Customer experience, in all its complexity, really is about one thing to your customers. Expectations.
Think about your own customer journeys. Have you ever been disappointed? Most likely, your story starts with a “They promised me…” and ends with a “They just refused!”
Consider the classic Jerry Seinfeld “reservation scene” where he and Elaine show up to get a rental car and there’s no car there for them, even though they had reserved the car. Jerry explains the job isn’t about taking the reservation for customers, it’s about holding the reservation.
It’s a classic example of expectations versus reality and how that leads to customer disappointment in real life. According to a recent study by Training Industry, Inc. and ValueSelling Associates, Inc., only 29% of customers say their salesperson demonstrated effective knowledge of the supply chain. Jerry is not alone!
In your own organization, I can take a guess at where your sales team is asked to focus their learning. They are probably asked to brush up on everything from your brand messaging to the CRM system used to capture customer information. Of course, there are a lot of responsibilities in the role of a sales person. It’s full of both relationship management and documentation in ways few roles are.
So what does your sales team have to do with expectations and the customer experience?
Salespeople are the construction crew for your customer expectations. A great salesperson knows his or her job is to overcome objections. Sometimes, this means painting a picture of the customer experience that can be a little too perfect.
In any organization, there will be hiccups and challenges. Orders are delayed. Staff is overwhelmed. Products simply break. It happens. The challenge to consider is to provide learning opportunities in more robust ways for your sales team. Help them help customers by knowing when and how things go wrong. (I know we hate to think about those times, but it does happen!)
When Salespeople Don’t Set the Right Expectations
A customer moves through their journey with your brand and one of two outcomes happen. They can have a lot of moments of delight or a few too many moments of frustration. Simply put, their expectations are either exceeded or not. Disappointed customers tell others about their negative experiences. Happy customers buy more, last longer, and advocate to others!
The best organizations learn constantly about what’s working and what’s not for customers. Then they act on that information in ways to help customers. Dyson, a company well-known for innovation, recognizes that not all products can last forever. There is story after story about how customers call thinking their vacuum is dead, but Dyson sends them the part they need. Dyson began recognizing a problem with a specific part not lasting in a certain vacuum model, so they began proactively sending TWO of those parts to customers. While they couldn’t recall every vacuum with that issue, they could use the information about their customer journey to set better expectations and outcomes for everyone.
If sales aren’t included in your customer journey beyond “making the sale,” you are missing opportunities to improve the experience for everyone!
Here are a few ideas to supercharge your sales training to set the stage for a winning customer experience.
1. Find learning opportunities further into the customer journey.
Salespeople love to really understand what they’re selling. There is nothing quite like reality when it comes to education. Salespeople can listen to customer service calls. They can ride along on maintenance calls. They can review invoices and see what it’s really like to be a customer.
2. Leverage topics like communication and customer service in your learning platform.
Thanks to tools like Litmos, learning is literally at our fingertips. It’s easy to spend a lot of our learning time in our “department” and not leverage the great content available in other areas. Smart salespeople embrace learning available about all points in the customer journey. Great salespeople help align internal groups to deliver a better experience. This means knowing how the communication team trains and what customer service leaders teach.
3. Sharpen the saw with a learning path focused on your customer’s experience.
What do you think your customer’s journey actually looks like? If you don’t know, it’s time to find out. Check out how your marketing communication educates customers. Then review the top customer service issues. Ask yourself about how sales might help bridge that divide. Are there tools available to provide self-service for customers? Are there ways to prepare customers for those challenging moments you know might arise?
The most customer-centric organizations focus on training and education for the whole customer journey, not just one little part of it based on silos or org charts. Is your organization making the most of a robust education for all?