• Bill Leinweber

  • About Bill Leinweber

    Bill Leinweber's mission is to help businesses and organizations grow by combining efficient processes with great customer and employee experience.

    Bill is the Chief Experience Officer & Owner of Landmark Experience LLC, a consultancy, where he loves to help business leaders walk in their customers' shoes and devise memorable and meaningful experiences for both customers, guests, visitors, employees and business partners. After all, have you ever heard of customer loyalty and business growth without GREAT customer experience?

    Bill's 30 year career spans retail and office products distribution operations in both small, family-owned and global mega-businesses. He has managed customer service operations, sales support, customer on-boarding and business intelligence teams while also serving as an internal consultant and subject matter expert. Bill has helped his past employers improve their customer engagement processes and achieve their goals of customer experience excellence and loyalty.

    Bill loves to talk and speak about customer experience as well, so don't be afraid to ask!

    Bill Leinweber
    Landmark Experience
    513-227-9037
    www.LandmarkExperience.com

What Are You Doing to Your Customer’s Memory?

A Drive Down Dogwood Lane

I grew up on a great street in Mentor, Ohio, about 25 miles east of Cleveland. My parents picked a terrific location to raise six kids. Our street was exactly a half-mile long with long straight-a-ways and a couple of serpentine curves. Back then, we used to say it was a “dead end” street. The houses weren’t very fancy by today’s standards, three bedrooms and two baths for eight people.

The cool thing was that our house was fourth from the end of the street so the only people driving past our house were the Martinson’s, the Phelp’s, the Staebler’s, the senior and junior Douglass’s and Mr. Hockenbrach. Mr. H drove pretty fast but otherwise, for a kid on a bike the traffic was practically nonexistent. It was awesome when they re-paved our street into a smooth, asphalt “raceway.” Our lot was one of the few that didn’t border woods or a fence in back. Our backyard was like a meadow, blending seamlessly into the neighbor’s yard on the street behind us. Beyond the cul-de-sac were our elementary and junior high schools, playgrounds, football stadium and a big woods with a pond. There were tons of other kids in the neighborhood of all ages.  At the corner of our backyard was the biggest maple tree around, well over a hundred years old. And you could see it from the end of the street, even from the school yard. I have very fond memories of growing up on Dogwood Lane and I can still remember the smell of the grass, aromas of dinner from open windows, the breeze, and the feeling of safety, although at the time, I didn’t know I felt safe. I just did.

Memory Shock

About six years ago I was visiting my family in Cleveland and decided to take a drive down good ‘ole Dogwood Lane. It was nothing like I remembered. My mind’s eye contained frozen snapshots of time. But on Dogwood Lane, life marched on as it has everywhere. The trees and shrubs had grown unbelievably, to the point where once exposed houses are now totally hidden. The houses no longer looked new and fresh. In fact, some were pretty run down. One driveway had a car up on blocks. Revisiting Dogwood Lane was a shock to my system. My “memory self” was out of alignment with my current “experiencing self.” I regretted taking that drive. Maybe Dogwood Lane was never as great as I remembered.

The reminiscing drive down Dogwood Lane made me realize how different the experience may be from our memory of it. Truth is, there’s the experience and then there’s the memory of the experience and they’re not necessarily the same.

How does this translate to customer experience?

You often hear me say that the best customer experience is memorable and meaningful. Memorable. That’s critical.

Now, I get it. A single customer interaction isn’t going to etch a memory the same as 18 years of growing up on Dogwood Lane. However, THAT a customer remembers the experience at all is as important as WHAT the customer remembers about the experience.

If you have time, here’s a wonderful 15-minute TED talk by Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman about happiness (“experience”) vs. memory.

WordPress:

Customer Memory In Your Business

Here are 3 things to consider about the customer experience and memory in your business:

1) Design: When you design and shape your customer’s experience, are you asking yourself, “What will the customer remember?” And as part of the design of the experience, are you deliberately creating a memory at all?

Example:

At my local grocery store, they have a little “mini clinic” inside the store. You can get flu shots, have minor injuries checked, and other non-emergency treatments. Today when I walked into the store, there were several very ill patients, heads in their hands, waiting for treatment. This is not particularly something I want to see when I first walk into the store to buy my food! I couldn’t get the image out of my head. Unpleasant memory.

2) The Ending: We’re most likely to remember the very end of the experience and that memory will shade the entire experience. In your customer’s experience, what is the ending like?

