How to Create a Winning Customer Experience

Education & Training with

This week we speak with Beverly Koehn, Beverly Koehn & Associates

Beverly Koehn started her career as a salesperson in a builder’s model over 20 years ago.  Today, she shares her insights as a sales trainer and consultant to builders across the country.  Her book, Loyalty Is Love, details how to create long-term relationships with homebuyers and has been a favorite of BuilderRadio listeners.  We asked Beverly to discuss one aspect of building loyalty – creating a winning customer experience.  Below are excerpts from our recorded interview:

It’s so important that we all remember that we’re selling so much more than just our services and our products today.  We’re selling a relationship, and that relationship means that we have to have a great experience on both ends of the sales spectrum.  The customer has to feel like they are the most important person in our venue at that moment, and we have to treat them that way.

Rule #1:  Know Thy Customer
First of all, we have to stop and think about what we’re going to do before we actually connect with that customer. If we don’t know this person, we’ve got to spend adequate time really getting to know them as human beings so that we can then connect whatever we’re going to be offering them to something that’s very personalized and very specific to them.  Many times we’re so excited about jumping into the sales process – especially during times of economic change, that we try to speed that process up and skip some of the steps.  When we do that we become more of a sales oriented ‘feature-dumper’ than a customer oriented specialist helping that person get exactly what they want.

If I’m your customer you have to begin to establish early on in our relationship that everything that we’re going to be talking about and everything that you’re going to be doing for me is very specific to me.  The first thing that you have to do is to spend a lot of time getting to know me.

You’ve got to know, for instance, that my name is spelled differently than most people spell Koehn.  A lot of people would spell it Cohen.  When someone is trying to get my business and I repeat my name two or three different times and spell it for them and they still don’t spell it correctly, that really turns me off.  Because I’ve had the experience of dealing with that personally, I’m very sensitive to that, so I try to make sure that early on I understand what their first name is, what their last name is, how I spell it correctly, how I pronounce it correctly and, of course, the other names of other people that will be involved in the transaction.  That’s just a teeny tiny thing that we do to establish a great relationship and enhance that customer experience.

In fact, when they tell you their name, write it down! So few people actually do this that when buyers see this simple act of kindness and customer care, they really pay attention.  It shows the customer that they are the most important person to you at that moment in time and you are paying attention to them.  What you can repeat back to them is, “Am I getting this correctly, because I want to make sure that I never mispronounce your name.”  That’s very special.

Start building rapport and getting to know them as people before you start trying to fit them into a buyer ‘box.’  Get to know everything – their current situation, what they like best about the home that they’re in currently, their family situation, their hobbies, their profession – anything that gives you some idea or some insight into the lifestyle of that person so that then as you begin to try to connect with them later on during our demonstration, you’re making sure that you’re connecting what they’ve already told you is important to them.   We slow the sales process down and we spend more time on the front end getting to know people before we try to slot them into a product or service that we have to offer them.

When I have a perspective customer ask me what I can do for them and how I could help them reach their objective, I never give them information upfront about what I can do without first saying, “Well, before I answer that can I first ask you a few questions?” and then I start asking them, “What would you like for me to achieve?  What are some of the most important things for you in your training venues today?  If I could present to you the best training opportunity or alternative, what would that be like and what would you like to accomplish?”  It sort of slows the process down.  And what I found is that people are very open to telling you exactly how to help them fit into your product mix or your service mix if you’ll just slow down and ask them… and then listen to what they’re saying.  And then, of course, you have to be willing to bow out of this situation if it’s not appropriate or if there isn’t a match.

Stay Positive
It’s not always easy to keep this kind of sincerity, particularly in challenging markets. Especially when we haven’t had a sale in several weeks or perhaps several months, then we really start questioning our own abilities and the areas in which we’re in and the products that we’re selling.  When we do that, the buyer loses.  That confidence has to be deeply rooted.

Regardless of the economy; regardless of who’s sitting in the White House; regardless of who is the chairman of the Fed, people still have to live someplace.  The life support system is not disconnected and they don’t walk out on the street and start living in boxes.  They live in homes.  If there’s always that basic need for shelter, then there is a reason for us being in the business that we’re in.  Don’t worry so much about what you read in the newspaper, what you see on the news channel.  If you are confident that you have something that is viable and appropriate and helpful to that family walking in the door, then you go with it.

Number one, you’ve got to sell yourself.  We need to practice, drill and rehearse that on ourselves again and again because that’s the most important sale you’re going to make.  If you’re not confident, then that’s going to show on your face when that person walks in the door.  They’re already nervous because they’ve read the same articles and watched the same news programs that we have.  But once you overcome that and you resell yourself on what you’re doing and what you’re offering and the importance of it, then it becomes really easy again.  Then, you follow your process and you get to know people; you get excited, you show some enthusiasm.

Another point is that early on in our conversation, we need to understand how this buyer likes to communicate.  What’s the most effective and comfortable means of communication for that person?  If we use for instance, our Blackberry’s or our PDA’s for most of our communication, we assume that everybody else does the same.  That may or may not be the case.  One of the things that I like to ask early on in my relationships with clients is, “Tell me how you would like for me to communicate with you or the most comfortable means of communication that I can have with you.  Is it email?  Would you like for me to call your cell phone?  Do you want me to call your office?  Would you like for me to call you at home?  Do you like text messaging? I have all of those capabilities, but I want to make sure that I’m communicating with you in the manner that’s most comfortable for you.”

Then I follow that up with, “And by the way, are there specific hours that are more convenient for you to return my messages or for me to return messages to you?”  Buyers many times feel that if they send us an email message or even a text message that we’re sitting there at our computers and we’re not doing anything else except waiting on that message.  If we’re with a buyer in a model, hopefully we don’t have that cell phone on or we don’t have our PDAs connected because we’re giving our time to that person in front of us.  So we need to establish the most convenient time then for us to get back to them so that they’re not feeling that “Well, this person is not returning my call or she’s not getting back to me.”

Then, write down what they’re telling us and then make sure that every person who’s going to touch the experience and that customer throughout that relationship gets a copy of those notes, because if my production manager doesn’t know how my buyer wants to be communicated with, then they revert back to their own comfort level and the customer wonders, “Do you guys never even talk to each other because I’ve gone over this stuff five times!”  For instance with change requests, think how many times that those requests just fall off the map because people internally aren’t sharing information.

Starting the experience off right.
How do we begin, because so many customers are finding us online before we ever have a chance to see them eyeball-to-eyeball so the customer experience really begins oftentimes online?  Well first of all, it has to be extremely timely.  Again, when customers are searching for information on the Internet, they are looking for instantaneous information and someone has to get back with that person just as quickly as possible.  Technology can be so helpful to us, but it can also set up some real roadblocks for us if we don’t use it appropriately.  Getting back in touch with someone immediately or having someone assigned to that responsibility is crucial.

The next thing is that before you start filing everything that you have, you have to make sure that you clearly understand what that person is looking for.  There’s nothing wrong in asking for clarification before you answer questions. When you’re typing messages in an email or responding to a request over the web, sometimes we lose sight of how important is to have good grammar, good punctuation and just basic writing skills to get back to that person.

Social media and technology are becoming such dominant activities in our lives that we have to really pay attention to what are the rules of conduct and how do we enhance that customer’s perspective of instead of already setting ourselves up for failure simply because we don’t take the time to read our own messages before we hit the send button.

Link to the audio interview:

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