Salespeople often get blamed for customer problems. Specifically, sales folks are known for overpromising and offering things during the sales cycle that the customer service teams can not implement or support. This often leads to missed dates, customer dissatisfaction and escalations.
When salespeople overpromise, whose fault is it? Are they just trying to hit their quotas? Do they enjoy bending the rules? I’d like to go on record and say no. Instead, the cause is systemic… due to missing processes and documentation. To prevent future problems you must look upstream in the sales process and shore up what might not be in place.
Fun With Documentation
The most common reason that salespeople overpromise to customers, is because the product or service offering is not clearly documented or communicated. This is a major gap, if your company is selling a complex offering. Offerings must be detailed and clear, internally to salespeople and externally to prospective customers.
Once this documentation is in place, it must be accessible to all (think shared online library), and then must be communicated to salespeople on a regular basis. There must also be someone accountable for updating this documentation as business needs change, and then informing employees of those changes.
With this foundation in place, it is much easier to drive consistency, and hold employees accountable for following protocols.
I Have An Exception
Equally important, your business must also have a process in place for salespeople to request exceptions to the standard offerings. This process should be automated and must include stakeholders along the entire customer lifecycle- for example: sales leader, product management leader, engineering leader and support leader. The less significant exceptions should have the fewest number of approvers, and the more significant exceptions, may require more people, or senior executives.
Now It’s a Leadership Responsibility
When I go to a restaurant and get bad food or bad service, I always believe it is a leadership issue. The owner or manager of the restaurant is accountable for everything that happens in the space.
In the workplace, once you clearly document and communicate job expectations it is a leader’s responsibility to ensure employees follow through. If employees do not meet expectations, leaders must take action to hold employees accountable.
As a customer service leader, if you continue to observe expectation setting problems happening after the sales cycle ends, reach out to your colleagues in sales and have an open discussion. Work together to identify why there are still misses.
Expectation Setting has a Big Impact
To build trust with your customers, avoid escalations, shape a strong reputation in the market and to improve employee engagement, ensure that your sales teams offer what your company can effectively deliver. Together, set expectations that are realistic and achievable.
When this happens, sales teams can promise and service teams can deliver, leading to a far improved customer experience.
For other ideas to reduce customer escalations and improve customer satisfaction, check out the downloadable book The Customer Escalation Handbook at www.escalationbook.com.
You may also enjoy an earlier, Customer Think blog post, “4 Customer Expectation Management Strategies to Improve Customer Experience”, by Oison Ryan.