Dr. Jeanne Hurlbert, President — Hurlbert Consulting Group
•competitive strategy •customer service •management strategies •distribution industry trends
Good customer service is more important than ever. For Dr. Jeanne Hurlbert of the Hurlbert Consulting Group, customer service presents a huge opportunity precisely because so many companies do not make it a priority.
"Most of the customer service in America right now is pretty bad," confides Jeanne, "you have an opportunity to differentiate yourself in the marketplace." Exceptional service begins with getting to know your customers.
In this video, Jeanne stresses that "we have to go out and talk to our customers. We have to figure out what's important to them, and what their biggest problems are. What keeps them awake at night." By talking to our customers – and understanding them – we can put systems in place that will serve them well because we know them well. But getting this feedback and collecting this hard data must be the starting point.
You must be open to learning something new every time you deal with a customer. Randy MacLean calls this "a eureka moment." By talking with your customers, you allow yourself the opportunity for service innovation.
These innovations aren't simply better prices. Many customers may think that a lower price is what they want, but together you might discover new and different opportunities. These changes – grounded in serving your customer better – might be tied to financing, how you deliver, reducing the load per order, and more.
By identifying the customer's specific needs, you both may find surprising solutions that serve the customer better than a reduced price or a lowered cost. Don't assume that you know what your customers want or that it is beyond your ability to provide. You won't really know the answers until you talk to your customers directly.
As you discover what your customers truly want, this data will improve your conversion and retention. "Now, think about the power of that," Jeanne says, "it's not only letting us design exactly what they want, it's also going to give us an incredible positioning tool because now we can create content that targets exactly what they want." Once you have this hard data, you can apply it to your marketing, your lead generation, your content creation, and other key distribution goals.
The trickle-down effect of these systems is very real. Randy explains that "when you are building a high level of service for targeted accounts, all the stuff you put into place – the training, the attitude, how you optimize what you do – tends to have spin-off effects because some of those things make their way into your regular line of service." With these benefits in place, the value and service you provide to all of your customers will outshine any competitor.
Finally, you can improve your conversions not only by attracting new customers, but also by transforming your own existing accounts. Jeanne explains that as "the word begins to get out, you're going to have some customers who go 'wow, how do I get that?'" You will be able to give those accounts a list of steps that will make them more profitable for you and secure the highest level of concierge service for them. Superior customer service is the first step to a higher-profit company.
Audio file: hurlbert2-01.mp3