For thousands of years sellers or traders have had the upper hand in the sales game. But the shoe is now on the other foot. Technology and social media have caused this major turnaround.
According to Jim Blasingame, an expert on small business and entrepreneurship, in the age of the seller there were three primary relationship elements—
- The product, controlled by the Seller.
- Information about the product, controlled by the Seller.
- The buying decision, controlled by the Customer.
In the age of the Customer, there are still three elements to the relationship, but there is a major shift—
- Products and services are still controlled by the Seller.
- The buying decision is controlled by the Customer.
- Access to information, including customer experience, is controlled by the Customer.
Today when looking to purchase any item, (can’t think of anything where this doesn’t apply) you can go online, search for the item, compare prices, compare terms and conditions, look at reviews and see comments in all their glory. Anyone on Facebook can attest to the number of times a “friend” or friend of a friend” has had a buying experience that, either good or bad, has affected them and there is a post on their page. There isn’t anywhere to hide.
Why is this important?
It is now more important than ever to create an acceptable, appealing customer experience. Whether this is face-to-face, over the phone or even via the internet. Possibly more than ever, the old saying “the customer is always right” could well be true.
It is difficult to think of any occupation which does not have customers/clients, perhaps hermit? So at some time, somewhere, someone will want to buy the product or service you have to offer and ideally they will want to return for more, even better they will tell others about their good buying experience and you will get more customers.
To make sure this happens, there are a number of things you can do to bring the customer to you and keep them –
The first and ongoing thing is to get to know your customers well, keep it professional, find out what they need, what they want and what they expect. This enables you to be proactive, alert them when you know their supplies must be low, or their next check-up is due or send out special offers on product you know they use – the opportunities are endless and your customers will feel appreciated.
Good, clear communication is critical, whether it is face-to-face, a phone call, email or good old fashioned hardcopy. Particularly email it is so quick and easy to use but this means it also very quick and easy to send an email to the wrong person, send it while you are angry or just send the wrong information – always double check what you are sending. As once the email has gone, it will be received and don’t think recalling it will solve the problem.
There is much more to customer service in the modern age and with so much competition for almost everything in the market place, customer service could well be your point of difference and what keeps you in business.