During some recent water cooler office talk, a few co-workers were sharing some experiences of buying big-ticket household items. One had purchased a very expensive refrigerator, another bought a TV, and I had recently bought a sofa from an online retailer. Coincidentally, we all had issues that needed handled after the sale; two of us did not have the best customer service experience, and one of us had a fantastic customer service experience. Those who had a bad experience seemed to be as passionate about it as the one who had a positive experience.
We all shared the names of the companies from which we had bought the items. I wondered what kind of impact sharing these experiences had on my coworkers. Could these stories impact their decision to buy or not buy from the stores in the future? It made me think about my own responsibility to my customers as a regional territory manager in sales for my company.
What does it mean to be customer-centric?
“Customer centricity is not just about offering great customer service; it means offering a great experience from the awareness stage, through the purchasing process and finally through the post-purchase process. It’s a strategy that’s based on putting your customer first, and at the core of your business.” (Source)
One of the models our marketing department uses is the flywheel (Source; Hubspot), where the stages are Attract (Marketing), Engage (Sales), and Delight (Customer Service), and the customer is centered. The important thing to note is that closing a sale isn’t the end of the journey for the customer, so it shouldn’t be for us, either.
Whichever model you adopt, to me being customer-centric means, very simply, putting myself in the shoes of the customer. I ask myself the following questions:
- How would I feel if…?
- What would make me want to buy again if…
- How did the company treat me when…?
You can fill in the blanks with many scenarios, just think back on a buying experiences you have had.
So yes, that is me in the hard hat. I am a professional sales person by trade. Wearing hardhats is not in my job description.
However, on a recent trip to see a customer and help do some inventory for a new simulation lab, we ran into a problem: the pallets of product would not fit through the new doors of the simulation lab. They were lined up and down a long hallway. Ten, shrink-wrapped, six-foot-tall pallets full of unopened boxes.
Because it was a working job site, I was wearing sneakers and jeans, and it seemed natural to start working to help this customer. For the next six hours in at 85-degree heat (not joking) we grinded it out even though we were there to do inventory, not heavy lifting. It was not the perfect environment, but I had a choice to be positive or negative. I believe in making the best of each situation and having a positive attitude, plus I knew the customer needed me to go above and beyond my stated duties.
We had to be flexible; we had to show the customer that we cared about more than just selling them product; and we had to put that care into action.
I thought about my questions above.
How would I feel if the sales reps just stood there and did not help?
Would it make me want to buy again if the sales reps just stood there shrugging their shoulders because they were there to do something else?
How did the company treat me when we discovered an issue that needed to be solved?
One of my very favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt…
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Treating my customers the way I want to be treated is the ultimate description of being customer centric. After all, without our customers we would not be in business. Our success depends on helping customers succeed.
Tina Greiff is Regional Territory Manager for the Southeast Region. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tinapocketnurse.