I began my business career in sales, pounding the pavement selling copiers during a summer heatwave in the New York tri-state area. It was hot and miserable, and most office managers did not want to hear about the great speeds and feed I was bringing to their doorsteps. I learned a lot about sales tactics through trial and error during those early days, as well as two invaluable sales tenets that have stuck with me to this day, and I try to instill them in our sales team. The first is that a company's work in winning over a new customer goes well beyond the initial sale, and second, that it is far easier to lose a client than it is to win a new one.
In fact, according to research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by as much as 95%, which is a strong incentive to make customer support a key component of your sales strategy. Looking at the same sales precepts from a slightly different perspective, a recent customer survey conducted by Salesforce revealed that almost two-thirds of the recipients believe:
- Customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations;
- It is easier than ever before for customers to take their business elsewhere;
- And, customers would terminate a business relationship due to poor customer service.
As is the case in many B2B technology sectors, channel partners are most often responsible for the initial design and deployment of professional security and surveillance systems. These systems typically employ numerous products and accessories from suppliers they are familiar with, so they can easily install and troubleshoot issues with a high level of confidence. However, when it comes to post-sales support and service, the manufacturers may be better equipped to deal with specific product or software nuances that are application-specific.
Although the support needs of specific vertical markets vary in priority from one to the next, there are several core components that apply to all.
Although many companies sell through channel partners, staying in touch with customers and making it as easy as possible for them to get the resources they need is still very important. This can be accomplished through multiple touchpoints including online troubleshooting tools, live phone or chat assistance, how-to videos, and FAQs – resources that can help customers solve issues on their own when possible. Such measures can ensure critical systems remain up and running and at optimal levels, which minimizes expensive urgent service requests.
It is critical that reseller partners are trained and certified to ensure the best possible installation and operation of all products and system components. Extending training and certification to on-site system operators and technical personnel provides a higher level of customer confidence, convenience and cost-savings, knowing they have the firsthand resources to deal with potential issues that may lead to downtime. This is especially valuable for software-driven products and solutions that require ongoing updates that directly impact system operations and cyber-physical security vulnerabilities.
Parts and Replacement Programs
Even the best products and components can fail without notice or clear indication as to why the failure occurred. When such instances arise, and technical support personnel cannot immediately troubleshoot the issue, having replacement products and parts available is imperative, and it is a proven way to win over a customer’s confidence. The faster you can get replacement products into the hands of the site installer or an on-site technician to remedy the problem, the more it will be appreciated – and not forgotten.
The best endorsements are those that come from satisfied customers. Creating forums where your customers can discuss and exchange ideas indicates high confidence in your solutions and provides the opportunity for users with similar products, systems and applications to share best practices and advice. Building user communities establishes your company as the expert source for thought leadership and information. It also provides an invaluable source of feedback for product enhancements and future development.
It is also important to realize that great customer support is not exclusive to post-sale activities. In fact, great customer support should begin at the onset of a relationship. Assisting with system design and integration challenges, special product and software needs, and guidance on securing contract and grant funding can help you win the sale and establish the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial customer relationship.
Regardless of the products or services your organization offers, the bottom line is that a satisfied customer most often turns into a repeat customer – and repeat customers provide the best use cases to help secure new customers. This is the cycle that you want to initiate.About the author: Bill Brennan is President of Panasonic i-PRO.