MONDAY EXPORT CLASS
GODWIN OYEFESO (SUCCESSEDGE EXPORTERS NETWORK)
Topic: Strategies for Success (Part 2)
Create an Experience for Your Customer
When you buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks , it’s not just about the coffee; it’s about the experience—who you might see, who might see you, what work you might do on your laptop, what music might be playing, or what news is circulating in the neighborhood. Or maybe you want to have private, unrushed time all for yourself. Yes, the coffee tastes good, but if everything else were terrible, would you go back for that great cup of coffee? According to Dori Jones Yang and Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz, “The underlying foundation of this company [Starbucks] is not about growth. It is about the passionate, soulful connection we have with our people, our customers, and our shareholders.”iv The spirited human connection, sanctuary-type experience, and great cup of coffee are what keep customers coming back to Starbucks.
You are not exporting a product or service. You are exporting an experience for your customer that comes in a bundle that includes access to and interaction with you. Eliminate or reduce one part of the bundle and the customer will leave you and take his business elsewhere. I strongly believe, as Tom Peters says, that a “quality” customer experience correlates to customer loyalty, so get it right! You can run your export business as a “transaction-based experience” where you just get the deal done or you can run it as an “experienced-based brand” where every touch point relates to the superiority of your product or service. If it’s the latter, what will that entail?
Think back to Vosges Haut Chocolate that I talked about earlier in the book. With a slogan of “Vosges Haut-Chocolat invites you to travel the world through chocolate,” a mission of “Peace, love and chocolate,” and the invitation “Ring our chocolate concierge” all posted in the “Contact Us” area of the site, Vosges is most definitely an “experienced-based brand” offering exceptional service at every point of interaction with the company.
Create a High Standard for Your Customer Service
Raise your own expectations of what you believe your customer should get from you. Set up a high standard involving a heightened set of expectations for customer service and then meet them effectively. Give your employees ways to reward customers and show them how much you care.
Maybe your customer needs delivery within a month. Reduce the time it takes for her to get the product to three weeks and maintain that on future orders. Or maybe your customer needs a special loading configuration where the product is delivered in a container. Follow her instructions and do the shipment to her liking .
Give Time to Your Customers
One of the most undervalued benefits that we can give a customer is our time. Set aside a certain amount of time each day, week, or month to devote to your customers. Ensure that their needs are being met personally and promptly. Your time is valuable. They know that. When you give your time, you show customers they are worth it.
My general rule for responding to customer communications is to do so within twenty-four hours. What’s yours? When customers want to see you, get an e-mail from you, or speak with you, devote time to providing them the service they require. It’s a valuable commodity to customers.
Stay Away from the S tatus Quo with Your Customers
Once a good customer relationship has been established, it’s easy to get comfortable. As the exporter, you might rely on the status quo (which equals doing nothing) with your customer after the sale, but his needs will change over time. Check in with him. Silence isn’t always golden and it can’t hurt to get a status update more often than not to find out what your customer may or may not need.
Use Cultural Diversity to Your Advantage with Your Customers
When you provide an exceptional export service to customers worldwide, you need to understand the diverse needs of those customers. The different perspectives and cultural norms of your customers force you to dig deep into cultural differences and offer a vibrant source of ideas and process improvement to meet customer expectations. It is only when exporters leave their comfort zones that they can then grow and become stronger both personally and professionally.
Rather than focus on cultural differences with your customers—what you don’t have in common—look at what you do have in common. When you’re in a new environment, ask questions about how you should behave. Seek help in understanding your customer’s culture and the way things are done.
Develop an open culture that encourages feedback so that your employees, customers, and suppliers, wherever they may be located, will know their opinions and ideas matter and are valued. Culture permeates all relationships. It’s not an afterthought. It’s a first thought. Exporters who work on their cultural skills will be able to offer more value to customers, be better colleagues, and triumph in the export marketplace.
Face Bad News or Bad Times Head On with Your Customers
Have you ever had to share bad news with a customer? I have. The best way to share disheartening news is to deliver it in the same fashion you would want to receive it: in person or, if distance is a problem, via a telephone call. If it’s by telephone, make sure you reach the person directly that needs to be told. Picking up the telephone to discuss the situation with your customer lets you reassure them that the situation can be resolved, and will be, and provides you with an opportunity to answer any questions or concerns they might have. The same holds true for an in-person visit. Just make sure you give your customer plenty of time to meet, receive the information, react to it, and discuss.
If you handle a matter correctly, the customer will not remember that bad news was shared. They will remember that you were honest and forthright and kept them apprised of the state of the situation, even when it did not go according to plan.
Recommend Others for Your Customers When You Can’t Do the Job Yourself
Ever have your customer ask you to do something that is out of your realm of expertise and you know just the company to fill the bill? A competitor. You might balk at that thought, but if a competitor you are on good terms with offers a fairly better product or service export offering than you do, and your customer’s success heavily depends on the quality of that product or service, then everyone is better off when you recommend the competitor. Nothing beats providing exceptional export service like a willingness to forgo shortterm gains for long-term success for all.
Make that kind of behavior your trademark and you will find your unselfishness returned a hundred times over by way of becoming a trusted advisor to your customer and an honest, fair, and transparent company to your competitor. New export business will follow.
Create Meaningful and Compelling Product Offerings for Your Customer
Don’t become too proficient. You may be good at what you do, but are you churning out the same product time and again with minimal changes? Your customers don’t always want bigger and better or new and improved. They want breakthroughs.
To create meaningful and compelling product offerings for your customers, bring them into the conversation. Liberate them to speak up on what they want. It starts with asking for input. After all, you are seeking new approaches and variations on what you are currently exporting. There’s no better way to breakthroughs than to listen to your customers, see under the surface of what your customers really want, and then deliver on it.
Be Thankful and Show Appreciation for Your Customers
One last bonus philosophy that I know most of you already do: Thank a customer for their business in person or via the telephone. Then follow up by expressing further sincere appreciation via e-mail. These are musts, absolutes, givens. Don’t miss a beat here.
If I were to sum up in one sentence how I approach my clients during and after a sale, it would be this: I provide the service, I’m interested, I care, and I will do my best to help.
The Absence of Complaints
In the article “After the Sale Is Over,” marketing professor Theodore Levitt says: “One of the surest signs of a bad or declining relationship is the absence of complaints from the customer. Nobody is ever that satisfied, especially not over an extended period of time. The customer is either not being candid or not being contacted. Probably both.” That said, treat customer complaints as a gift and an expectation that can now be met.
Delivering exceptional customer service is complex. That explains why there are very few businesses that make us look forward to every transaction we have with them. If you show some passion and enthusiasm for what you do, do what you do exceptionally well, and have fun, your customers will come back happy and with great gusto.
TO BE CONTINUED……
If you have questions on today’s class send them on whatsapp to +2348037163281 for answers to such questions.
Till then, you will succeed