Buy dedicated lines for all your best high dollar customers. If you are serious about servicing your premium accounts, the people who generate the bulk of you firm’s net income, you will probably do this for them today. If you are doubtful about making this purchase for your customer, walk through the process in your mind; what your buyers must do to reach you every day. If you wince when thinking about this person being handled by your firm’s automated telephone system, buy him a dedicated telephone and do not look back.
Is it difficult in general to get to your customer service department? If you do not want an important customer handled by your switchboard operator who keeps three or four people on hold at one time, keeps people on hold to give truck drivers directions, handles and forwards angry collection calls or asks of every caller “Who is calling?”, buy the dedicated telephone for your buyer. When you think about this, as a buyer, you will shake your head and decide to do this for every major account that you value in order to give these people preferential treatment. This may mean you do this for your top ten to twenty customers (you pick the number).
“My buyers have my sales representatives’ cellular numbers so this is not necessary.” Your buyers probably have their assigned sales representatives’ numbers but remember those representatives are out away from the company visiting other buyers and are not able to take orders on their telephone most of the time. They cannot check on stock, review ordering history, check pricing or specials to offer the buyer or other requests. Those orders are normally telephoned or emailed in to your inside sales personnel. The buyer actually wants to talk to you personally many times, but he tolerates going through your clogged switchboard. Change that by giving him his own telephone.
Show your customer service people where the money comes from. These buyers who most likely bring you most of your company’s net income should never have to wait on anyone in your company. Teach this to everyone in your sales organization. Once you get these lines in place, answer the telephone for this gentleman no matter what you have to do.
Request that the buyer test the new telephone number the day you install it; make him aware of how easy it is to order from you. Make a big deal out of his first call to you. Request he put you on speed dial on his telephone. Tell him it will be a telephone number that will always be answered and that he will get a nice, personable human voice every time he calls.
Important customers should never wait. Make it a point that he never has to wait, because of his importance. If you are the one who answers his call and do not know what to do next, keep him on the line and get someone in charge to help him out and do not delay. He may want someone to solve a current problem, clarify an open order, request special pricing, ask about in stock inventory or want someone to take a new $1.0M purchase order. Whatever you do, do not disappoint him. This is why you purchased the line for his incoming calls. Make this premium service you are giving him the highest caliber service and make sure to make him pay for it.
Some of these telephones may have to go home with employees. Depending upon the industry or business you are in, you may have to assign some of your customer service people to take these designated telephones home with them, especially if they are owned by customers who want someone available to them 24/7 (i.e. international travel agencies). You will make this happen and it will be reflected in the pricing you give the buyer who wants this type of preferential treatment. You may be able to automate the telephone numbers to be forwarded to a few of your people who are paid to be ‘on call’ after hours. You decide how you want to take orders from these valued buyers.
Hire a person to answer these ‘special telephones’ and make money. If you say that you do not have any customer service personnel who would do this after hours, this cannot be allowed as an excuse. First, offer your current employees more money to get their participation. If that does not work, look outside the company and pay the necessary money to locate a great likeable customer service person currently in the market who will gladly take home a few telephones to be answered politely in the event an important buyer of the company calls. Get a mature person who can get along with anyone at any hour of the day. Try to hire more than just an answering service for your best customers.
Pay a premium to that representative who services the company’s best buyers. When you have a buyer who wants premium service, make sure he gets it and then make sure he pays for it. Your new customer service person will gladly do anything necessary for the buyer because you will pay them well. You want this key employee representing the best side of your company to do a good job so pay for it. You want them working for your firm’s best interests. Understand that you do not have any excuses if you truly want to fill a need in the market and at the same time make money. Do not be cheap. Buy the talent that will satisfy your customers and charge them for it.
You may buy a number of dedicated lines depending upon who is important to you. You decide who the important buyers are and how many there are. Just remember to reward those who pay your bills. Line up the gross profit earned from highest to lowest amounts of every customer. Assign private telephone lines to each and every one of the customers who you determine (from this critical analysis) deserve this level of treatment. Reasoning for your decision: You want to encourage higher prices for premium service.
Who gave you orders during the last recession to keep you going? If you have problems determining which customers are most important to you, think which buyers kept your firm afloat during the last economic downturn. Who continued to give your firm business when no one else was there for your sales people? Who sent in purchase orders that kept you from terminating employees in a really slow period?
Give those special buyers the number for their sales representatives so they have a dedicated sales person available. Give your best customers two numbers. The assigned sales representative can be available to them and they can have a dedicated line into your inside sales department whenever they wish to call. Make sure those buyers are shown that they are the only ones who have access to their private telephone numbers.
Show them the private telephones with their names next to them when they are visiting in your office. You might type up the buyer’s name and company name and put it next to the telephone. You decide how far you want to push this but show the buyer you are ready to help him whenever he calls because he is that important to you. The whole dedicated telephone issue should impress him but also shows how seriously you take his requests. It also shows that you mean it when you say you never want him to have to wait on anyone in your organization. It may or may not work for you but it’s worth a try, especially on your most important accounts.