I recently came across an interesting LinkedIn discussion posted by Gavin Sloan, which received a number of surprisingly vehement responses.The thread began with Gavin; the customer in this story; introducing the topic shown here:
As a business founder himself, Gavin is in a prime position to be directing these questions- “What should I do? What would YOU do??”.
The real question here is, should you send your customers to your competition?
Of course, this thread immediately began to attract debate of all sorts. Those in favor of placing the needs of the customer above the needs of the company. Those who were strongly against the perceived disloyalty of the sales rep involved in the story. And of course, a fair number of individuals who weren’t quite sure what to make of the entire situation.
For the record, I’m all for employing customer-centric practices, and if a potential customer seeks you out to do business, you have an obligation to put their needs before yours. If that means that directing them elsewhere to source a product or service will avoid incompetent solutions, cumbersome waiting periods, or significant price hikes; so be it.
Which brings me to my first key point in addressing the question of whether or not you should send potential customers to your competitors:
1. Your Loyalty Should Always Be to the Customer- Here’s Why
The role of the sales representative has changed. According to Marie Wiese, the role of sales is to generate trust: During their buying journey, people want to believe that someone cares about their problems and needs. They want to know that someone is explaining and educating, not selling.
Product-centric sales and customer service methods are primordial practices. This is in large part due to the concept of social selling. Social selling allows us to create relationships with buyers in social media outlets where the focus is to build trust and relationships – not flog your product or service.
Customer’s want a unique, personalised experience, tailored specifically to suit their needs and address their obstacles. Keenan’s comment below hits the nail on the head:
2. The Intangible Word of Mouth Marketing
A no-brainer – Word of Mouth marketing is by far the most credible form of advertising because someone is putting their standing at risk each time they make an endorsement where they have no personal gain but the acknowledgment of those who are listening or reading.
What are the offshoots of word of mouth marketing in this example? It could mean that a satisfied customer walks away from your business exchange with a solid impression of your business’s values and share them with friends and family. They may post it on their social media outlets including 3rd party review sites.
Keep putting out good. It will come back to you tenfold in unexpected ways – Farrah Gray
3. Honest & Customer-Centric Customer Service Create Return Customers
In this particular scenario, it may have cost the business a sale in the short term. However, it potentially created an authentic relationship between the sales rep and the customer. The customer will remember that, and won’t hesitate to return.
It just makes good sense to return to the place that clearly went out of their way to help you out, doesn’t it?
I’ll often quote Shep Hyken’s work, and here he adds; “It’s just good customer service. I put the customer’s needs ahead of mine. That’s what the best customer-focused companies are most interested in; taking care of their customer’s needs is more important than making the sale. They realize that, long-term, the customer will come back.”.
Actively working towards being; or becoming; a customer centric business is critical to the continued success of practically any business. Regardless of who you sell to, what product or service you’re selling, consumers appreciate personalisation and authenticity when it comes to service. Occasionally, that could mean accepting a short term loss. However, the long term returns of honestly and efficiently assisting a potential customer far outweigh the price of that single loss.