Mark Mitchell has defined his niche and expertise quite clearly. He focuses on marketing for building products materials manufacturers and how they can overcome the substantial hurdles of commoditization and varying and sometimes difficult sales channels.
(If you are a contractor, renovator, or even a sub-trade, you can pretty easily visualize your market direction to take to achieve success. Think about the building products manufacturer, who needs to think on different levels, simultaneously: The specification process (because if the material isn’t specified by the architect or owner, it won’t be used), wholesale distributors, dealers (including big box retailers and specialized businesses), distributors (middlemen) and of course end-users/owners, either residential or commercial. It certainly can be a challenge to define the best strategy to find and serve clients — and you can see these challenges in his book and blog postings, where sometimes he publishes flow chart graphs detailing the alternative routes to market.)
However, despite this complexity, Mitchell simplifies things and provides actionable advice in his well-written blog.
Consider, for example, his recent posting where he advises building product manufacturers to blow up their customer service departments.
For dealers who are already loyal to a manufacturer or brand, it is surprising how many times they tell me they could sell more of my client’s products with better customer service support.
Improved order processing, shipment information, pricing and problem resolution are at the top of their wish list. They tell me how they lose orders because they can’t get pricing fast enough or the product can’t be delivered in time.
They also tell me how frustrating it is to not know the status of a shipment. Will it actually arrive Wednesday at 3 pm or is that just a guess? What do they tell their customer?
It is very frustrating to them when there is a damaged shipment or missing pieces. Too often the reaction to damage is to contact the carrier and missing pieces will be shipped when they can.
The manufacturers with the best customer service gets these problems resolved. A replacement shipment will go out today. If there are missing pieces, the customer was alerted beforehand. The dealer tells me how they feel these manufacturers have their back.
He goes on to dare manufacturers to spend less of their marketing energy on conventional marketing approaches, and instead really change the rules of the game in customer service.
How to use customer service to grow your sales.
- Blow it up and start over. Fire or reassign the current customer service leader. Appoint a new leader who has no experience in customer service.
- Study leaders in customer service like Zappos and Uline. They both sell products that are commodities and use customer service as a competitive advantage to grow their sales while making the competition less relevant. Take a tour of Zappo’s headquarters, in Las Vegas, and then enroll in one of their customer service courses.
- Establish your vision and metrics. With Zappos their measurement isn’t sales, but how happy their customer service people can make their customers. One goal should include being one of the top five suppliers for each of your dealers.
- Define a new standard of customer service. When the Burj Al Arab Jumeriah Hotel opened in Dubai they didn’t want to just be another 5 Star hotel. They established a new level, the 7 Star hotel! What would 7 Star customer service look like?
- A simple rule of thumb. Your customer service reps should visualize the initials MMFI tattooed across your customers foreheads. It stands for Make Me Feel Important! If you simply always Make the Customer Feel Important you will go a long way to being one of his suppliers and growing your sales.
- Empower your customer service reps. As most companies are consolidating and raising the level of decision-making, do the opposite and enable your customer service reps to make decisions on their own. Let them give credits, ship overnight and more. Find ways to “Wow” your customers in unexpected ways.
While everyone else is using traditional and expected solutions in an effort gain a competitive advantage, you should explore becoming the customer service leader to grow your sales.
This is solid advice. And there’s more where it comes from in his blog.