Has your frontline service team ever driven away prospects that actually wanted to buy? It’s a scary thought.
I was chatting with a colleague the other day who told me a story I’m sure we’ve all heard before. She entered a store to purchase a gift. The employee walking through the store asked her the typical question, “Can I help you with something today?” And, typically, she answered, “No thanks, just looking.” Now, this was not true, but this question brings out the defensive mode in buyers and the ‘No thanks, just looking’ response is a buyer saying, ‘I don’t trust you; you’ll likely try to sell me something I don’t need or want’.
The employee then began to take her on a tour of the store, pointing out new items, sale items, things he had purchased himself and he ‘knew she’d love’, and various other stops, none of which had any interest to my colleague. In the end, she told the employee, “Let me think about it and I’ll drop back in later” – another lie. She practically ran out of the store, thanking her lucky stars that she had escaped.
The Customer Disconnect
Why do some frontline service providers chase away perfectly good prospects? If you're looking from the outside in, you can probably see where the disconnect happened. The employee failed to do three things:
- He failed to connect with the customer.
- He failed to engage the customer on her terms.
- He failed to uncover the customer’s needs.
This is common behavior for many frontline employees and they usually believe they are delivering good customer service while they’re doing it. He likely said to his manager, ‘She’ll be dropping back in to purchase later’. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
In short, he talked at the customer about the things he was interested in selling, and not once focused on her and what she wanted to purchase.
This example was in a retail setting, but regardless of whom you’re serving, there are different expectations of inside sales and customer service staff versus outside salespeople.
Here are some “head trash” beliefs about those business professionals:
- They don’t need specific skills or behavior training.
- They simply need to be friendly and helpful.
- Because it’s a shorter selling cycle, they don’t need to be as involved in the sale as much as an outside sales professional.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Inside salespeople and customer service reps can not only affect the first purchase, they can affect whether a customer returns for future purchases. How often do we see reviews of customer service and inside salespeople online these days? Customers can spread word of mouth about you, not just to their friends and family, but to thousands of other buyers.
Frontline service providers are business people in a crucial role – don’t let them chase away business with outdated tactics, and don’t underestimate the impact they can have on your prospects.
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