The Sales Process
I recently purchased a product. It felt like a necessary purchase to help inform my work and keep me organized. I was excited about getting started with using it.
It was really simple to set up the call with a new account manager (as it should be when you want to buy something) and the initial call went well. I decided on the appropriate subscription level. It had all of the bells and whistles I was looking for, but I was nervous about getting everything set up the way I wanted it. Customizing it was important to me and my work.
The sales representative put those fears to rest when he promised that there would be a strong ‘onboarding’ process. A rep would reach out to me and we would be able to talk through what kinds of things I wanted customized. It seemed simple: I would tell them what I wanted and they would give it to me. The sales representative promised that there would be a lot of information at my disposal and it would be very simple to get up and running with the new product. I was anxious to get started and excited that they had streamlined the process as much as possible for me, the customer.
YES! “These people get it!”, I thought.
I signed the contract and I was ready to rock and roll.
The Customer Service Experience
And then we stalled. I had problems accessing the product. A tech representative called me from an unknown number to try to resolve the problem. (I don’t know about you but I rarely answer calls from unknown numbers.) She asked me to call her back, but did not provide her direct phone number. She then sent a customer support email. I wrote an email in response, outlining my problems and asking her if she could help me.
It turns out that email address does not receive inbound emails. At this point, I was confused. How was I, the customer, supposed to contact them if customer service doesn’t receive inbound email or provide a direct phone number?
Long story short, these problems were not resolved and 8 days after paying for the product and sending the signed paperwork straight to their office, I had yet to actually use the product.
How One Informs the Other
This got me thinking. What is the relationship between the promises salespeople make and the actual experience of a customer? And what can salespeople do to make sure that there is no breakdown between the two?
Clearly there needs to be some sort of feedback loop that informs the salesperson of customer service issues. Because I had difficulty reaching customer service (which should never be a problem, no matter the product or service you provide), the only option left was to contact the initial account manager with whom I had spoken. It was clear to me that the promises or “guarantees” that were made in the initial sales call could not be made and this led me back to the salesperson.
Let me be clear. I don’t think the sole responsibility falls on the salesperson’s shoulders. Companies need to think about this relationship in terms of process and structure. They must answer questions that begin, “if this happens, then_____”. Put themselves in the customer’s shoes, so to speak. The sales process should smoothly move the customer through the buying cycle and onboarding should not be an afterthought, especially if your product demands ongoing service.
As a salesperson, I understand the willingness to provide solutions. You want to overcome objections before they are even raised and you’re eager to make the sale by putting the prospect’s fears to rest by providing a solution. But making promises and actually delivering them can be two very different things.
Allow the customer service experience to inform the sales process and you will have happy customers in the end.