When was the last time you rang your own company? Listened to a pitch from your sales team? Ordered something from your website? Rang up and complained to your accounts department? In other words, do you know what it is like to be on the receiving end of your staff’s idea of customer service?
Too many companies fail to realise that every employee, irrespective of their role, will interact at some stage with customers or prospects. In this respect, every employee should be looked on as a marketing opportunity and trained to represent your brand the best they can. This includes not only identifying a potential sale but understanding that holding onto existing customers is just as important as getting new ones.
Getting this right is critical for all companies. It’s easier for small enterprises where you have everyone working in the same room and internal communication is pretty much instant. As companies grow they invariably spread across multiple rooms and internal communication can suffer. This in turn impacts on how consistently your company’s brand and sales pitch is being communicated and how fast, if at all, opportunities are being pounced on. “Inward” and “outward” facing staff can grow further and further apart in terms of understanding the value your company delivers to its customers and how your brand is being communicated.
The more employees you have, the more people you have interacting with the outside world representing your brand. This should be seen as a no-cost way to build your brand and generate sales leads. If you ensure that every single person in your organisation knows the key facts about your company and its products, you can potentially turn an accounts query, customer services complaint or a casual conversation at a social gathering into a sale.
Too many employees think of themselves as “just the receptionist” or “just the accounts clerk” or “just the technician” and fail to appreciate that they are all representatives of your company – your brand. It is not only what they say, but how they say it and what they do as a result. Too often promises are made that aren’t followed up, conversations started that aren’t finished and one rogue employee can completely demolish your good reputation in an email or unanswered phone call.
You need to agree a communications plan with staff that empowers everyone to be a representative of your brand. They not only know what to say but even more critically, communicate this in a way that aligns with the core values of your company.
The plan should cover strategic issues such as where you are going as a company and what you want your brand to reflect. It should also be more tactical in terms of how you answer the phone, the way your staff dress (and this doesn’t have to be suits and ties; it just has to be appropriate for the kind of customers you work with) and consider how you respond to customer complaints and billing enquiries.
Even more importantly, to have some protocols around responding to customers to make sure no opportunity, sales or otherwise, gets missed.
This should be part of every staff member’s induction and then updated on at least an annual basis. At a time when we are all looking at how to create sales opportunities, the simple act of getting everyone in the company onto the same page is a very powerful way of building your brand and staying ahead of the competition.
Bob Pinchin is the director of Sway.tech, a specialist communications house for technology companies. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org