Wherever we turn in the business community, we are constantly bombarded with the words "customer service." If you don't serve your customers, someone else will. I believe that most OCS firms strive to give quality service to their clients; but once in a while you have to think outside the box and be different. If everyone gave the same service, then it would become the norm, and yours would be neither better nor worse than your competition's.
So, here is what happened in my company that made a big difference in customer loyalty, and increased sales to our upper midsize to largest customers.
Two of our inside telephone sales customer service representatives came to me with the idea that they would like to visit the customers who they had been speaking to for many years, and get to know them on a more personal level. They felt that their rapport was excellent on the phone, but would be even better if they could meet them in person. They pointed out that if they could strengthen those relationships, sales would be stronger, and so they and the company would make more money.
I felt that there was a lot of merit to what they said, and I promised to present their request at our next managers' meeting.
One of the very few downsides to arranging these direct meetings with the telephone sales reps' customers was that we would lose their order-taking and selling skills while they were in the field. Nevertheless, we decided to give their idea a try, and so our marketing department came up with a list of 20% of our larger customers who would be visited during a period of 90 days.
These two reps could not be out of the office at the same time, and they could leave the office after 10:30 a.m., so they could still answer the vast majority of incoming calls. We promised our four other customer service telephone reps that, if the program worked, they would have the same opportunity if they desired it.
Our marketing team laid out the following agenda for our two reps, with input from all of our telephone CSRs:
1. Bring doughnuts or cookies to each account visited;
2. Take photos of all of the contacts visited, with each rep in picture;
3. Send the photo to the contact at a later date;
4. Post the photos on our company bulletin-board of contacts, so all our reps would know them;
7. Ask for water cooler or coffee services, if a client did not have both;
8. Get a personal history from each contact, without being too intrusive:
c. Anything special about them: awards, honors, charities, etc.
d. The names of their kids, if any;
9. Ask what our company could do that would make us more valuable to our customers;
10. Ask what other products we should carry for them, personally;
11. Task for referrals and a letter of recommendation, within 30 days of visit;
12. Analyze the next six months' purchasing history, to see if there was any increase in ordering.
Lunch was permitted with any of the top 10% of their clients, with advance appointments. The past ordering history was provided to the reps, so they knew what was, and was not, being purchased.
These personal visits provided an incentive for our four other reps to go out and see some of their top customers, and for one of the two reps mentioned above. We allowed each of them to pick their top 10 clients and arranged for them to make visits, too.
Once we got positive feedback from the first 10 visits, we gave our other four CSRs permission to go to their next top 10 accounts by themselves.
Benefits derived from our expanded customer service visits:
1. Decrease in the number of lost quality accounts;
2. Increase in allied product sales;
3. Increase in category sales (water service, janitorial, paper products, beverages);
4. Greater understanding of what our customers wanted from us;
5. Greater appreciation of our reps and our company;
6. Increase of accounts through referrals;
7. Steadily increasing loyalty on the part of our larger accounts, through contacts receiving birthday cards, etc. throughout the year;
8. Increased compensation for the CSRs on all new products or services they generated for the first 90 days after their visits;
9. Account salespeople received increased commissions after 90 days (see below):
10. Strong profitability in the long run for our company.
You may be asking yourself, "How did these CSR visits affect commissions for the salesperson who called on those larger accounts?"
It was explained to the sales staff that their commissions would only be affected for all of the new business generated in the first 90 days. Their regular commissions would increase after the 90-day period, so they had everything to gain in the long run.
This large-account marketing sales program is a sure winner for your OCS company. Plan it out and implement it slowly.
If you have any questions on the above or have any new ideas on sales and marketing, please let me know. I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or OCSconsultant@aol.com.
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and after 22 years merged it with Dell Coffee, of which he became president in 1991. Sales at Dell topped $7 million dollars. Rashkin is also a founder and officer of Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage Products Association. His industry honors include NCSA's (now NAMA) Silver Service Award and NBPA's Lifetime Achievement Award; he was inducted into NBPA's Hall of Fame in 1996. His marketing excellence earned him NBPA's Crystal Bean Award and three NCSA Java Awards. He is a frequent speaker at national and local trade conferences, consults on OCS sales and marketing and has is the author of two OCS training programs.