After I wrote my post last week about the importance of putting the customer first, I decided to subject myself to the a place where I hoped for a great customer experience and was greeted with one of the worst.
To be fair, it is that magical time of year when store clerks are over-worked and on their very last nerves. I honestly don’t expect stellar customer service at the mall between Thanksgiving and the New Year but I was especially surprised during this recent visit. I was at a very large national department store that shall remain nameless and knew exactly what I needed. I walked up to three salespeople who were standing at a register, sorting through some inventory. When I asked for help, they all looked at each other and then one spoke up to tell me that they all really had to focus on this inventory project before the upcoming Friends and Family Sale and could not step away.
I asked, “So, due to a Friends and Family Sale I’m treated like neither and can’t get any help in completing a purchase?”
They all looked at me blankly before one of the clerks sighed and told me she “supposed” she could step away to help me locate the item. How very magnanimous. (Right after she helped me, another customer asked her a question (the nerve!) and she gave me a conspiratorial eye-roll that seemed to say, “Customers! Am I right?!”)
As I fumed out of the store I ranted to myself that this was unacceptable and would never fly in the B2B world. We have automation for that! Everyone always gets what they need in a timely manner! Inquiries are never ignored!
And then I thought twice…and realized this happens more than we’d like to admit. Even with the best of intentions, workflows, and automation platforms, more often than not, prospects do not get what they need, even when they explicitly ask for it. Part of this is a smarketing alignment problem between that critical hand-off from Marketing to Sales, but a lot of it happens long before a hand-off occurs and is due to not having the right content, resources, or processes in the right hands. Some things to consider:
- Who is most likely to interface with basic inquiries? What training and resources does this person need? Access to a resource library? Advanced scripting?
- How is an inquiry most likely to contact you? If you have a click-to-chat feature on your site, does it say during which hours it’s available (including time zone)? Do most inquiries come via phone, email, web, or social media? How are you staffing these entry points?
- What do inquiries usually want to know? And what the heck do you do with someone who asks a tough question? Make sure your front lines are equipped to answer questions on the spot or know how to immediately escalate a question that cannot be easily answered.
This last thought is the most important. At the end of the day, it all comes back to supporting your brand. If interested prospects can’t meet their basic inquiry needs, why in the world would they want to but something from you? Personally, I told at least five friends, four colleagues and a handful of family members about my horrible experience at the unnamed department store–don’t open yourself up to this kind of negativity. Be ready to close the conversation loop with every inquiry that comes your way.