When customer service isn’t enough

Lack of clarity, training, measurement, accountability and rewards all impact sales

David FullerI’m sure that you’ve suffered through an experience of poor customer service. You don’t have to look far these days to realize that many businesses put low value on treating customers well.

Recently, however, I was working with a company on improving their customer service.

It quickly became apparent that their customer service was great but their sales sucked! In fact, customers visiting the business would leave and say how nice the people inside were, but often they left happy without buying things.

This was a challenge for the business owner, who was intent on increasing sales to create a profitable business.

This problem is too common in many businesses.

On one hand, we have owners who think they’ve hired staff to sell products. On the other hand, we have employees who feel that their job is to help customers or do customer service.

There’s a lack of clarity in the roles and responsibilities of each person in that organization concerning the contributions they must make if the company is to continue to thrive.

Let’s be clear, this is not the employees’ mistake – it’s an error of management.

So where did they go wrong?

Lack of clarity

The first mistake that most companies make is not being totally transparent with their employees about the company’s goals and what role they play within the company.

Every person within the organization needs to understand the expectations of their role as employees.

For example, if we hire someone to “serve the customer,” what does that exactly mean? Is that person to just walk around the inside of the building and say “Can I help you?” Is their job to simply put products on the shelves, because that serves the customer? Perhaps serving the customer means running the till? Or when we say serving the customer do we really mean ascertaining the customers’ needs and fulfilling them?

Each objective determines the focus of the employee’s responsibility within the business. Which one did you mean when you told the employee that their job is to serve the customer?

Lack of training

Very few companies properly train their employees in selling techniques. It’s a lost skill and it’s costing our businesses tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

We train new staff on how to greet a customer and smile when we say hello, but we fail to give them the skills they need as employees to be successful in sales.

As a result, our businesses lose customers, who leave without buying, and end up either frustrated or purchasing from a competitor or online.

Think about your organization right now and imagine how much healthier it would be if your employees could close sales more regularly. We’re not talking about high-pressure selling, we simply mean understanding the needs of the customers, and the steps of the sales process that lead to a happy customer and a happy staff member.

Lack of measurement, accountability or rewards

So many owners and managers could reduce their stress levels by simply keeping their employees more accountable. Sales is no different.

Occasionally, I come across businesses that are measuring the sales of each employee, who have targets, and schedule regular meetings to measure, mentor, coach and grow sales. But these companies are few and far between.

More likely is the fact that the sales team is frustrated because targets are unachievable, unrealistic and they don’t feel supported in their challenges.

Often there’s little incentive to do more than the bare minimum of customer service.

When we fail to provide guidelines, expectations and rewards for our staff, we shouldn’t be surprised when they fail to deliver.

My client is working on growing her business through fantastic customer service, combined with a trained sales force. I’ll be spending a week onsite with her team training them in sales. I have no doubt that once her team is tuned up, her sales will grow.

Customer service is a great start for improving business but it doesn’t work if we can’t supply our customers with what they really need.

Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy.


customer service

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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