Sing along with me “I was born in a small town”, we all know that John Cougar song. I spent the last two weeks in my small town that I grew up in, Highland Indiana. I walked down the streets with my trusted companion Spot and took in the small town air. I saw my family, old neighbours and people I knew growing up. It seems like every year I run into Ed Bailey at the town fest.
This small town called Highland, Indiana has been hit by hard times. Back in the day, this vibrant town had jobs provided by the steel mills. Sadly, the 80s and 90s killed those jobs with the advent of cheap Chinese steel. I remember sitting down with an old friend and he told me he got laid off (the manager came in and said anyone without 25 years on the job was gone, at the time Shawn was 22 years old).
While walking that dog of mine, I walked by places that I remember visiting as a child and places I worked. One of those places was the town theatre. It was my first job, selling at the concession stand ( I think I ate more than I sold back then.) I stopped to read a sign – they are going to renovate that old theatre that closed so many years ago like a lot of things. This got me to thinking about where Highland had been and gone, and where it seems to be going and I lead on to the microcosm of where sales is going.
Highland and many other places went ‘big box’ in the 90’s and 2000’s. Big box retail was cheap but offered low service. This seemed to be great as you could go online and buy whatever you wanted or learn about it.
I now see change again, as things get more sophisticated and cheap = cheap (no difference in buying from Amazon or Google) customer service and product knowledge will come back into play. I would pay more for customer service, for a knowledgeable person to help me feel comfortable in my purchase. Yes there are people who are looking for the absolutely lowest cost thing, and they will one day learn it may not be the cheapest after all. But what I see in the re-juvenation in Highland is what I see in sales.
Recently we won two opportunities at Lanshore. I ask generally ask my customers why they picked me. Price of course is a factor, but in the end it comes down to knowledge, comfort and customer service.
You see, I am a terrible salesperson. I don’t like to shave, stumble on my words, and am often too honest. It’s that last one that gives me away. I’m not really a sales person, and anymore, sales people are not in sales. They are customer champions, product experts and teachers. Big box and online sales fail at those items miserably. Yeah, it’s great to have a chat button, but nothing beats looking the person in the face and feeling the communication.
How many of you wish there was a human on the line, feeling/understanding you not asking you to press 9 for whatever random selection (having already listened to 8 other options). These corporations are trying to reduce cost to make a buck and are pushing process and time lost onto you the consumer.
Wouldn’t’ you rather be able to talk to a person quickly, or get a call back, than send an email that gets replied to a day late and a dollar short.
It’s so impersonal too. I think about a business communication with Twitter, one of the worst customer service companies, I had recently. It was clear that I hadn’t done any online campaigning in over 2 years, yet they decide to promote some random tweet rant. I emailed, since you can’t call them, and the person replied back harshly. Twitter lost a customer for good that day. How many are you losing with this ‘big box’ attitude?
Having said all this, I’m of the opinion you will start seeing a move back to the in person touch. We’re all getting tired of this social media life. We long for interaction.
So back to sales, and the point of all this. I ask you to pick up your phone and call a customer. Find out they are human, and ask them you about the process. If you work for a healthcare company, I dare you to time how long it takes you to talk to a human, get to the right person and get your issue resolved. It recently took me 4 months with United Health Care, as they were automate billing me the full amount during the month, but at two different times. This was causing my insurance to go into cancel mode…. 4 months later, and some full pay on medicine, – I’m not a huge fan of theirs nor the “affordable care act”.
Rant aside, it’s time to change and give them what they want, a good product, what they expect and a polite person to talk to. Have some difficult conversations, but they and you will be happy.
RIP Amazon, RIP Facebook, RIP Twitter. Welcome back YOU, the happy customer.
- On July 27, 2016