business adviceSometimes, customers miss deadlines.  Despite your following up and continued urgent phone calls, they don’t seem to get it until it’s an emergency for them.  Then they respond with the full expectation that you will jump though hoops and incur last minute charges to deliver what they ordered.

A friend of mine runs a promotional products business.  Much of her sales require engraving and other customized work that the customer wants.  This usually takes lead times to insure everything is correct and the finished product is delivered to the customer’s door in time.  There’s only one problem… she never gets the final orders in time to do her job properly and profitably.  So she came to me and asked, ‘How do I gently push the customer to pull the trigger’?  This is industry speak for ‘give me the order’!

Most of the recommendations I gave her boiled down to this one concept.  If you want customers to behave in a certain way, you need to train them from the very start.  Training means being clear about your expectations of what they must do to insure they get what they want.  If your business requires intermittent follow up from the customer throughout the sale as my friend’s does, they have to know what’s expected and what the consequences are if they don’t.

Start by laying out your process for each type of transaction that requires responses from your customers.  Try to determine where the usual breakdowns are.  For each trouble spot, create an automated email that goes to the customer in advance letting them know what they need to do to get to the next step.  Once you have all the trouble spots identified, create a confirmation email that goes to the customer after the initial order is placed letting them know each step.  What you’re doing in effect is training them to work with you, not wait until it’s an emergency for them.

You can even use incentives to encourage prompt turnaround.  If customers receive discounts for orders, let them know that responding with important information late will incur fees that could eat up their discounts.  If they know this up front, they will be less likely to abuse the leadtime you are working with.

Remember, training someone to work within your expectations takes time.  It takes time for the customer to get use to and it takes time for you to feel confident implimenting consistently.  It’s not a fool proof method but if you could cut your fire drills in half, just think how much better the rest of your job would be!

My on-line business advice service is available to handle issues just like this one.  If you are struggling to resolve a problem in your business, just ‘Ask Steve’!

Originally posted 2015-09-25 16:40:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter