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Customer Service = Sales

“Customer service” is just a softer word for “sales,” making the start of the year the perfect time to review your customer service strategy. If you think in terms of potential, active, and past customers, you can highlight where you should become more aggressive, keep up the good work, and learn from mistakes.

Customer Service = Sales

Categorize Customers to Create 2015 Strategy

By Peggy Pisani, TheMagicTouch USA

(Originally published in the February 2015 issue of Recognition Review.)

“Customer service” is just a softer word for “sales,” making the start of the year the perfect time to review your customer service strategy. If you think in terms of potential, active, and past customers, you can highlight where you should become more aggressive, keep up the good work, and learn from mistakes.

Potential Customers

The best way to attract potential customers is the coveted “recommendation” from an existing customer. Do you ever ask your repeat customers for leads? People really like to help people. Your repeat customers know firsthand that you are reliable, offer consistent quality products, and that your prices are competitive. These are the customer service attributes that will make you stand out.

Be proud of the way you work with customers. Don’t be hesitant to share kudos you receive. While price often is the driving force behind a potential sale, customers also appreciate knowing you can meet their deadline. New customers may have no background in ordering awards and have only been exposed to traditional awards. They will appreciate your patience and knowledge. Be creative and suggest awards and material they may not otherwise consider, such as acrylic, glass, and crystal. You have to ask about their budget, but beware. Customers may be wary of this question, thinking you are setting them up to buy the most expensive items you offer. Show examples in each price range. Also, remind them that tax and shipping (if applicable) will be added. Customers do not like surprises when it comes to the final bill!

Phone calls represent a real challenge to demonstrate customer service. First impressions can be the key to converting that call into a sale. If you send the caller to your website you have missed the boat. That is not the example of customer service you want to relay. Your receptionist and salesperson must be upbeat and very interested in their needs. After a positive impression has been made you may choose to direct them to your website to review your products at their convenience. Follow up, follow up, and follow up.

How effective is your website in attracting visitors? It’s not enough to have a website. You may have to work with a consultant to maximize the opportunity it represents. Following up on leads and questions generated off your website is essential. Inquiries must be addressed immediately. Again, your attention to the potential customer from the get-go says a lot about your customer service.

While we are on the subject, how did you secure customers in 2014? Did you wait for the phone to ring? Hoped new customers would just walk in the door? Or did you count on your 2013 customers to reorder? You are one lucky person if those approaches worked for you. Customer service starts with you. You probably do it all and may not feel you have time to get in front of local industries, schools, and organizations. But, who can do a better job than you? Think about it.

Active Customers

Active customers are your bread and butter; don’t take them for granted! Most customers are all ears if you can make them look good by ordering “cool” awards and decorated garments within their budget. Many customers aren’t being paid to be the awards chairperson; they may have been appointed or pressured to volunteer for the job. Take the time to help them. And, yes, customers constantly change their minds; be patient, they’re your customer.

Out of curiosity, do you have a handle on your customer’s business and their ordering pattern? Clearly, some customers come to you on a seasonal basis. Do they often order at the last minute? Consider calling customers around the same time of year that they ordered the previous year to remind them it’s time to reorder. Some customers may call this telemarketing but others really appreciate the reminder and see it as great customer service.

Seasonal customers offer a huge opportunity. Jump in and actively promote your products and services they could utilize all year round. An example would be a trophy and awards company that primarily sells end-of-season sports awards to clubs and schools. Those same customers are buying uniforms from someone else. Why not from you? You can put your laser engraver to work cutting heat transfer vinyl, finish with your heat press, and— bingo!—you are now in the apparel-decorating business. Contacting a customer to offer apparel may sound like a sales pitch to you, but your customers may hear it as a service to save them time and trouble. Instead of finding and maintaining relationships with two companies—your awards shop and an apparel company—your customer can simplify by ordering everything through your business.

And then there’s TLC. How often do you communicate with your customers to just check in? Sure, when you call you hope to catch a quick order (and they know that) but if your message is, “I was just wondering how business is going,” rather than pushing for a sale you will leave a positive impression. If you get voicemail, better yet. Just leave a short, personal message. Good communication is crucial to customer service.

Past Customers

Why do people and companies become past customers? There are unlimited reasons: the purchase was a one-time need, the awards budget was cut, the customer decided to switch to a product you don’t offer. Still, it’s worthwhile to always determine the “why.” Could it be because they became disenchanted with your products and services? How could that be? The answer is critical to your business future. We all make mistakes! Is the culture of your company to acknowledge mistakes, apologize, and make every effort to minimize the impact on your customers?

Maybe your competition has stepped in and undercut your prices. Ah! How can you even stay current with new competition? The Internet has created a fierce marketplace. In theory, free shipping dissolves the advantage you once had as the local source.

You have to come up with other ways to stand out. Talk to your suppliers about technology and products that can benefit your company. You’re not changing what your business is; you’re expanding upon the services you offer. Many retailers utilize processes like TheMagicTouch system to offer options to personalize a variety of products. Whatever it takes to win potential customers, please active customers and avoid past customers. Your laser can personalize plates for soccer trophies, but it can also customize bamboo phone cases for must-have gifts. Your sandblasting unit can customize crystal awards or engrave names on wine glasses for wedding favors. TheMagicTouch’s use of a laser printer to print white toner can transfer awards image and text to black metal, acrylic, plastic, wood, or ceramic—or it can be used to print graphics, including white, onto dark apparel; create temporary tattoos; or make full-color stickers to capture potential customers and get more of active customers’ business.

How can you stand out? Look to technological versatility to ensure you have options for your customer and your store’s future. That’s good customer service and good business sense.

Products, services, and technology change but one thing never changes: customers notice and care how they are treated. Customers like to work with vendors who value their business. Even small orders should be handled with enthusiasm and efficiency. If you have staff, hang out in your customer area to see and hear how your staff interacts with customers. When busy, does your staff remain patient? Do they take the time to offer ideas? When asked a question they can’t answer, does your staff say they will find out or do they guess?

Work hard, embrace change, and you’ll have a great year!

Peggy Pisani is marketing manager at RGP Industries, Inc., which does business as TheMagicTouch USA. TheMagicTouch is a transfer technology that offers a low-cost, high-value solution for the garment-decoration, awards and recognition, and photo and gift markets. TheMagicTouch operates in 54 locations worldwide, supplying transfer papers, printers, plotters, and heat presses. Visit or talk to TheMagicTouch respresentatives at the 2015 ARA International Awards Market.

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