Your examples of being available to your customers 24.7.365
Am I available to my customers when they need me? Yes! Yes! Yes! 24.7.365! And we recently proved that while our competition slept through it all, one of our customers called our call center who, in turn, called me (they also call the customer back in 30 minutes to follow up). He needed a “widget” [whatever]. We had just rented our last ones that morning, so I had to call my competition to find these things in order to satisfy my customer. It was 9:00pm. I started calling competitors. I thought “How disgusting.” If someone answered the phone, they were ill-equipped to help me. Finally, I did get one small, local company owner to return my call and drive 45 miles to his store and get me what I needed. In turn, my customer received his widgets in time to keep his crew working through the night. We were up until 2:00am on this deal, but that’s the way it is when you’re available.
I work in a competitive environment in retail. When I started, I didn’t want to lose to my associates on my days off. I had a rubber stamp made. It says, “Home Office” and my home phone, cell phone, home fax, and e-mail address. I stamp it on every invoice at the time of sale and say as I hand it over, “And this is how you can reach me when I’m not in the store.”
On the letter of agreement I use with clients, just above where they sign, I have the following verbage: “I take personal responsibility for your satisfaction. If you should have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call me at the office at xxxxx, on my cell at xxxxx, or home at xxxxx. I’m very excited about this program. Thank you for allowing JG&A to be a part of your agenda.” In my business, there are very few emergencies that would necessitate a client calling me at home, but I believe people like to know that you’re available just in case they do need you.
I was driving home from an agency meeting 4.5 hours away from home. At about 9:30pm, I got a call from a client referral. He lives a half hour off the Freeway, between where I had my meeting and my home city. We had previously tried to coordinate a way to meet, but our schedules never lined up right. So I answer and he asks, “Hey, Ryan, are you still on your way home from
I work for a building materials co-op and have the privilege of working out of my home. Occasionally I will have a phone call before or after hours, and unless I am not able to get to the phone, I answer it. One of my customers calls me at odd times, I swear just to test me. When I pick up the phone, he says, “I thought you quit for the day,” and I respond, “I knew you needed something.” We have a great time joking back and forth, but he knows that I will take care of him.
On a member visit trip last month with my boss, one of the store owners said, to my complete surprise, “I really appreciate you letting Matt work out of his house, he really gets things done for me.” This particular owner depends on the co-op, and me, to the fullest. His words were appreciated.
Extrakare provides home oxygen equipment, and 100% of our business comes in the form of referrals from physicians and hospitals. Due to HIPPA concerns, the healthcare industry has not adopted e-mail and other forms of web-based communications broadly. The vast majority of our referrals come as either a telephone call or a fax. The calls go to our office or the mobile phones of our sales force. In order to make ourselves accessible over the phone, we do the following:
1. A live person answers the phone at our office.
2. In the rare event a person cannot answer the phone, the call rolls to an outside answering service (like the kind a doctor’s office uses). They politely take a message and place a page to one of our managers.
3. If you call our office outside normal business hours, calls are forwarded to the answering service.
4. The message on all our employees’ mobile phones say, “For immediate assistance, please call our office at… If you need our fax number, it is…”
The answering service costs around $100 per month. Each of our customers is worth far more than $100. If we get one additional order per month, we pay for the service many times over each month.
We view a lost fax as a lost order. How many times have you attempted to fax something and it failed because the destination fax was busy? We have two fax machines with different phone numbers. But the numbers are in a roll-over group with the phone company. So, if the published number is busy, the call automatically rolls over to the second number. It means when you fax something to Extrakare, it almost always goes through the first time. For our referral sources, getting a fax confirmation the first time makes us more valuable.
One word: Blackberry. It’s immediate and 24.7.365.
When I had my own business, I set my phone lines up to always find me, wherever I was. My phone company offers a service called “No Answer / Busy Forward.” My main office number would ring three times; if it was not answered, the call was seamlessly forwarded to my cell phone with the number displayed by Caller-ID. If my phone was turned off or I did not answer, only then would it go to voice mail, and I was notified immediately that I had a message. The great thing about it was, I could be on the road or at the grocery store and to my customers, it sounded as though I was in the office all the time. This was a system that was always in place. I did not have to remember to activate forwarding.
1. I am always early for everything. Being early gives you power. Being late is a life threatening habit for you and a slap in the face to your prospect.
2. Many times, I will greet a prospective client with, “Hello Jim, I’m Dan Wolt. I must apologize, but my company, Zen Windows, and I have a bad habit of always being early and, at worst, on time.”
3. I have an answering service. They page, e-mail, and call me 24.7.365 within seconds of being contacted.
4. I call everyone back immediately.
5. I sleep with my cell phone on my night stand.
6. I see clients whenever they want. Tomorrow my first sales call is at 7:15am.
7. I never cancel or reschedule an appointment.
My cousin, Adam, who works here, had to go on a short leave due to being hospitalized, and he had his phones forwarded to his cell phone and he had his work e-mail forwarded home. Not only was he available when in the hospital, he managed to close some deals while drugged up on some pain killers. This really showed dedication to his customers.
