The Six Handicaps in After-sales Customer Relations

Experience and research show that nurturing existing customers and building customer relationship with these existing customers are cheaper strategies than regularly looking for new ones.
Many know this to be true whether you are a small or medium enterprise (SME) or a large one. But, for the life of me, I still see more enterprises making enemies out of their existing customers and getting new customers who buy from these enterprises simply because these customers are ignorant about the questionable practices of
these enterprises.

Most of the selling process of small and medium enterprises are purely focus on making the first and only sale from every customer that literally "walks in" the stores. After this first sale, practically no more interaction takes place between the sales people and the customer.
The Six Reasons for Most SME's Reluctance or Inability to Establish After-sales Contact

There are many reasons for these reluctance or inability to establish contact. Let's start from the more common kind of business: The enterprises that have products, services and people dedicated to the more shameful side of customer service or the absence thereof. By the way, there are a lot of this kind around.

It's both a boon and a bane. A boon because it provides almost unlimited opportunity for the good ones to shine; while it's a bane because it erodes the "trust" element in customer perception for not only the enterprise in particular but for the whole industry where you belong in general.
Ok, back to the "more shameful side of customer service or the absence thereof."
There are a lot of reasons why this kind of enterprises avoid after-sales contact:
Reason Number 1
The first and more obvious reason for not pursuing after-sales relationship is that there is really really and absolutely no "after-sales" process to speak of. There is simply none and the enterprise has no plan of putting any in place. You will not see any visible process being followed or any policy governing their customer service or any service for that matter.
These guys really don't have the resolve, the money to put it up or are purely scam artists with one strategic goal in mind "to get as many of us to give our money to them at zero cost if possible and then run before any of us becomes the wiser!"
I suggest you read my blog on "Indicators of Weak Customer Service Programs" to stay away from this kind of enterprises or better yet avoid being a clone of these enterprises.
Actually, if you become a member of the bunch of businesses with bad customer service, you actually make my work easier teaching the better enterprises to be good at the basics of impeccable customer service. By being bad, it's pretty easy for people like me to distinguish and demonstrate what is truly an excellent customer service program
from the really rotten ones.

