Repair Equipment, Repair the Breach

featured-how-trendsYou made the sale to a church, then you moved on to the next sale. Hey, that’s the sales cycle, right? Yes, but it’s not the customer experience cycle, which is the real paradigm that affects your ability to make future sales. The importance of taking care of customers who have invested into your brand — and see your logo every time they use your equipment — is not to be underestimated.

Those numbers are staggeringly important! Do you see that? Greater than 86 percent is the average. The average! This affects two distinct groups: the manufacturers and the integrators. Both are held responsible for those stats, by the way, so today’s discussion focuses on what it means in the church market.

Manufacturers and Church Market Customer Service

Having worked with many of the biggest and best manufacturers on the church market, I’ve heard time and again about the reliance on vendors to be the “hands and feet” of the manufacturer in the field. A lot of work goes into building a strong relationship with the systems integrators and dealers, including training on how the product works, how to position the product compared to the competition and to espouse the predefined features and benefits of said product. I’m all for that, but what I’ve counseled others and will repeat here is to reinforce the value of emotional intelligence in dealing with the house of worship market.

No vendor is going to know your products like your staff, so any gap in skill can be more than made up for with emotional intelligence when problem-solving with the church. Practically speaking, more training should be focused on how to identify the pain point of the user. This will have less to do with the technical issue and far more to do with the impact of the issue on that user. For example, an amp failing is not about the configuration, but on the impact from the needed outcome; in this case, services are interrupted until this is fixed. That’s a huge pain point and the vendor (and manufacturer reps) need to be taught how to “hear” the client and not just listen to them. By identifying the pain of the user and articulating back to them the technical impact, the solution will not only remedy the solution, the attention to the customer’s personal needs and fears will likely keep the brand from reputation damage.

Dealers/Systems Integrators and Church Market Customer Service

My experience in the A/V/L market has shown me that while the industry is somewhat “incestuous” (in that the same group of people tend to move within the industry from firm to firm), systems integrators and dealers experience higher turnover than manufacturers. Customer satisfaction, therefore, means doing a great job of transitioning the client from one account representative to another. Rebuilding, rather than maintaining, customer relations is the key. As with the manufacturer, “hearing” the church client is more important than simply listening to their questions or complaints. They’re going to feel bounced around, so this customer service issue will present itself more dynamically.

The significant advantage that a systems integrator has is their proximity to the church client. Proactive sales calls, demonstrating new technology while also reviewing existing systems, is a huge customer satisfaction touch-point. Even in the age of the mobile customer and the explosive growth of social media, a personal handshake, warm smile and a cup of Starbucks goes a long way towards maintaining and deepening the customer relationship. Here again, the emotional intelligence of understanding the viewpoint and expectations of the user will help greatly in ingratiating the vendor and the manufacturer.

Negative Sentiments Kill Brands

Above, the stats were clear about how important good customer service is massively important. Additional data comes from statistics compiled by Technical Assistance Research Program (TARP) that details the overwhelming power of a negative brand perception:

  • “A typical unhappy customer tells 10 people about his problem.”

  • “One in five really unhappy customers tells 20 people about her problem.”

  • “A satisfied complainer will tell five people how excellent your service is if you solve the problem in his favor on the spot.”

Combined, these studies reveal that customers will not only pay more for competitor’s products/services after a bad customer service experience, they’ll go out of their way to harm your brand image!

Hello?! Tell me again how much you’re spending on marketing, trade show booths, lunch-n-learns and sales spiffs? Anyone see the imbalance of this customer relationship equation? Most of the resources are spent before the sale when the brand image is likely more negatively affected after the sale than positive marketing can overcome.

I wish I could tell you that churches are wholly different; that they’d go out of their way to work with you to solve their problems and never publicly gripe about poor customer service. And while I can say that there are many gracious people in today’s churches, my own experience has shown that when pushed far enough (or ignored long enough), people are still people and will harm a brand’s image vis-å-vis their experience. This is almost always preventable with the clear lines of communication between the user, the vendor and the manufacturer. Look, social media has leveled the playing field and given everyone a voice — and a loud one, at that. Manufacturers need to allow for — I’d go so far as solicit — feedback directly from customers for instances where the vendor isn’t meeting the expectations of the church. When it comes right down to it, the vendor’s name isn’t the logo on the box! The user will assign blame all the way up the ladder, starting with the vendor and ending with the manufacturer. For this reason alone, it’s important to give the user’s voice a safe, effective, non-public outlet to solve the problem before it goes viral!

But let’s not forget one of those important statistics cited above: A satisfied customer will tell five friends about excellent customer service when you fix their problem then and there — whether that’s on a call, in a live chat session or in-person. And, as I’ve described before on rAVe, churches have a higher-than-average referral ratio, and can greatly help a good product and a good vendor sell to other churches.

What’s been your experience with helping churches during their times of need? Any lessons that would serve the industry — and the clients?