Bad Service, Worse Sales

When Customer Service gets it wrong, everyone in your company pays.

Who has the customer service job at your company? You can have the best products, the best marketing or the best sales approach, but if your customer service team isn’t able to provide levels of service that your customers expect, you are not going to be (or stay) a leader in your market. Customer service that falls below your customers’ expectations will cost you money, whether their expectations are reasonable or not, and no matter how those expectations were set. That’s a customer service rule.

Our grocery’s service is so bad, its literally insulting. The people manning the two cash registers always talk to each other when they are checking out customers. Do they say hello to you? If you’re lucky. Checkout progress often stops during an interest part of their conversation. And a thank you? Never. The cashier drops your change into your hand while looking the other way, carrying on with their conversation. And the prices aren’t cheap, either, so that’s no excuse. When I occasionally go shopping to pick up a carton of eggs or some paper towels I think supermarket! I will go an additional 5 miles just to avoid shopping there. I actually figured out that this nonsense has cost that grocery around $32,500 of my business and I can’t be alone.

When I was last on vacation in Montego Bay I knew there was something different about the service at a hotel where my wife and I went for dinner. I was bowled over when I saw a sign posted over the bar intended to be seen by employees rather than guests. It was the hotel’s “10-5 Rule.” When two or more employees of the Half Moon Resort are talking, they must discontinue conversation when a guest comes within 10 feet of them. The employee must speak to a guest when they get within five feet. This customer service rule makes a big difference in a very competitive market.

Here is the problem. I hear from many sales VPs who complain that their salespeople don’t have enough selling time because they spend too much time being customer service reps. Sometimes products don’t work as expected. Sometimes customers need hand-holding. Perhaps a commitment was broken. I understand all that. But whatever the case, if customer service can’t manage the situation, sales are impacted. First, the sales person needs to be selling, not fixing. Second, a dissatisfied customer is less likely to buy from you again. Third, word gets around, so it becomes harder to land new account business.

Marketing efforts also suffer when customer service is deficient. For example, I’ve seen companies make embarrassing concessions just to cajole a customer into providing a testimonial or a remark for a press release. It’s bad business when marketing spends their limited time doing damage control rather than leveraging stellar customer satisfaction levels as a competitive differentiator.

Ask yourself, what percentage of your team’s time is spent performing customer service-related activities and what is that costing you in terms of lost revenue or increased expense? Put a business case together and bring it upstairs to the CEO. If there is a product problem, it needs to be fixed. If your customer care people aren’t caring for customers, that has to be fixed.

We sales and marketing professionals have tough enough jobs to do. We must push the job of customer service back to the customer service department or we’ll never get our job done—creating new ones.


© 2006, 2012 Dave Stein. This article was originally published in Sales and Marketing Management magazine in Sept. 2006.


Note: Please join me for a webinar I’ll be delivering Thursday, September 13. The subject is Why Sales 101 Doesn’t Work Anymore.


Photo credit: Half Moon Bay Resort

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