You help me simply by providing me a long list of examples of what they should not be doing to customers. Believe me, the list I have now is long enough but with your help I might just get it to be encyclopedic.
Reason Number 2
Here's another very common reason for avoiding after-sales service. The product or service is simply bad, poorly designed, poorly made or a truly distasteful concoction of all of those I mentioned.
Your frontline sales or support personnel just don't have ready answers for problems that your product or service create either for your customer or for your own people. They know that these problems will not die down simply because you are still producing items or delivering service that are inherently bad.
Your people are just doing what a normal human being does a "fright-flight" reaction.
They're scared out of their wits facing customers or picking up the phone to answer customer complaints with all that angry and well-motivated "new enemies" after each sale and the unlimited potential for consumer protection litigations to boot.
They make the sale and hope the customer forgets their name and their face.
No amount of good communication and public relations will improve a bad product and a poorly delivered service. In my blog entitled, "The 20 Customer Service Facts You Should Know" I outlined 20 common service facts that guide me in designing customer service programs.
Customer Service Fact number 2 states: "300% more people will know about your bad service from dissatisfied Customers than your good service from satisfied customers."
It simply means that you will have 300% more coverage in terms of reputation for your bad customer service than from your good one (if you have any). Your bad reputation simply precedes your other (or worse) reputation whatever that is.
Reason Number 3
Here's another reason that's related to the previous one: Your people do not have the capacity or competence to build much less nurture after-sales customer relationships.
Any organization to function must build certain sets of skills and knowledge to ensure that jobs get done in the quality and degree acceptable to its stakeholders like your customers. People aren't born with telephone skills or problem-solving skills. In fact, every parent sure wish each baby brought out of this world came with a manual of some kind.
Training can make considerable difference in the absence of a seamless process for building relationship with customers. Unfortunately, very few invest in training (probably because most of their people never stay long enough to finish it).
Many years back, I got invited as a Marketing Consultant for a computer retail store. The first day I showed up, I notice how most of the sales and technical support people kept their distance from the phone every time it rings.
Most of the technical support guys avoid the phone like the plague. According to them, most of those customers calling in are yelling at them because the sales people either can't explain their problems about their newly bought computers or are not calling them back. The sales people in turn wasn't picking up any ringing phone because the customer complaint is about technical matters they know nothing about and the technical guys aren't very keen on explaining these technical matters to them.
Training is important because a well-designed training of any kind delivers real skills, knowledge and competence. With these skills, knowledge and competence comes confidence. The very confidence they need to pick up that ringing phone or walk into a customer's office with a purposeful gait.
Reason Number 4
You're getting the wrong people for the job of building or nurturing customer relationships. This is another reason you can't rely on your people to do the job even if you did train them. You have to find the right character for the job. The keyword is "character".
This is one thing I try to do right the first time--Getting the right people for the job.
In reality, most are doing everything the first time and doing it wrong all the time. Like this is the first time I interviewed a woman, this is the first time I interviewed an ex-seminarian, ex-con, ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, ax murderer, my mother-in-law, Jude Law, and ad nauseum...You're just not too good with people.
Personally, if you fit in this mold I suggest firing yourself. Mind you, this is not first time I actually advised a client in a consulting engagement to fire himself and get somebody to act as CEO. The CEO was very bad with people I suggested he votes himself chairman and get somebody professional as CEO.
Nowadays, not only do you need to find the right "character" but also the right attitude to work with a team. Customer interaction is now becoming complex in this age with the advent of many avenues for communication like the Internet, websites, email and all that you will most likely need people with different cultural and technical background.
Imagine all that then getting them to meld as one team. Honestly, it helps if you have a good compensation package if you use teams to build customer relationship. We'll get to the topic of compensation soon enough.
You need to read my blog on building customer service teams entitled what else "The Team" for more insights on building service-oriented teams.
Reason Number 5
You aren't paying your people in proportion to the expected output or the quality of work demanded of them. Ever heard this expression" "Hey, I didn't sign up for this!"
This is another reason why sales or service personnel don't put up with the stress of customer interaction or after sales relationship. The level of stress brought about by a culture of bad service is enough incentive to leave a job even a high-paying one.
In a survey done early 90's among Asian employers, it was found out that pay is not the primary reason why people leave their jobs although this is the number one factor for applying for one. Most of those who leave believed that there must be a direct correlation between their worth as contributing member of the organization and their pay.
This means that the compensation package does not necessarily have to be high per se to keep people but must have
a direct relationship to their perceive worth and contribution to the organization's growth.

In the workplace, people just shut off customers if they want to survive the stress of the day. This starts a vicious cycle of low-key avoidance strategies to an all out apathy towards customers.
When you have a disproportionate compensation package for frontline people who are suppose to initiate and manage
after-sales relationship, you are, in a manner of speaking, creating the correlation between pay and bad service.

Personally, I think this trend will not change any time soon. I'm referring to both the leaving and the bad service.
The last reason I have for the inability to nurture after-sales customer relationship has more to do with the boss or the entrepreneur which is ...
Reason Number 6
The business is not creating the environment nor the culture that puts the message across that customer relationship is a strategic concern for the enterprise.
Most enterprises really revolve around the character of the founder or the entrepreneur. Much of the discernible characteristics of the enterprise is much a reflection of the entrepreneur rather than the culture of the collective character of people making up the enterprise.
Entrepreneurs tend to hire people that are mirrors or reflections of their own character or a child of similar personal or cultural background.
Surprisingly, this is very true for male than for female entrepreneurs. Female entrepreneurs tend to look for personalities that complement rather than compete with their character.

Even I hate to admit this. This trend alone may explain why female entrepreneurs tend to get this entrepreneurship thing right the first time. They just have the knack for getting the right people at the right moment.
When the views and actuations of the entrepreneur says that customer relationship is not important it comes across more clearly and with far more impact than a policy and operations manual in a three-ring binder.
My next blog on The After-Sales Customer Relationship will be on building and nurturing a process for such relationship. I will cite specific examples how I get around all the six reasons above.


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