Despite a series of errors, misunderstandings and upsets our nightmare salespeople has managed to pull off a sale, but the relationship with the customer does not end there. To reach the centre of the circle of trust, where our customers make further purchases and speak well of us within their network of contacts, we must endeavour to carry out our after-sales commitments effectively. At this stage all the earlier promises, reassurances, and lavishing of smiles will be put to the test. Relationships are measured over time, and after-sales is one of the most effective ways to maintain customer relationships. So, let’s learn how to tackle this stage correctly by looking at the mistakes made by nightmare salespeople.
The after-sales and the search for the promised land
The deepest fear of every customer, at the basis of the conflict of interest with the salesperson, is that the vendor will lie when negotiating the deal, making promises that will not be maintained. It is very sad if, once home, we discover that we are unhappy with our purchase or that a particular service does not actually meet our needs. The salesperson should not abandon customers in the after-sales stage, but must remain available to support them and, if necessary, involve other colleagues to ensure the customers are fully satisfied. This means looking after their interests carefully and accurately and respecting every communication even after the purchase has been completed.
A clear example of a negative attitude was the waiter who, after taking our orders, came back saying, “I’ve got some bad news for you”. He then simply informed us that the dish we had requested was off! His lacklustre demeanour was hardly of encouragement to choose an alternative, which at that point would have seemed decidedly a second best.
Another own-goal was that of a tyre repairman who kept our car off the road for a full day while he was supposedly working on the tyre and then when we went to pick it up, told us that he had not made the repair because in his opinion it was not worth it – unfortunately, he had not thought to inform us in advance. We could also mention the after-sales representative of a well-known e-commerce site that while answering our request for explanation suddenly switched to an overly confidential tone, as though chatting to an old friend. Another example that springs to mind is that of the bank’s financial services manager who, while explaining the fluctuations of certain investments, tried to reassure us with jokes and sardonic comments that were completely inappropriate.
Be pro-active in after-sales relationships
What can really persuade customers to continue to buy and generate positive word-of-mouth? Undoubtedly, a sale that completely satisfies them, so they feel valued, respected, welcomed and even stimulated. In a world full of distractions and opportunities, it is crucial to stay in touch with our interlocutors. All relationships will only be maintained over time if we invest energy in them: a task similar to that of the gardener who takes care of her plants by watering them and keeping the soil rich in nutrients.
We should remember that the markets are not infinite and the statistics tell us that acquiring a new customer costs about 6 times more than maintaining loyalty from a customer who has already bought from us.
An anecdote that inspired reflection occurred during a consultancy session. This vendor asked our help to understand, “how come I have customers who are satisfied, but don’t come back to buy?” After investigating, we discovered a simple but upsetting truth: he never got back to them after the sale, convinced that if they needed anything they would get in touch with him. During the after-sales phase, without being intrusive, you can make a polite call to customers to ask them if they need any further help. Most of the time they will thank you for having anticipated a need.
Sometimes during after-sales you may need to re-align your relationship with the customer or redefine the agreements that bind you together. The chosen method of communication in this delicate operation is of considerable importance: if you have to say something difficult, it is better not to email the information, perhaps even anticipating a negative reaction with phrases like, ‘I know this will upset you, but mail is the fastest and most accurate way to tell you…’ Of course, “the written word remains”, and by emailing we may avoid embarrassment, but when such a situation arose with a former supplier of ours, it took a considerable time and a series of phone calls and meetings to mend our relationship – so much for saving time and avoiding misunderstandings!
Disgruntled customers will often avoid stating their annoyance openly. Marketing studies confirm that only 4% of dissatisfied customers make a clear complaint: a consideration that appropriately introduces our final paragraph.
Emergency after-sales: handling complaints
The difference between an ethical and a nightmare salesperson lies in their ability to quickly recognize and resolve any misunderstandings that could turn into a complaint. Even the correct handling of a complaint can create an opportunity to build loyalty. On the other hand, leaving a customer dissatisfied is like sitting on a time-bomb and waiting for it to go off at the most unexpected moment, generating negative word-of-mouth.
Even if your customer still decides not to purchase from you again, try to maintain good relations and behave correctly even if your relationship will go no further. To this end, take another look at the article “If I fail to make a sale, what should I do?”
However, the nightmare salespeople that are even more annoying are the ones that mistreat you until you threaten to change your supplier and then suddenly start offering a series of discounts, gifts and extra benefits. Most of you willprobably have decided at a certain time to switch phone providers or pay tv, so you know precisely what I am referring to. It is much easier and more ethical to treat the customer well throughout, rather than trying to recover a relationship during the after-sales or complaint stage.
Our ability to adopt an expanded business vision that evaluates the results of our actions not only in the long-term, but also in relation to loyalty and word-of-mouth, is particularly evident in after-sales. It is only at this stage that we reach a full relationship of trust with our interlocutors, a condition that – in sales as in life – allows us to achieve true success.
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