By Todd Cohen
Building a sales culture and creating a culture of exceptional customer service are closely linked but they are not the same. In fact, great customer service is a vital subset of a great sales culture—two processes that fuel one another. You cannot truly have one without the other.
A sales culture means that everyone’s in sales and that everyone knows the way in which what they do helps a customer say “yes.” Regardless of the positon you hold in a company, you do something every single day that has a systemic (and in some cases direct) impact on a customer’s decision to do business with you. This is a proactive and conscious belief system that you and the organization uphold. It is built on a foundation of trust that begins with the CEO conveying a culture that every employee matters, and acknowledging that creating a happy customer is not easy.
Everyone has their own examples of when they received extraordinary and subpar customer service. Southwest Airlines is an excellent example of an organization that employs a sales culture and also provides exceptional customer service; turning profits while making their customers happy along the way. On the other hand, some businesses seem more than willing to sacrifice long-term (and potentially lifetime) customers for that quarter’s metrics or stats sheet.
So what is the relationship between a great sales culture and a culture of great customer service? They are very tied to each other in several ways.
- Customer service is about making sure clients are happy before and after a purchase, and that’s why people come back. Right? Delivering great customer service and taking care of issues and complaints is a big reason for repeat purchases and increased sales. Everyone who comes into contact with clients and customers has a role in making them happy. It’s not just the front line person who owns customer service. Everyone does. That demonstrates that everyone’s in sales—sales culture.
- Metrics are not customer service, and they are not sales culture. Yes, things have to be measured so people can fill out some form and can say, “I did it.” Cool. What exactly did you do? Congratulations that you beat some arbitrary metric that says you delivered good service. The real measure of customer service is the proactive behavior that occurs when employees know how their actions impact the client, the way in which their actions lead to more sales, and when they take the time to build the bridge between what they did and how it had a positive effect. That takes time and a proactive attitude of showing people that what they did makes people want to come back.
- Customer service is so MUCH more than answering the phone nicely or being measured on how quickly one responds to a client’s problem. Customer service is about knowing that when a sterling level of service happens, it has a systemic effect on the company and the customer, who remembers it and buys more. One of the basic guidelines of sales culture is that everyone impacts the customer whether they know it or not, and it happens all the time. People need to be encouraged to recognize this fact and point it out every day.
- Making clients happy takes a team. Your virtual sales team—those who work behind the scenes to solve problems—are the sales culture anchor. Knowing where to turn in the event of an issue, means getting to the client quickly and correctly. When a company transfers customers to “the next person who can fix this” it creates a massive gap in effectiveness and efficiency, and can leave customers angry—which hurts business. When you foster a sales culture your employees realize their value is not merely tied to their title. They are people with a value proposition who can truly articulate what they do and know what others do as well.
- A great sales culture builds a better company, better products and creates more satisfied clients. The people delivering customer service have a direct impact on the clients’ desire to make referrals. When was the last time you received a positive referral because of a lapse in customer service?
- It’s all about the mindset. Building a sales culture and a customer service culture starts and ends with the core belief that this is about a mindset; not a book, guide or manual. It’s not a flowchart. Delivering the right stuff means your staff has a mentality to do the best and right thing and not feel forced to do it. You can’t make someone have the right mindset, but you can encourage, train and motivate people to use their best and bring the right attitude every day to the job.
So you see that sales culture and customer service work hand in hand. Sales culture and customer service are not the byproducts of a spreadsheet that shows some details that need to be fixed reactively. The principles and building blocks of sales culture are alive and well in the workings of highly successful customer service departments. We are all in sales, and we are all in customer service because we all have a chance to make a client happy, more satisfied, and a strong referral source for future business.
Todd Cohen, CSP is an accomplished and sought after speaker, sales culture expert and author of Everyone’s in Sales and Everyone’s in Sales; STOP Apologizing. Todd’s dynamic and motivational presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of career path or position, everyone is a salesperson. Since 1984, Todd has led sales teams to deliver more than $850 million in revenue for leading companies including Xerox and Thomson-Reuters.