Principle 42 of the Christ-Centered Company Assessment: “Our company constantly improves our customer communications to minimize our customers’ uncertainty and stress related to their purchase.”
“… giving no reason for taking offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited …” -2 Corinthians 6:3
“Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” -Luke 6:31
I recently purchased trip insurance for a hotel I booked for my wife and me. The hotel was in Key West, so it wasn’t cheap. The trip insurance gave me peace of mind that the money wouldn’t be wasted in the event that our plans fell through for reasons beyond our control.
On the morning of our direct flight to Key West, I was notified that our flight had been canceled by the airline. We would have to wait to depart until the following day. I was comforted to know that our first night in the hotel would be covered by the trip insurance as we had no transportation to get there.
Except, the “trip insurance” company refused to cover it.
After filing the claim the following week, they notified me that they wouldn’t cover the hotel expense, even though the airline canceled the flight on the day of our scheduled arrival at the hotel, and I had no way to get there. When I told them I felt I had been misled, they basically said, “It’s in the fine print.”
But this is the way bait-and-switch agreements work, and they have no place in a Christ-Centered Company.
Benefits of clear, well-written agreements with your customers
Paul writes that, as much as it depends on us, we must do our best to give people “no reason for taking offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited” (2 Cor. 6:3).
One of the main areas of opportunity for people to take offense in business is when the customer’s expectations for a product or service do not match what they actually received in exchange for their payment.
You can minimize offending your customers by having agreements with your them that are clear, written, and well-communicated. Here are some of the benefits of going the extra mile with the clarity of your agreements:
- The customer feels safe with your company because they aren’t confused about what they are paying for.
- The customer understands what will happen if 1) your company doesn’t fulfill its promises made in the agreement and/or 2) the customer doesn’t do what they’ve promised to do by virtue of signing the agreement.
- You’ll avoid wasting your sales reps’ time having to answer questions about what the agreement is.
- You’ll minimize the possibility of unpleasant surprises for the customer after the point of sale.
Negative impacts of poorly communicated agreements
Despite these benefits, not all companies have clear, well-communicated agreements, which can result in the following negative results:
- Customers will demand refunds more frequently.
- Customers may opt to go with a different company simply because the other company’s contract is easier to understand.
- Possibly feeling deceived, customers may post negative ratings/reviews about the company publicly to dissuade others from purchasing.
- The sales reps may have to spend a lot more time on the phone explaining unclear aspects of the agreement, time that could have been invested into pursuing new customers.
- There’s a heightened risk of being sued by upset customers.
The Golden Rule question about your agreements with customers
Jesus taught, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” To figure out the right way to clarify and communicate your agreements with customers, simply ask yourself this Golden Rule question: “If I were the customer, what would I appreciate knowing before agreeing to purchase this product or service, and how would I appreciate having this information communicated to me?”
Here are some things you would likely want to know:
- What is the promised outcome of using this product or service?
- How long will it take for me to experience this promised outcome?
- How can I get the most value and best outcome from this product or service?
- If this product or service does not deliver the promised outcome, what will be done to make it right?
- What are the downsides of using this product or service?
Ensure the right team players understand the scope of the agreement.
I can attest to the embarrassment of promising something to a client, that client asking one of our other team members to fulfill that special request, and that team member not knowing anything about the special request.
This often occurs when the sales team is out of sync with the operations team, who is responsible for delivering on the promises made by the sales team.
Make sure your operations team is always aware of and equipped to handle the promises to your customers being made by the sales team. Make sure they have an open line of communication as these two departments can tend to clash, usually due to either 1) the sales team made some promises the operations team isn’t equipped to deliver on and/or 2) the operations team being unwilling to remain flexible to the desires of the customer.
Use tiered pricing.
When a customer wants to change the scope of a service agreement, perhaps after your team has already delivered a significant portion of the deliverables in the agreement, it’s necessary to offer tiered (e.g., good, better, and best options) so you can present the customer with an opportunity to upgrade to one of the higher pricing tiers.
Yes, we want to go the “second mile” for our customers, but we often need to charge extra to make that happen. If you’re working with the right kind of customers, they will respect your need to charge extra for the additional costs incurred by your company.
Over-communicate the delivery status of what the customer has paid for.
As in every industry, some customers will request updates and answers to new questions more frequently than others during the sales and delivery processes. Other customers take more of a “just tell me when it’s done and where to sign” approach.
Regardless, find a sustainable way to make sure the customer is always aware of what’s happening and when he/she will receive that for which they have paid.
It’s better to over-communicate this information than to withhold helpful and reassuring information from the customer. As in many companies, there’s likely a way to automate this type of communication to conserve time on your end.
Consider all questions received from your customers as opportunities to improve your future customer communications.
Keep track of all the questions you are frequently asked by your customers. Each time you’re asked a question, ask yourself and your team, “How can we improve our customer communications to (possibly) prevent this question from needing to be manually answered in the future?” In response to each of those questions, it may be wise to do one or more of the following:
- Update the language in your customer agreements.
- Update the language on our website, sales presentations, and other sales/marketing materials.
- Develop/update an email response template as a quick but thorough response to each question.
- Add a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section to your website.
A 50-year guiding principle of Flow Automotive: “A covenant with our customers to be a place that keeps its promises and is worthy of their trust. For example, ‘the fix it right the first time” service guarantee ensures promises are kept.
Discussion: Starting from the very beginning of the sales process, what are some specific things you and your team can do to minimize your customers’ uncertainty and stress related to their purchase?