American Printer's mission is to be the most reliable and authoritative source of information on integrating tomorrow's technology with today's management.


May 25, 2001 12:00 AM

         Subscribe in NewsGator Online   Subscribe in Bloglines

Although it’s vital that our client base continues to grow, the success of our business depends not only on how many new customers our salespeople can land, but also on how many customers we can keep. In today’s competitive marketplace, where price-slashing is the norm, the only way to keep customers coming back is to provide outstanding service.
The importance of providing excellent service is nothing new. In a recent survey, we spoke to more than 160 owners and managers, who each said that their salespeople are service-focused and are doing a great job servicing their accounts. "At our shop, providing outstanding customer service is an intricate part of our mission statement," many claimed. When asked to describe what they meant by outstanding service, however, the answers were vague. Most managers could not describe what providing outstanding service entailed, which raises the question: "Do these managers have an accurate perception of their salespeople’s ability to provide outstanding service, or is their belief misguided?"

To answer this question, we contacted their salespeople--more than 300 of them--and asked the following question: "What steps do you take to ensure that your clients receive outstanding service?"
Before reading any further, take a sheet of paper and list 10 ways in which you or your salespeople are servicing your accounts. Then, compare your answers to the following list.
1. Discuss job with client and gather specs.
2. Prepare and submit quote.
3. Pick up artwork.
4. Deliver proofs when necessary.
5. Make changes and corrections.
6. Keep client informed of job progress.
7. Attend for press proof.
8. Ensure timely delivery.
9. Follow up to ensure satisfaction and address any problems or concerns.
10. Keep track of client’s printing needs and advise them when it’s time to re-order.
To be blunt, if you scored anything less than 10/10, you don’t deserve the customers you have, and your clients know it. But even if you managed to get a perfect score, you’re still not serving your accounts. As a salesperson, it is your obligation to do anything and everything to ensure that the job gets to press and is delivered on time, and these top 10 responses adequately describe this responsibility. Doing what you must do, however, is not servicing your accounts--you are merely performing your duty. Service is what you do for your clients above and beyond duty.

Providing outstanding service means nurturing your clients by consistently doing things that move the customer from mere satisfaction to astonishment. In other words, even though delivering a quality job on time may often require that your salespeople go out of their way, in most cases the client won’t acknowledge the salesperson’s extra efforts because they perceive these efforts as the salesperson’s duty. It is only when you go beyond the expected--when you astonish your clients--that you embark upon the realm of outstanding service.
Although most managers and salespeople truly believe they are providing their clients with outstanding service, our study shows that this is not the case. Seventy-four percent of the salespeople were merely doing their duty: whatever was necessary to get the job delivered on time. Nine percent did little or nothing after they landed the order, and only 17 percent actually provided their clients with outstanding service. In other words, most of us only think that we are servicing our accounts.

Peter Ebner is a professional sales trainer and marketing consultant with more than 22 years of experience. He is the author of several books, including, "Take the Risk out of Hiring Print Salespeople." He can be reached at (905) 713-2274, or at