I am a co-owner of a medical supply store serving retail, commercial, and government customers. I work every other weekend so that my partner and I can have some sort of life outside of our business. When it’s my weekend, it also means that I’m the emergency technician who answers the 24-hour hotline. This Memorial Day weekend was beautiful. Hamburgers, hotdogs, family, and our pool made the day great. My cell phone rang and I answered, “Hello, this is Dave.” “Dave, I can’t breathe,” was all that I heard in response before the connection was broken. I recognized my customer “Mrs. Jones'” voice and phone number. Jumping into my car complete with bathing suit (no, not a Speedo) and tank top uniform I made it to her house in a couple of minutes to fix her oxygen concentrator. I was back swimming in under an hour with another loyal customer for life. Being available 24-7 is a part of our customer service that gives our customers a sense of safety and comfort. Actually having a live person who answers the phone 24-7-365 is a step further that sets us apart from our competition
In my business, we provide a secure facility with a communications network that has to be available 100% of the time. When I work out in the gym at night or on the weekends, I wear my cell phone and take calls from clients if they call. They like it because they look at me as an extension of their team and relate to my availability as they do with my brand, which is “100% availability.” They know that if they need me, I’ll be there no matter what the time, conditions, or what I’m doing. My clients are critical to my well being. They put food on my plate and shelter over my head. Other competitors look at them as just customers, and they want their space and downtime. I care about them and their business because without them, I’m out of business.
Last summer, mid-July, while out running errands with my daughters, I received a call from a customer on a Saturday morning (our office hours are 8:00 – 4:30, Monday through Friday, with a second shift working till 1:00am). During the call, he explained that they had a problem with one of the printing plates we manufactured for them. He apologized for making the call but explained they needed to get the project finished and shipped to their customer. I told our customer that I would try to connect with our production supervisors and have them call in the necessary production personnel to make a replacement plate. Since we are typically closed on Saturday and Sunday, our customer wasn’t too confident we could get a replacement plate until the following Monday, late morning. Fortunately, I connected with our supervisors who, in turn, connected with their production people. The plate was produced on Saturday afternoon, and needless to say, our customer was ecstatic when I called him at home around 7:30pm to inform him that I was on my way to their plant with the plate. This was one of those situations where we could easily have been the goat because our original product didn’t perform as expected. The fact we were “available” completely overshadowed our defective product and made us out to be the hero.
I setup my office phone to forward to my cell so they only have to know one number in order to reach me anytime. I also copy all my incoming e-mail from my office’s e-mail server to my personal account so that I can monitor my e-mails in the evening and weekends.
At 11:00 in the evening, my cell phone began ringing. It was a blocked number, but instead of letting it go to voice mail as I imagine most people would have, I answered it with a chipper, “Hello, this is Brandon Wiegand.” The voice on the other end sounded astonished! It happened to be a customer of mine who had a lease that was going to be up within the next few months. I had been trying to reach her for a few weeks now. I said, “No worries Tina, I’m glad you called. I gave you my personal cell phone number to make sure I wouldn’t miss your call!” She was delighted that I was willing to be so accessible to her. She explained that she gets extremely busy during the day and that the evening is often the only time she has available to return phone calls and reply to the hundreds of e-mails she gets. Had I not been willing to take that call or give out my cell phone number, I doubt that I would’ve gotten the appointment, and I most definitely would not have impressed her. Had I been like many other sales reps, I would have continued to leave voice mails and wonder why I never heard back from her.
I put my cell phone number on the answering machine message. Even better would be to forward all calls to my cell before I’m in the office!
I cover a large geographic territory with customers who run retail shops in many resort areas. They are usually very busy, especially in season, and don’t want to have to wait for a return call when they have a problem, need product, or have a question. Many do not leave messages simply because, to them, it is frustrating to have to wait and deal with the issue at my convenience, not theirs. I have an office in my home, but I am usually on the road, so I have a toll-free number attached to my office number, both of which automatically forward to my cell phone. I always answer my calls, and if I am already with a customer, I tell them that I will call them back right away. And then I do, before I do anything else. They love it; they know they can reach me directly anytime. I love it; I never miss a call (which means I never miss a sale), and I very rarely have to deal with voice mail, which saves me time as well.
Have your office phone forward to your cell phone so that you can take calls anytime, anywhere.
I had bid a large project to one of my largest accounts. As I followed up with the quote three weeks later, my client told me that they lost the order so I asked, “Do you know who got it?” “No,” he said, “But I’ll ask the salesman and forward you the information.” When he sent me the information, I immediately contacted the two accounts that won the bid. One was on the west coast and the other on the east coast. After two to three weeks of empty voice mail messages and un-replied emails to both accounts, the client from the west coast contacted me on a Friday night at 8:00pm Eastern Standard Time. I answered the call and built an immediate relationship with the west coast client, and because we spoke various times after “normal business hours,” I was awarded the $107K order. Answer the call no matter what time of day it is. Make yourself available and get the order.
I make myself there for my customers 24 hours a day. Luckily, my company provides a laptop so I can take it home with me every night and always have my email open and ready to respond. In addition, I have a cell phone specifically for my customers. In order to make sure all my customers know this, I have changed my voice mail message to leave my customers a variety of ways they can get in touch with me, including other associates’ names and numbers if they absolutely cannot get a hold of me for some reason, my email address, my cell phone, and the direct number for our retail store. It has proven to solve a lot of issues before they even begin!
24.7.365. My work is computer-based (I receive work by e-mail and supply by e-mail). If I’m out of the office, I set my e-mail auto-responder for incoming e-mails to respond with my landline number (auto forwarded to my mobile) and an E.T.A. of my return to the office.
— Mrs. Smith
How are you available to your customers 24.7.365? E-mail your story to Jeffrey at email@example.com with the subject “AVAILABLE.”