Misplaced Customer Focus

One of the most provocative, contrarian pieces in a long while, the HBR blogs recently featured results of a five-year study in customer service.

Stop trying to delight your customers pleads us to think again about the effort we put into making those that pay our wages deliriously happy with us. From over 75,000 interactions, here’s their killer finding.

…most customers just want a simple, quick solution to their problem. Exceeding customer expectations has a negligible impact on customer loyalty. Instead of providing a series of bells and whistles in customer interactions, companies need to reduce the amount of effort customers make.

Conventional wisdom is that the more we put into a transaction, the better it’ll be for us. Yet this research turns that completely around.

It is not about anything we do, ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty. It is rather all about how little the client does when they deal with us.

This has potentially widespread impact on the proactive soultion seller.

One tickling point that instantly occurred to me was that, when selling, we actively try and push the prospect into doing extra stuff. Their response often reveals a major qualifier. If they do what we ask and it was a bit of a chore, then we’re well in.

Yet in general, I really do see this as a potentially key differentiator.

What can you do to genuinely reduce prospect effort, pre-sale?

One idea that struck me was the old post-demo questionnaires that I once had buyers fill-in. Anything almost multiple choice that uncovers intel and takes minimal brain power could well be a winner.

Then you’ve the age old trick of ‘helping’ your champion client side with a piece of their internal planning. An RoI business case, a slide deck, or even full blown justification doc.

Think of all the meetings and background paperwork that your prospect may be expected to trawl through. How can you lighten that particular load? And when dealing with maybe the most important part of the whole game, consider what happens after the signature. How can you remove the workload from your customer in terms of preparing for and managing post-sale operations?

Finally, what would strike you if you conducted our own “prospect effort audit”?

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