By Terrel Transtrum, Co-founder, LaunchSmart™
In Parts I & II of this series, we introduced the key concepts and rationale for knowing what your field really wants and how to find out. We presented the six key strategies for finding out what your reps and customers really want. In Part III, we discuss what to do with the information once you have gathered it.
So, what do we do with the information?
So, that’s how you gather information, but the key is, you’ve got do something with this information. In other words, you have to act. You cannot be content to merely collect information, which is what a lot of organizations do. You’ve got analyze the information. When you think about it, it doesn’t make sense to keep attracting distributors and customers if you’re getting information from them on why they’re leaving you and you’re not doing anything to fix the problems. As a matter of fact, that’s a situation that will eventually solve itself! You should run out of customers and problems at about the same time.
Once you find out from your distributors and customers why they’re leaving you, or what it is they want, why they’re complaining, you must sit down and analyze that information. Here’s what you do:
Meet and discuss action initiatives. Who’s in on the meeting? Anyone, and everyone that this type of problem or complaint from the customer affects. People from different groups, people from different departments. One client meets every Friday morning to hold what is called the “hour of truth” meeting. At 7:30 a.m., people from all different departments sit down and talk for one hour about what they’ve heard from customers this week. They take a random sampling of complaints, comments, product improvement ideas, and they discuss action initiatives to improve in those areas. They’re getting to the root causes of some of those problems of why their customers are complaining. If you think about it, if you don’t fix those kind of problems, eventually those complaining customers leave or tell nine to 12 others about their dissatisfaction with your organization.
So sit. Meet. Discuss. And take action.
Another organization does incredible complaint analysis. As a matter of fact, they even advertise to their customers things they call “sounding boards.” These sounding boards are available so customers can air their complaints. They have a variety of sounding boards. One is an 800 number. If you call into the 800 number, the rep who takes the call enters the complaint into an online tracking system. So, that comment is tracked.
Another type of sounding board is a fax line and E-mail. The company has publicized its fax numbers and sounding board E-mail addresses, and the distributors and customers can put the complaint or problem straight into that line. They also publicize a sounding board that’s a direct line to company executives and key managers. They publicize all those sounding boards to their customers. The information gathered via these sounding boards via the 800 number, the fax number, E-mail, the links to the executives and key managers, all this information is then taken to a cross-functional team. This team then makes a recommendation. Now, when they make a recommendation, they always keep in mind these key questions:
Will this improvement make things better, faster, or more cost effective for the distributor and customer?
The company’s goal is not only to eliminate errors, but to really improve things.
A client from the Northeast receives about 2,500 calls a day. They use a database that collects suggestions and input from the caller as well as complaints. The use that input to modify products and services. Everybody has access to that database; it’s an information center where entries are organized and pooled, with easy access. So the input is entered with a caller’s name and phone number. An employee goes through this weekly, and a team of people look for trends. They make the appropriate changes in products and services.
Now, let’s look at an example of what a client from North Carolina did, by sending employees to field meetings and what they learned once they were on site. Some went as unannounced guests while others went as employees officially representing the company. They got out from behind their desks and headsets and PCs, and went into the front lines of battle.
The meetings were a series of leadership training meetings and the goal was to educate the employees on what really happens in the field. They wanted to get the pulse of the field to see their activities and challenges and frustrations up close. By staying in touch, sending employees out to the field, they were able to take what they noticed, form a stronger base of understanding as corporate staff, analyze information gathered in their roles as participants and observers, and make improvements. Also, while they were on site, they were able to give pointers on how to present the products and programs more effectively. And, of course, after face-to-face contact, each employee is more quality and service minded; once they’re back at the office, they have a face now attached to who is using their products and services.
So, once you find out what your distributors and customers want from you, why they’re leaving, take the information and analyze it, so you can fix the problems. Get to the root cause and make that improvement that will be long lasting. As you know, most companies are much better at talking to customers instead of listening to customers and being prepared to hear from customers. You now have strategies to listen to distributors and customers and to make yourself prepared to hear from them. And when they have worked to find you, you gather their information. The more distributors and customers communicate and reveal their problems and challenges to you, the more likely you are to keep their business and strengthen relationships as you solve those problems. And the more information you have about them—provided you act on that information—the less likely they are to leave you.
(The content of this article is extracted from ServiceQuest® RetentionSmarts™ Modules. For more information on RetentionSmarts™ training and mentoring systems, contact a member of the LaunchSmart Team.)