Most likely, a number of potential new customers are contacting your business today to see if you can help solve their problems: they will walk through your doors; they will call you on the phone; they will contact you by E-Mail; they will connect with you through your Website.
How will these potential customers be treated?
Will your company be easy for these customers to do business with?
Will your company’s professionalism show through?
Will their phone calls or E-Mails be returned?
Will you solve their problem?
In short, are you open to these new and unexpected customers?
We are all aware of how difficult it is, at times, to buy from companies. In fact, I experienced just this in the last two weeks.
My wife discovered some old style 3.5 inch “floppy” disks with pictures of our children when they were very young. We wanted to be able to access these photos and keep them in our digital library. But, we no longer had a drive that could read the disks. My first stop was the local Audiovisual store which promises to help with “all things audio and all things video.” The uninformed clerk at the store had no idea what I was talking about. But, he took my information and promised that the manager would call back as soon as he got back to the store. I am still waiting for the call.
Now, it was time to buy a 3.5 inch disk reader that could connect to my computer allowing me to transfer the photos myself. So, I went off to three different electronics chains, two of which specialize in uncommon pieces of electronics. None of them had it in stock. And none of them gave me any assistance or suggestions to help me find what I was looking for. In further research, I found that one of the chains had what I needed at a neighboring store. And another chain had it on their website. Alas, this was too late; I had already bought it on Amazon.
Each of these companies had the opportunity to receive my money. But, they all dropped the ball. To them, I was a simple inconvenience, not a customer with a problem to be solved. Yet, they lost something bigger than the $20 I eventually spent; they lost me as a potential customer the next time that I have a similar, somewhat out of the ordinary, request. And they do not even know that they have lost my potential business.
Most B2B businesses proactively manage the sales funnel to make an unqualified prospect into a potential customer into a completed sale. But, what about those potential customers which are not on the sales funnel or not on the sales plan? What about the unknown customers who have already taken the initiative to contact your business? How many times a day do we drive away customers because of our lack of responsiveness or inability to even begin to help solve their problem? And how much does this cost us in terms of lost business and lost growth that is all but invisible?
Two further anecdotes:
The Good: One $4M a year customer helped lead us into a new growth market. This customer initially contacted us and a few others with a phone call after the customer had done an Internet search. We were the only ones that responded promptly and professionally. Thank goodness.
The Bad: A few years ago, I met a potential customer at a local networking event. After we got to know one another, he remarked that his company purchased a lot from our local competitor. I asked him why he had not considered buying from our company, especially as we were well-established in the market. His response was sobering: “Oh, I tried to buy from you. First, no one ever returned my call. Finally, I did manage to speak with someone. But, he told me that since my request was not a standard product, he did not have the time to help me. So, I went to your competitor.”
If you can, track all calls that come into your office, even those from new and unexpected customers and ensure that you are doing your best to serve them.
Consider following up with these new customers a little while later. These customers could be fruitful; they already know you exist, and they have already taken the initiative to contact you. And if you have helped them, they may already think positively of you.
Even if the customer request is tangential from your business, you can help them down the path of solving their problem. It rarely takes that much extra effort and, if need be, “you can always say ‘No’ later.”
To have a customer service perspective is to believe that every interaction with a possible customer provides an opportunity to create a positive, lasting impression.