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4 strategies to increase sales

Knowing your customers is just the first step
By Entrepreneur Staff |

How do you generate more sales in a saturated market? By providing great service to complement your great product, says Ron Kaufman, a quality-service guru. Kaufman, who serves Fortune 500 clients around the world, says you must make customer service a pillar of your company if you want to succeed in today’s tough market. And customer service is about making an emotional connection with your customers by contributing value to their lives.

“When they have a certain kind of emotional connection to you, even when the competition comes in and has exactly what you have, and maybe even real cheaper, your customers won‘t leave you,” he says. He points to Singapore Airlines as an example of a company that yields higher sales because of its emphasis on superior service. “Back when they were an entrepreneurial company, they realized they could not compete with Pan-Am in number of airplanes, or with TWA or British Airways in flight and route structure, so they differentiated themselves from the competition in terms of service,” says Kaufman, author of Up Your Service.

Providing great customer service does come with a cost, but it’s a worthwhile investment in the long run. Kaufman gives the following strategies to help you “up” your service:

Know your customers. More than knowing your demographics, you must know what your customers want so you can give them the service they’ll value. When McDonald’s learned that being healthy and staying healthy had become a priority with its customers, it started experimenting with soy and vegetable burgers in its test kitchen.

It’s also important to know what your customers fear. Knowing their fears would allow you to assure them that you could protect them from those fears, and all you do in order to know is to keep in touch. “Talk to [your customers], but more than talking to them, listen to what they have to say,” Kaufman says.

Be clear about your service philosophy. It’s not enough to say that you’re a company that gives superior service. You have to know what kind of great service you’re offering. Do you want to be friendlier? Do you want to be the most personalized or most easily available? Good service means different things to different people. If you try to be everything to everybody, you’re not really defining your market.

“If you want to compete head-to-head with Haagen- Dazs, you better come up with a niche style of service,” Kaufman says. “Maybe your people are gonna go, ‘We’re the most generous; we give more free taste than we sell ice cream.’ The other one could be, ‘We give bigger scoops than everybody else.’ Or, ‘We whip a whipped cream on everything, no extra charge.’ Play with it in a different way.”

Create a system around your service philosophy. Once you know your niche, rally your staff behind that service philosophy and do whatever’s necessary so they can provide the excellent service. “You come up with the protocol, you come up with the standards, you come up with the menu,” Kaufman says.

Case in point: Mackay Envelope Company defined itself as a personalized company. To be true to that philosophy, it made a 66-item questionnaire for customers to fill out. “They use that to be able to go back to the customer and take care of them, buy things for them, send them articles,” Kaufman says. “Why do that? When the next order of envelopes comes through, it goes to them.”

Continually surprise your customers. It’s not enough to maintain your level of service; you must constantly experiment and innovate to stay on top. “If you’re a company that gives service with a surprise, then you have to keep changing the surprise,” Kaufman says. “And if you’re a company that gives service that’s faster, you better figure out where to go faster and faster.”

This article was originally published in the October 2005 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines.

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