Example:

At the end of her voice mail greeting, my colleague Melissa doesn’t say, “Have a nice day.” She doesn’t say “Have a good day.” Melissa says, “I hope you’re having a splendid day.” Now splendid is not a word you probably hear every day, or even every week! But Melissa came up with a way to express her wishes in a unique way that stands out. It’s different and that makes it memorable. So, you’re not  comfortable with the word ‘splendid.’ No problem, come up with something else.

3) Service Recovery: How you handle customer issues when something goes wrong cannot be understated. Whether it’s your customer service department, your sales rep, technical support or other customer-facing staff, the customer will surely remember this “ending” interaction. Here’s a hint: Better to have the memory of the bad experience fade and the customer left with the great memory of how you resolved the issue.

Example:

My colleague’s web hosting company accidentally wiped out his About Me page – and couldn’t recover the content! He had to reconstruct the content and re-load it into his website. Aside from a humble apology, the hosting company gave him a generous credit toward his next renewal which just happened to be later that week. Small cost for the vendor and left the customer with an upbeat memory.

I regularly preach that a distinguishing customer experience doesn’t have to cost a lot. Sometimes by just making the experience different, you make it memorable and better.  Just ask yourself, “When this interaction is over, what will the customer remember?”

====

I help business owners improve customer service, create memorable customer experience and engage employees, through evaluation, benchmarking and training. If you have a business problem you’re trying to solve, let’s talk.

Bill Leinweber
Bill@LandmarkExperience.com
(513) 227-9037

Advertisements

How to get your Sales Reps out of Customer Service and back to SELLING!

In my last post, I wrote about how and why it hurts your business when sales reps spend too much time doing customer service tasks and not enough time selling. If you missed that post, click 5 Reasons why your sales reps should not be order managers.

In this next post, I promised to answer the question, “How do you move from a culture of sales rep as part-time customer service rep to a culture of sales rep as full-time sales rep? I’ll start by saying; it’s not going to happen overnight. I’ve been there. It’s going to take commitment but it will be well worth the effort in greater efficiency, a bigger sales funnel and a culture of cooperation. And full disclosure – my background is strong in B2B so I do see things through that lens. However, this advice will work in a B2C environment. There is more that is similar than is different.

But before I get into some of the cool things to put in place, you need to understand this one point:

Sales people will stop selling the moment they lose trust in your business.

Need Help PhotoThe moment you jeopardize the sales reps word (promises they made to customers) or their income (commissions), they’ll take their eyes off the sales ball and move into babysitting and triage mode. They’ll hand-hold orders and customer setups, they’ll double-check accuracy and process steps and generally poke their noses into every other department’s business. They’ll insist on being the sole communication point between the customer and the business. You’ll see them in the office more often rather than visiting or on the phone with customers.

And frankly, I can’t blame them. Your sales reps won’t let go of the reins and go out and sell more until they trust that everything works as it should and that customers will receive the service they expect. The sales organization has to TRUST the operation, trust your quality, and trust that people will do what they say they’re going to do. They need to believe that customer service and other support staff won’t only do what the process says to do but will also make good decisions on the customer’s behalf when the process doesn’t fit the situation. If a culture of trust doesn’t sound like your company, start there. Otherwise, nothing else I share here will matter.

It’s the Numbers after the Decimal That Really Count

A word about quality. If you tell me your order accuracy is great and that 99% of orders are accurate, then you’re in big trouble. That’s because it’s the digits after the 99 that really matter. If you ship 1000 orders a day and only 99% are accurate, then every day 10 orders go out wrong. If I’m your sales rep, I’m losing sleep. That’s 50 orders a week that go out wrong and how many of them are for my customers? You’re pushing your sales reps to butt-in and hand-hold the order process because they won’t trust it. You don’t need Six Sigma or some big complex quality program for this one. When gauging accuracy, look at the digits to the right of the decimal and put something in place to get those digits into the 9’s. You’ll also be saving your company boatloads of money in re-work.

