Topic: Strategies for Success (Part 1)

The relationship between you and your overseas customer shouldn’t end when a sale is made. If anything, it requires even more attention. Once you’ve completed the initial export transaction, you must expect to provide a broad spectrum of “free” or “value-add” services in order to encourage repeat business. It’s the kind of follow-up I refer to as the “care and feeding” of customers and suppliers, which is done to keep them coming back.

Thanks to the Internet, customers have more say so, limitless options, and higher expectations on product quality. They also take responsive service into account when considering a purchase. The challenge for exporters is to capitalize on this by increasing value for the customer without sacrificing profits.

So, why deliver good customer service? Repeat business; fans raving about you to others; employees, your biggest resource, feeling inspired because they work at a caring company; and growth. These are just a few of the many ways a business benefits by providing exceptional customer service. Good customer service is smart marketing—something to be proud of when delivered well. You might have the greatest product or service for export, but if you don’t treat customers like they are gold, they will go elsewhere. Good customer service can make or break a business. People do business with people they like, can trust, and can grow with.

Exceptional Export Service Philosophies

This class is devoted to a list of fifteen strategies I’ve come up with that have helped my business and my clients’ businesses achieve successful employee, customer, vendor, and colleague relationships the world over. To achieve exceptional export service, you must plan for it and then act on it. Consider the following tips your “commonsense blueprint” when developing your own in-house set of principles for great customer service. As you will see, many of these actions should be taken both before and after a sale. Note: These traits apply to both your Everyday Joe and big-buying customers.

Communicate with Your Customer

The relationship truly begins after the sale. It is important to reach out to the customer once the sales transaction has been completed because your first ambition is to serve them. Customers like approachable and easy-to-find exporters, knowledgeable follow-up, and a show of heart. Expand the relationship in a way that lets additional possibilities fall into place. Ask how everything went and what more you can do for them. Follow up with them in a week or two with a list of new ideas designed to foster the relationship. These might concern how the product they imported can be used for other purposes or how showing the product in action via a YouTube video might increase sales. Growth is vital to sustaining a long-term relationship, and it also creates the conditions for superior results.

You need to find out how your customer feels about you and your company after he buys your product. Only then can you determine if a customer is satisfied or if you can fix a problem. Start asking today or set up an online survey (using SurveyMonkey or MailChimp, for example) that allows customers to weigh in and evaluate the experience they had with your company. They will see that you are trying to improve your service.

Resolve to practice a “no surprises” policy with your customers. Surprises are seldom good. Nobody likes to hear bad news (more on this later) via a grapevine, so make sure you communicate with your customer on any important information that will impact your relationship.

Stay away from canned responses via social media channels when it is obvious a customer is angry. A canned response might be: “Thank you for choosing ABC Company for your stay. We appreciate your business!” And this could be after a firm or a person wrote: “Your accommodations were deplorable. I will never stay at your facility again, ever.” To build the relationship and learn as much as you can, strive for personal interactions with your customers to ensure each customer is treated as a priority and taken care of in the way she expects. Remind each employee that part of their job is to serve as a “brand ambassador” for the firm.

Customer Service

Care About and Support Your Customers

Take a humanistic approach to handling all inquiries. Show some love. And if you can’t fix the thing that made the customer unhappy, refer him to someone else who can. Remember, based on the type of product or service you export, you might need on-the-ground support in the overseas market to help your customers better understand how to sell your offering to their own customers. Always let your customers know that this extra value is available.

And listen to both what’s said and what’s not said. I once had a client whose only child had gone off to college, and I could tell it impacted him by the delays in our communications and short responses when he did reply. After asking how he was doing and how his son was coming along, he poured out to me in an e-mail what it was like to send your only child off to school and have an empty nest at home. Sometimes putting the elephant on the table or opening up a discussion with your customer about what’s going on in each other’s lives can be both cathartic and an emotional bonding opportunity that strengthens a relationship. It also shows heart and support in a time of need.

Pay Attention to Details  Pertaining to Your Customers

What might seem mundane to you can make a world of difference to your customer.

Your customer likes jazz? The next time she visits you at your home office, take her to a jazz experience like no other. To you, it might seem basic or mundane, but she will be thoroughly impressed that you remembered and cared enough to do something special for her. Or maybe you have an overseas customer who loves San Francisco. When he returns to his homeland, send him off with a beautiful picture-book of San Francisco showing all the great places along with a historical perspective.

Get Everyone on the Same Page About Your Customers

The customer service mentality should permeate your entire organization. What is your commitment to customers? Does everybody in the company understand this commitment inside and out? Do you provide exemplary service? Friendly service? Accessible service? The service goal of online retailer Zappos is “Delivering happiness.” Define yours and carry through on it every step of the way. Ask yourself these questions to frame it:

  1. What is our customer service plan (what do we stand for)?
  2. Why is it important?
  3. Who is responsible for it?
  1. How will it get done?
  2. How will it be measured?
  3. How will we celebrate our customer service successes?

Tape the following motto to your wall or use it as a sign-off on your e-mails: “Everything we do is to help our customers compete more effectively and win in their marketplace.” Also, create your own statement about what you want to make happen for your customers and then offer some extra-value or even “free” perks related to it. Based on the statement “I want to allow distributors to win an all-expense-paid trip to the company’s home base if they bring us X amount of business in a quarter,” you could sign the distributors up for your company newsletter, feature them on your blog, produce a video offering tips on how to use your product or service in ways they didn’t think of, and direct them to where they should go for reorders.

Set Up a Mother Ship Service Counter for Your Customers

All customers need a home base to revert to in good  times and bad. Set up a  “mother ship” center for handling them. It can be one person in the company who holds down the fort or it can be a hundred-person effort. Train all of your employees to anticipate and respond to customer inquiries with care and to  take every inquiry seriously. Make them responsible for handling e-mail inquiries, phone calls, social media inquiries, and so forth.

Treat Your Customers like Your Partner or Spouse

Ever hear the expression “How a man treats his mother is how he will treat his wife”?  The same theory applies to business owners and their employees. How a business owner treats her employees is an indication of how she will treat her customers. If treated well, employees will be more likely to go the extra mile in their work with customers. If treated badly, they’ll be less likely to put forth great care and work ethic.

Let’s take a time where a customer visited me in Chicago and asked me to accompany him on a tour of a supplier’s facilities in Boston—on a day’s notice. It’s standard procedure to accompany your customer to the supplier’s plant, so I immediately got on the phone to book the flight. Lo and behold, there were no seats. My customer said it was not a problem and that he would make the trip alone. Then I checked another airline and found that it had a red eye at 4 a.m. I booked the flight but decided not to tell the customer. I arrived at the plant much, much earlier than his appointment time. You should have seen the look on his face when he showed up and saw me there! He thought it had to be too good to be true. My point: I treated this customer as if I were meeting my spouse at an important event—and I did so without hesitation.



If you have questions on today’s class send them on whatsapp to +2348037163281 for answers to such questions.

Till then, you will succeed!

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