Customer Service Through A Consistent Message
How do I communicate consistently to my customers the key messages of my business?
The key to any marketing campaign and building a strong business image is to consistently communicate the same message to your audience. In Geoff Grist’s book, “500 Award-Winning Small Business Secrets” (Simon & Schuster, 2001) he says “customers seek consistency. Ensure your staff have the resources to understand how you expect them to deliver you message.”
The easiest way to achieve consistency is with a series of systems. Systems let you work smarter rather than harder. This is where the power of a solid home office comes into play.
For me I have a robust second hand computer, a trusty old printer for my reward cards and a HP all-in-one scanner/printer/copier all talking together using Microsoft XP. It isn’t an expensive or glamorous setup by any means, it is what I can afford and I have IT friends who help with maintenance. What it does give me is the ability to have a series of systems for my business.
In its own right, Microsoft Office XP is a system made up of a series of tools – Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Outlook All these applications can be the basis of your own business systems so you and your team work in the same direction consistently.
Defining the Message
When communicating a core message to customers and a broader audience the first activity is defining what exactly you want that message to be. When defining your core message American business strategist Brian Tracey recommends in his regular e-newsletters asking:
1. What should my brand be? What words or descriptions would I like to own in my customer’s mind?
2. How do I want your customers to talk about my business? What words do I want them to use?
3. What does my business do extremely well?
From the answers to each of these questions you’ll be able to draw out what message you want to communicate to your audience.
The second activity is to pull it all together into a central repository so all involved in the business has access to it. This is where the Customer Service Manual is developed. Microsoft Word is a powerful instrument for creating business manuals. The Outline facility in Word is an excellent tool for structuring your manual. Outline View gives you a big picture view of the document. It lets you set the structure of the document using headings, reorganise running order and type text. For details on using Outline, simply type “outlines” in the Word Help’s Answer Wizard.
Microsoft Word also has a series of powerful templates available from Word General Templates from File | New… or by searching Microsoft’s Template Gallery (link).
The most common tools that will consistently use the marketing message will be:
- e-mails using Microsoft Outlook
- letters using Microsoft Word
- brochures using Microsoft Publisher
- postcard mailers using Microsoft Publisher
- with compliment slips using Microsoft Publisher
- home printed business and customer program cards using Microsoft Publisher
- faxes using Microsoft Word
- media releases using Microsoft Word
The message needs to be included in each of these marketing tools consistently.
Consistent Message in Conversations
The message also needs to be included in business conversations. For your staff this can be easily established by using a system of scripts. Scripts allow your staff, including your sales force, to provide a quality level of customer service and communicate a consistent message about your business. Scripts are detailed outlines of what is to be said to customers, when, where, how and by whom. They let new staff come up to speed more quickly, give experienced staff a sound framework to work with and allow core messages to be consistently communicated.
Scripts vary from simply setting a standard for how all telephone calls are to be answered to sales scripts when pitching for new business, cross-selling and backend sales.
Michael T. Bosworth recognises in his book “Solution Selling, Creating Buyers in Difficult Markets” (Irwin, 1995), that sales “prospecting is something every seller hates and on which he tends to procrastinate” because of the harsh industry standard of one to two percent hit rate. Whereas with a well designed telephone script the hit rate can reach 80 percent. His definition of a “hit” is when “after 20 seconds on the phone, the potential buyer says, ‘Tell me more,’ or something similar.” Bosworth continues to explain that his “clients confirm that when their phone scripts are crafted well, they get spectacular results.” The power of well designed scripts can be amazing and deliver consistent messages and results for the business.
Features of a Customer Service Manual
A Customer Service Manual is a document that captures the many aspects of what makes up quality customer service in your business. Geoff Grist calls it “The Way We Do Things” manual. Features of a Customer Service Manual can include:
- The overall big picture of the business – what is the philosophy of the business, the customer service philosophy, and business aims and standards. This big picture means your staff knows what is required and why, it empowers them to make informed decisions.
- Marketing campaign tools – list and define marketing tactic tools such as reward and referral programs.
- Product and Services descriptions – list of products and services, features and benefits, price list, component and background information.
- Specific instructions on how to maintain systems – how and when to update the customer database, available templates for marketing campaigns and general communications, and customer service instructions.
- Scripts – general customer service scripts, sales scripts, customer feedback/complaints scripts, accounts follow-up scripts, new customer inquires, and product and service features.
- Organisational chart and contacts – captures staff contact details, job specifications, business hierarchy and emergency instructions.
Customer Service Manuals can also be used for external business audiences such as the bank and financiers. It demonstrates a well organised and professional business that knows what it is doing and how it is doing it.
Even when you are micro-business, start developing a Customer Service Manual as it’s a powerful method for focusing on consistent customer service and promoting a consistent message to your audience.