Do you have a secret sales force?

What is a secret sales force? Let me explain through an example.

As spring is upon us, I spent some time last weekend trying to line up a load of topsoil to be delivered for our flowerbeds. Although we live in a small community, there are three nurseries within a short drive that offer topsoil delivery. Because of this I presumed that getting a load delivered would be quite simple…

Boy was I wrong.

After calling each of the nurseries, I had less than stellar results. One nursery was closed on Saturday, so didn’t answer; one nursery didn’t have topsoil yet; and the third wasn’t ready to deliver as their soil was still too wet.

Despite what you might be thinking, I wasn’t bothered by any of this.

Nurseries can’t predict the weather, and of course want to deliver high quality product to their customers. What I did find interesting however was that the two nurseries I was able to reach made no offer to contact me once they were ready to deliver soil.

A grave mistake.

In fact I was so surprised at the lack of desire to follow up with me, that on the second call I was at a loss for words when the employee suggested they weren’t ready to deliver yet. We sat in silence for several minutes as I wondered if the employee on the other would suggest a solution…

He didn’t.

This situation reinforced something I’ve discussed previously. Employees make all the difference when it comes to creating and sustaining a positive impression on your customers. In essence, your employees are your secret sales force.

Although you might not be running a small business like these nursery owners, the impact is the same. Employees need a “customer first” mentality, and must understand how their actions or inactions influence your customers’ behavior.

Want to test this theory? Try secretly shopping your business.

First, call into customer service and ask a question that is out of the ordinary. Throw them a curve ball to see their reaction.

Next, when you receive a response (regardless of it’s relevance), stay silent and don’t say a word. Wait to see what kind of response you get if any.

Lastly, when on the call, don’t accept anything but exactly what you’re asking for (as long as it’s within reason based on the products or services your business offers). Just continue asking the question in different ways. For example, considering my nursery example above I might ask, “But you do sell topsoil don’t you?” or, “I don’t quite understand, do you no longer offer topsoil for sale?”

Next steps?

The responses received, good or bad, will provide some insight into how well prepared and willing employees are to satisfy customer needs. More importantly responses will provide ideas on where time should be invested to further develop scripts and scenarios to ensure every customer leaves feeling that their best interests are in mind.

If you’re concerned that this may seem like an awkward or inappropriate way to “check in” on your employees, think about the potential cost of lost or dissatisfied customers that you may be experiencing on account of a lack of knowledge or experience on the part of your front line employees.

Don’t let the cost of ignorance ruin your customers experience.

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