Make sure customer service doesn't sound like a sales pitch.

Author:Lusky, Mark
Position:CUSTOMER Service

There should be a distinct line between providing helpful, how-to customer service solutions and selling. Too often in today's frenzy to improve the bottom line,"customer service" morphs into thinly-disguised sales pitches--often alienating customers and hurting revenues in the process.

This came into crystal clear focus for me a few months ago because of a "reverse sales pitch." I returned a defective vacuum cleaner to Costco and was about to pick up another just like it when a competitor's sales rep came up to me and started to offer a buying recommendation. 1 told her 1 wasn't interested and to leave me alone.Turns out she was recommending a product that was another competitor of hers. She told me that she had seen many of the models I had purchased being returned, and cautioned me about their reliability.

So, in the end, she proved to be a wonderful customer support person. And, it wasn't even for her product.

In the label business, there are ample opportunities to sell. In many cases, the best opportunities to build customer goodwill are to avoid selling and offer helpful information that may not result in a near-term sale. It well could set a positive tone for many sales down the road, however.

The lines between selling and customer service are also being blurred by the rising popularity of "survey" companies trying to capture a quick review of their product or service that can be posted on Google, Yelp, Facebook and other review sites. While they ask for a rating of their service, which ostensibly is a customer service function designed to let them know how they're doing so that they can improve, they also may be looking for a promotional push via good reviews.

With so many companies seeking feedback these days, this can wind up feeling like an intrusion--and create ill will instead of capturing comments of goodwill.

That said, the best litmus test of the best customer service is determined by the degree of authentic desire to help, resolve and inform versus just trying to make a sale. While she probably doesn't know it, that vacuum sales rep did more to plant positive feelings about her company's product--a strong future buying criterion, at least for me--than anything smacking of a direct sales pitch.

On a day-to-day basis, here are a few tips designed to keep your company in a positive spotlight, instead of appearing obsessed with sales, sales, sales everywhere you turn.

* Offer helpful recorded advice when your callers are on...

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