How long do customers wait to give you an order? How long do they wait on your sales people? If you do not know, find out. Ask your customers if they have problems getting through to talk to someone. Have your receptionist ask the customers on the telephone while they are waiting if someone got back with them or not. If not, have the receptionist apologize profusely, hold the call, page someone in sales and ensure the caller is transferred. “Do not lose a sales call,” should be the first thing your receptionist learns from you.
Suggestions to test your company’s response:
- Poll customers constantly: Ask select customers privately to note the amount of time it takes to reach a ‘live person’ the next time they call your firm. Ask them to report how long they had to wait, if they are willing. Give them a coupon for a discount on their next purchase or current outstanding balance for their troubles. You need answers and you will only get them running tests on your current system and how your people react to buyers.
- Get 3rd party feedback: Ask business acquaintances to make a cold call to your firm and report to you how they were initially handled as a ‘first time buyer’ on the telephone. When the reaction was ‘great’, tell your employees this and state it very emphatically that they are doing the right thing. When the reaction was subpar, tell the employees they need improvement and provide training on the points they are repeatedly missing. This procedure should be in writing, step by step.
- Test your inside sales function: When a business has sent back a rejected part, have someone outside the sales department or quality control call the buyer and independently ask if his or her need are being addressed, questions about product problems are being answered in a timely manner and if they have felt your company’s reaction was appropriate or lackadaisical. How long did your quality control department take to call to discuss the rejected part? Did anyone call at all? If you do not have a written procedure, your company personnel will continually disappoint you and your customers because what you want is not necessarily what everyone else wants. Write the process down and what each party does to resolve customer problems. Define who is responsible for each step.
- Train your receptionist to selectively ‘follow-up’: Ask your receptionist to follow-up when customers are transferred and do not reach their sales representatives. Teach this person, the first employee to speak to all of your customers, to ensure when the customers fail to connect with their desired party, they ultimately speak to a competent understanding person who will handle their request. Pay this position enough to make this happen. If you do not, your sales will suffer. Remember, you want a receptionist who recognizes when customers need attention and will give it to them.