Develop a Customer On-Boarding Program

Formalize your customer on-boarding. When you get a new customer, every department should know about it. When the first order ships, everyone touching that order should know it’s the customer’s first order. Internally, everyone needs to handle that order just like the sales rep would because remember, your sales rep is now out selling and not babysitting orders. If I’m the shipping dock supervisor, I want to know it’s the customer’s first order. If I’m the billing supervisor, I want to know it’s this customer’s first invoice. There are many ways to implement an on-boarding program, from automated to manual. Code the customer as “new” for 90 days. A formal customer on-boarding program does the following:

  • The extra attention ensures new customers have the best experience possible
  • You build trust with the new customer at the most critical stage in the relationship
  • Sales reps will have confidence that their co-workers have their eyes on new customers
  • And not the least of which, you celebrate new customers with your employees!

Integrate Sales Support Into Customer Service

When your sales reps call with a customer issue, they shouldn’t call your admin or the warehouse manager. They should call customer service just like the customer would. After all, the sales rep is really calling on the customer’s behalf, aren’t they? Otherwise, the customer would be making the call. Channel sales rep calls into customer service so they follow the same process with the same people who have access to the same information. Within Customer Service, you could even establish an “elite team” who handles sales reps calls. Whatever approach you use, integrated sales support accomplishes the following:

  • All customer issues follow the same process flow and tracking
  • Prevents duplication of work
  • Ensures a faster more efficient resolution
  • Gives the sales rep the same level of “service” as you give your customers
  • Builds on a culture of collaboration between customer service and sales

Establish a 2-way Communication Channel

Sales reps can focus more time on getting sales and less time micro-managing the operation when there is 2-way communication between customer service and sales. If customer service encounters a customer issue or question that warrants the sales rep’s attention, they need a consistent way to get that information back to the sales rep. If I’m a customer service rep and a customer just told me they were talking to a competitor, I want our sales rep to know that. Perhaps you can use your CRM, case management system or something as simple as email to get word to the rep. Train customer service when and how to recognize what should be communicated. The payoff is:

  • Sales rep (or Account Manager) is proactively alerted to possible issues. Better for the rep to hear it from an internal source than from the customer later.
  • Gives the sales rep confidence that co-workers are alert to potential customer issues.
  • Builds on a culture of “these are OUR customers” not “your customers.”

Flip the Switch

Finally, to get the sales rep out of the customer service kitchen, you may have to simply limit system access. If your sales reps can enter or modify orders, override pricing, change addresses and perform other system maintenance, you may want to give that a hard look. It’s not only a good idea from a process control standpoint (can you spell Sarbanes-Oxley?). It also removes the temptation to spend time in the system. You’ll have to overcome the sales rep’s objection that, “It’s just quicker if I do it!” View-only access should do the trick in most cases and it removes the last excuse for, “I don’t have enough time to sell more!”

When your existing sales reps can spend more of their time on sales tasks, your business has the opportunity to grow sales and profits with existing staff. If your sales reps are spending any time being order managers, shift their focus by giving them confidence the business will live up to your brand promise.

If you would like to discuss this topic, give me a call (513) 227-9037 or email me at Bill@LandmarkExperience.com.

Learn more at LandmarkExperience.com

Photo courtesy of pakorn and FreeDigitialPhotos.net

5 Reasons why your sales reps should not be order managers

Win the Battle or Win the War?

I met with a client this past week and she described a challenge she has in her company. Turns out, it was exactly the same challenge that I had dealt with when I worked for a global B2B office products supplier as VP of Customer Care – the sales reps spent too much time on order management rather than on selling. Now, I totally get why this is. Even though I’m an Ops guy through and through, I love sales reps. I’ve coached sales reps. I’ve trained sales reps. And I’ve helped to win big accounts with sales reps. So this isn’t a sales rep bashing exercise. However, it is important for a business to understand why sales reps focusing on order management can not only dilute the effectiveness of the entire sales team, it can also create a lot of unexpected dysfunction in the business.

Why Aren’t the Sales Reps Selling?Bar Chart Photo

So how do you end up with a business where sales reps become half-time glorified order managers? It could be your business started out small with everyone wearing multiple hats. As the business grew, steps were not taken to segment responsibilities more clearly by functional area and what started out as small business customer hand-holding evolves into a litany of rogue and one-off processes. Perhaps your company grew by merging with other businesses and each company brought their own way of doing things. Efforts to standardize order management, account management and sales processes met with resistance, stalled and died and now the work flow is a free-for-all. Often times, the sales organization is the exalted “high-fiving” group. And I get it. A rep can literally work years on landing a big account and once the deal is closed, they don’t want anything to get futzed up? But who does? The entire company benefits from the customer’s business so it’s far better to get everyone on board in providing stellar service.

