises. And you’ve heard the adage: “Under promise and over deliver.”

Common courtesies. Never miss an opportunity to say please, thank you, and the person’s name. If you’re talking to someone older than you, use the person’s last name, preceded by Mr., Ms. or Mrs. And in your e-mails and notes, use a 19th century salutation, “Dear…”

Candidly, I make it a practice to use formal greetings the first five times I meet a prospect or customer. I have two clients I’ve known since 1993 and I still greet them or refer to them in front of their employees as “Mr.” 50 percent of the time. And guess what, they still appreciate it. It also reminds them how I value them and it is an for me when I interact with them.

Referrals. The most-opportune time to ask for referrals is when a customer compliments you or your business.

Never ask: “Can you refer me to anyone?”

Instead, ask an open-ended question, such as: “What are the names of people just like you…?”

Remember good salespersons never let a customer do what the salespersons should be doing – by themselves.

Complaints. True, customers are not always right. But when they are, many companies forget it costs more to attract new business than it does to keep customers happy. If you get a complaint, the first response should be empathy.

The second should be appreciation. Encourage your employees to be resourceful in solving the problem. Give them adequate authority to act. Some calls from unhappy customers shouldn’t end with this annoying question: “If there anything else I can help you with?” Besides it’s poor grammar.

From the Coach’s Corner: The 22 Do’s and Don’ts for Successful Negotiations 

“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

-Henry Ford


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at www.freedigitalphotos.net

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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.