“Bring it down to a much more fundamental human motive. Don’t stick to the brain. Stick to the heart.” — Mohan Sawhney, McCormick Foundation Chair of Technology, Clinical Professor of Marketing, Director of the Center for Research in Technology & Innovation
To achieve exceptional export service, you must plan for it and then act on it. Consider the following two tips as part of your “commonsense blueprint” when developing your own in-house set of principles for great customer service.
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. Customers like approachable exporters, knowledgeable follow-up, and a show of a 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.
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.
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.
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.
In the final analysis, you must have the courage and strength to do what you know is right for the benefit of your customers. If you are constantly asking your customers what they need and want, your employees can deliver the best. Do your best work and your exports will grow.
This article is adapted from Laurel’s latest book, “Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably (http://www.exportingguide.com)” published December 2013 by Apress.
For more on customer service, visit: Developing Great Global Customer Relations
Photo Credit: sciondriver