• 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

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

What’s the Cost of Voices Unheard? – Part II of II

[This is Part II in a two-part series.]

In my last post, I “came out of the closet” about my childhood stuttering. It’s not like it was a big secret. But most of the people who know me today may not realize I stuttered terribly as a child.

Over time, I came to realize the impact that stuttering had on my life in business, as a manager, a leader, a facilitator, a mentor, a teacher. In short, I like hearing from everyone at the table. I want all voices to be heard. Not merely to be polite. When I’m trying to solve a problem, I want to have as much information as possible so the solution will serve the broadest audience. In turn, there’s a huge benefit to a business and to customer and employee experience when all the voices are heard. But all the voices aren’t always audible so, what to do about it?

On Which Side of the Table Are You?

I’d like to share an experience with you that changed the way I see group interaction. A few years back, I participated in a 2-day management workshop sponsored by our Division President. 20-25 managers gathered from various locations and departments around the division. The workshop facilitator led us through a group exercise where we lined-up around a U-shaped table, with the most extroverted person at one end of the table and the most introverted person at the other end. This would be really difficult to do with a roomful of strangers but thankfully, most of us had worked together a sufficient amount of time. We all stood up and proceeded to move around the table and drop ourselves into place based on our perceptions of where we were in the extro/introversion spectrum.

No Surprise, There Were Surprises

Once we settled into our positions at the table, we all stood there and looked around the room. At the “extrovert” end of the table stood our Division President, an uppercase “A personality;” vocal, bold, aggressive and confident. No surprise to any of us.

At the opposite and “introvert” end of the table stood our Purchasing Manager, a loyal, quiet, and diligent leader who is content to observe, plan and execute her responsibilities with the least possible fanfare. Again, no surprise to any of us.

I stood smack-dab at the half-way point, with the extroverts to my left and the introverts to my right. At my immediate left stood my Customer Service Manager, “one degree” more extroverted than me. My position in the line-up was no surprise to me, although most of my friends and colleagues peg me as more extroverted that I say I am. Half of my success and enjoyment comes from stepping out in front and leading a team, training, speaking to a group. The other half comes from stepping back, observing and formulating strategy and improvements. So it made sense to me that I straddle the extrovert/introvert threshold.

When It Comes To Solving Problems, Is Halfway Around the Room Far Enough?

The big surprise to me is this: Are we hearing the voice of only half the room?

Think about it. You can do the “line-up around the table” exercise with a room full of card-carrying extroverts or a room full of quiet, demure introverts. And yet in any group, it’s possible half to a third of the people in the room may not be comfortable speaking up, and not because of any speech impediment but simply due to their personality.

But surely the introverts are not without great ideas, observations and suggestions. The mere fact that they speak less and listen more might suggest they’re better equipped to arrive at brilliantly simple solutions. I know this to be true from simply talking to front line employees one-on-one. Some of the best ideas for improvement came from simply asking someone who otherwise wouldn’t have volunteered them.

Listen to What You’re Not Hearing

As a business leader, you owe it to yourself and to the business to ensure your teams arrive at the best possible solutions and outcomes. That won’t happen when only half the room is heard. So, what can you do?

  1. Assess
    > How do your managers interact with one another and with their own teams?
    > Do a few people monopolize the discussion and the solutions?
    > Do your managers recognize personality differences and adjust their behavior to fit the situation and the individual?
    > Are changes in your business implemented only to find out later that some aspect was missed or not considered by the group?
  2. Advise
    > If the more introverted team members remain quiet in group meetings, encourage and ask for their feedback but don’t demand it.
    > Circle back. The more introspective among us may not be comfortable with “feedback on demand” in a large group. Give the person a some time to digest the information and then circle back to ask for their thoughts and suggestions.
    > Sometimes the most extroverted need to “zip it!” Remind them when it is time for someone else to speak.
  3. Improve
    > Consider group activities such as the one above that teach your team members about personality differences and that diversity is a good thing.
    > Focus on strengths. Every team member can’t be great at catching the fly ball. But everyone is great at something. Focusing on individual strengths will build confidence in all of your team members.
    > Make sure your reward systems aren’t biased toward the extroverts. When everyone has a chance of being recognized, individual participation will remain higher.

Look Around Your Table

Are you listening to everyone? Are you hearing everyone?