Okay: guilty! Every week so far, this column has talked about how technology can help us optimize incentive programs, work smarter and maybe even do away with some of the current processes entirely. Hey, I'm a technology guy and I get really pumped about leveraging new tech to work on big business problems. The thing is we are all still human: you, our teams, our customers and me. It's important that we don't “optimize” our way out of making people in our lives and channel feel valued in the way that they deserve.
So, fresh off some family time over the holidays I'm going to share some of the “softer” reminders and tactics that are helping brands to win in the channel. Actually, a lot of these have to do with incorporating telephone support for your rebate and SPIFF programs and the phone was once a very hot piece of technology!
Here are five of the big ones:
You Are Always Marketing
It is very easy to get wrapped up in the goings on of business and work, but it's critical to remember that businesses can't succeed without people. Manufacturers of actual consumable products, specifically for you folks in the tire business, are dealing with people at every level. Making connections between people is what makes your business work, and it is important to remember that during every single interaction you have. Remember that word of mouth advertising is the strongest advertising because people trust social recommendations above all other buying signals. That means that every call, every email, every chat is an opportunity to build brand.
Calls are good not bad
Many brands offer rebate programs with a remote and anonymous P.O. Box as the sole point of contact for the program. That means that customers with questions, customers who want to know the status of their rebates or customers who want to make sure they have filled out the paper forms properly have no way of getting the concerns resolved quickly. Keep in mind that these are people who have already shopped around and decided to trust that brand enough to make a purchase. This is not the time to be making them feel like they've made the wrong decision. The best solution is to offer telephone support: email is great and while it may scale better, the phone is the best device to build a personal emotional connection that is impactful and lasting.
Call Handle Time Is The Wrong Metric
Friends, it's not about call handle times - its about how people make connections. Measuring call handle times is about measuring efficiency, not efficacy. Remember the first tip above? Every interaction is an opportunity to validate to the customer that they made the right choice by buying their tires from your brand. Don't rush people off the phone – make sure that they are helping your customers resolve every possible question they called in with.
Great Service Starts With A Great Internal Culture
You can't fake happiness – isolating people in cubicles and telling them to smile when they answer the phone doesn't work. Whether you have your team handling inbound inquiries directly or you have outsourced to a fulfillment company, it is important to look at company culture. Over a large sample of customer interactions, genuinely happy people who are delighted to be at work and truly enjoy helping others will always provide better service than even the most well trained unhappy person.
Scripts Just Feel Too…Scripted
Building a great interpersonal connection means honouring the individual caller. It means carefully listening to them; ensuring that you understand their question and making them feel like you actually do want to help them. Scripts don't work to achieve this because it drives your phone support people to force every call through a similar template. I'm not suggesting you should just throw people on the phones and let them figure it out! Give people structure of calls but don't script them. You can only build connection when someone is being natural and when the person on the other end feels valued and understood.
It's important to always be looking for ways to work better and smarter but let's remember that our work is still meant to serve people and people want to feel valued. Remember: technology applied to marketing should not be alienating. Technology should have the opposite effect: it should enable future sales and marketing efforts to be more tailored to the individual, thus building ease toward future sales.
A lifelong technology entrepreneur, Jason Atkins is the founder and CEO of 360incentives. 360incentives is the world's first integrated incentive software platform, allowing brands to run spiffs, rebates, co-op/MDF, and sell-through allowances all processed and paid with 100% audit and powerful analytics to predict what to do next. For more information, visit: http://www.360incentives.com.