“Doctor, It hurts the customer when I do this.” And the doctor says, “Then, don’t do that!”

Here’s why it hurts your business to allow sales reps to be order managers. And these reasons are even more relevant if some sales reps are huge order managers and other sales reps tend to be more hands-off.
  1. You send mixed messages to customers.
    Who exactly has what role in your business? Does the customer know when to call whom for issues about orders, billing, account changes. Do they call Sales Rep Bob for some things or all things? While it may be WAY convenient for the customer to call only Bob for everything, in the long run it is extremely inefficient and not the quickest way to service the customer. Direct your customer to the shortest path to issue resolution AND to the department most skilled at resolving the issue.
  2. It’s a slam to Customer Service.
    When you tell the customer service team, “Don’t call ‘my’ customer, call me and I’ll call ‘my’ customer,” you’re sending a very negative message to Customer Service. First of all, get off your self built pedestal. It’s not “YOUR” customer – it’s OUR customer. Second, you demean the customer service team by showing your lack of confidence that Customer Service can handle customer issues. If that is truly the case, then bigger conversations need to happen between sales and customer service leadership. Otherwise, it’s the job of customer service to interact with customers and handles issues. Let them do their job.
  3. It’s grossly inefficient.
    If Sales Rep Sue always wants Customer Service to handle customer issues but Sales Rep Bob wants only him to contact customers, you’re allowing a complex and unnecessary process matrix to clog up your customer service workflow. The customer service agent has a step that says – before I make a move, I have to figure out whose account this is, then follow the if/than matrix or memorize whether I’ve got a Bob or Sue customer. All the while I’m spending time NOT resolving the customer’s issue and moving on to the next task.This scenario is the worst possible one-off process nightmare. It inhibits efficiency and provides an inconsistent customer experience, not to mention a convoluted additional level of ongoing and new-hire training for customer service reps.
  4. You don’t get accurate measurement.
    If all the customer service work isn’t being done in the Customer Service department, how does leadership gauge the true volume of work? If part of the work is done rogue by a percentage of sales reps, the customer service leader can’t accurately account for number of calls, number of contacts, number of emails, etc. The business also doesn’t get an accurate read on the cost of customer service since the P/L isn’t accounting for sales rep time spent doing customer service tasks. What you have is inefficient workflow management. If you track customer issues by type and the sales reps don’t use the tracking system, then you’re not accurately measuring errors nor identifying opportunities for improvement.
  5. Sales isn’t firing on all cylinders.
    The final reason to not allow sales reps to be order managers is – It’s not their job. If you’re a sales rep, your job is to build customer relationships and get customers to buy more. It’s called selling. When I was a VP of Customer Care and the VP of Sales would ask her sales reps why they weren’t hitting quotas on prospecting, new sales, new accounts etc., we heard all kinds of reasons like, “I spend to much time troubleshooting orders and triaging issues and doing research for my customers” and on and on. Well, those are all tasks that are typically handled by Customer Service – so let them. Give your sales staff the freedom to work on account penetration, new business development, prospecting and closing the deal. Leverage the people you have for their strengths.

Are People in the Right Roles?

If you have sales reps who like to manage orders or are better at managing orders than they are at selling, perhaps you have them in the wrong role. But Bill, you ask, what about Inside Sales Reps? Same deal. Sure inside reps spend most of their time on the phone with customers. That doesn’t mean they should be order-takers or managing orders. They should be building upon the customer relationship, learning more about the customer, educating the customer, consulting with the customer – all tasks that either get new customers or get existing customers to buy new product lines.

One Size Fits Most

Of course, this model may not work in every industry. Some products are so highly technical that you may legitimately have a combined role of both sales and customer service. However, if you are a transactional sales business with a customer service team and a separate sales team and the sales reps are telling you “we don’t have enough time,” you may do well to learn exactly how they’re spending their time.

So how do you move from a culture of sales rep as part-time customer service rep to a culture of confidence and trust and sales rep as full-time sales rep? I’ll tackle that in my next post – How to get your Sales Reps out of Customer Service and back to SELLING!

If you would like to discuss this topic, give me a call (513) 227-9037 or email me at Bill@LandmarkExperience.com.

Learn more at LandmarkExperience.com

Photo courtesy of jscreationzs and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.