You just received an email from the chain hotel where you stayed last night. Along with offering its gratitude, the hotel is seeking your feedback through a survey–offered in the interest of continuous improvement. You’re asked to provide satisfaction ratings for some very important categories the hotel has chosen. Listed are food quality, staff friendliness, Wi-Fi dependability, room cleanliness, durability of shower cap, and other aspects of your stay that you’re supposed to rate from one to ten.
It’s a comprehensive list, but there’s a problem. Your room was across the hall from an elevator that constantly unloaded chatty guests and next to a very loud ice machine. You didn’t sleep a wink. Room noise, alas, is not one of the categories provided. Shaking your head and still a bit sleepy, you delete the email, knowing you’ll never return to that hotel.
While this out-of-touch approach might seem easy to write off as something that happens exclusively within the Business-to-Consumer world, that decision would be short-sighted. All too often, quality organizations selling to companies are equally tone-deaf. Consider the following example.
THE “SHOWER CAP” PROBLEM
Carlos, a sales team member, shared with Kate, his new client contact, the fact that his company had just put a “major new customer satisfaction program” in place. Carlos mentioned that, in six months or so, Kate would receive a satisfaction survey to fill out. Kate smiled and agreed to keep an eye out for it.
The relationship kicked off, the delivery team began their work, and Carlos and the rest of the sales team headed off to land another client. The “handoff” was complete.
The first six months were filled with transactions, touch points, and the normal ups and downs of new partners working together. As promised, Kate got the survey on schedule, but she found it filled with unrevealing, boilerplate categories that have little or nothing to do with her actual concerns about continuing work with Carlos’s company–which mainly had to do with communication disconnects between her team and the delivery team. Kate didn’t even bother to fill out the survey. In just over three months, Carlos learned at a lunch meeting with Kate that he had lost the account to a competitor.
Of course, luck just might prevail … and the categories on your customer satisfaction survey could perfectly hit the mark with your client. Or, as was the case with the shower cap in that hotel you stayed at, there might be a problem with fit.
We need to recognize that what’s most important to the client may not be on our boilerplate list. Even if the client does choose to provide ratings for the pre-selected categories we send along, who’s going to learn anything from ratings that have no relevance? Not us! The ratings may be positive, but for all we know, the client may, in fact, be dissatisfied and pondering other options.
By focusing on a rote, boilerplate process, a process that sends the same questionnaire out to everyone, we miss a golden opportunity to understand what’s really meaningful to our clients. And that very understanding could help us avoid big problems, drive service excellence, and grow the account.
A DIFFERENT PATH
Let’s imagine a different approach. At the outset of the relationship, rather than announcing that a survey will materialize, Carlos suggests that he and Kate invest some time in a discussion with key team members about what is most important to her and her organization in the new partnership.
What do you think’s going to happen? The contract has been signed. The delivery team is engaged and everything is gearing up. Carlos’s previous prospect is now his client. Of course, Carlos is going to get that meeting!
Now consider: What if Carlos had asked the same type of question weeks ago during the pursuit, while he was still competing for the business? What would Kate have said then? Probably things like: “Cut your prices!” “Shorten your delivery times!” “Give us more pro bono services!”
So what’s different now? The business is won. Kate’s goals and successes are Carlos’s goals and successes. In many ways, Carlos and Kate are on the same side of the desk.
What should Carlos do once Kate agrees to that meeting (which she will)? He must arrange for the sales and delivery team leaders (including himself) to meet with her, in person, sharing several common success factors, such as communication, knowledge transfer, productivity, responsiveness, and so on. He should ask Kate to choose those that are most important–and then ask her to prioritize those chosen. Carlos should also let Kate know that if she has ideas about factors that are not on the suggested list, she is welcome to add them.
This is a powerful discussion! Real learning occurs as the client, now openly sharing, provides knowledge that will lead to successful delivery and steady account growth.
Let’s assume that Kate chooses communication as her top success factor. No hint of its importance was mentioned in the pursuit, when the two parties were at arm’s length. Now, knowing the importance of communication, Carlos and his team might tweak the program just a bit, increasing the frequency of status meetings and/or adding progress updates. Two small changes with minimal cost–and a huge impact on the growth of the relationship!
This refinement dramatically increases the chances of successful delivery because Carlos’s path forward has become clearer, thanks to direct client input. It also increases your likelihood of account growth. Because for the next new opportunity that comes up with the client, Carlos and his team will have the inside track. Carlos should repeat the process regularly, using Sandler’s Client-Centric Satisfaction Tool–part of the Sandler Enterprise Selling program.
Make client satisfaction more than just a survey. Make it a meaningful, ongoing client-centric initiative that drives your successful delivery and account growth. After all, it’s really not about you; it’s about the client!
How you interact with your prospects the first time you meet them—before you ever make a presentation—can have a greater impact on your likelihood of closing a sale than the actual aspects of the product or service you have to offer.