By Mark Amtower
While attending a recent business marketing conference, two things really struck me. First, direct mail not only lives, but thrives. Indeed, how do you drive Web traffic? Snail mail! Who wants a print catalog? Web browsers!
Second, what do customers do when they want to order? They pick up the phone and call.
My point isn't that they use the phone, but rather what occurs—or at least, should occur—during the call. And it isn't some idealized version of customer relationship management. Rather, they want simple, old fashioned customer service.
Let me illustrate with an example from my own catalog-shopping experience. There's a reason I use a specific office supply cataloger. Every time I call the cataloger's toll-free number, I test the customer service reps (CSRs) in slightly different ways. The last time I ordered, I told the CSR I couldn't remember the type of toner cartridge my printer takes. By keying in my last name and ZIP code, the rep had my full record in less than 10 seconds. By the time I hung up, I had spent money and was smiling.
Even Government Buyers Want Customer Service
In my consulting practice, I work with clients who want to sell to the federal government. Everyone thinks selling to government officials is all about price. I don't want to dispel that notion, because margins are somewhat tighter in the public sector. But in a recent survey by Market Connections, customer service ranked No. 1 for the second consecutive year. Price ranked eighth.
Why is customer satisfaction so important even when you're selling to government officials? Because it's about customer satisfaction—regardless of the market. While I was at the earlier-mentioned conference, I participated in Michael Brown's telemarketing panel in which we offered attendees 50 marketing tips. My first idea: Hire nice people. You can teach nice people to sell; you can't teach rude sellers to be nice. All around the room heads were nodding in agreement.