Customer churn rate – that nasty measurement executives hate to talk about when it increases. Customers divorce retailers for a whole host of reasons. However, every type of business is concerned about their customer churn rate because if they lose more customers than they gain within a certain timeframe, it means they are slowly going out of business. Solutions Providers in the Loss Prevention/Asset Protection (LP/AP) space are no exception.
This article will address not only the Top 5 Customer Service Mistakes that cause LP/AP executives to abandon their relationships with Solutions Providers, but how LP/AP executives can select the right solutions providers up front who will not disappoint them.
Top 5 Mistakes:
1. Failing to Understand the Customer
If you think this section is going to discuss how some Solutions Providers are unsuccessful at understanding what their customers expect of them, think again. Failure to understand the customer is much deeper than that. What is being referred to here is the Solutions Provider who fails to truly understand how the LP/AP executive survives in his or her role on a daily basis. How does the LP/AP executive decide the solutions in which to invest? How does he or she plan to obtain the capital needed to fund these initiatives? How does the budgetary process work for the LP/AP executive? What return on the investment does the LP/AP executive need in order for the initiative to be considered successful to company executives?
If a Solutions Provider doesn’t know that answers to these questions, they are likely doomed to join those before them who have landed in the boneyard of once-prosperous organizations.
The truth is that LP/AP executives are under an extreme amount of pressure. They have a limited budget and because of that, the solutions they choose to battle for capital have to be successful. They have no choice. Asking for tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars is a gripping challenge and one not to be taken lightly. Gaining approval for capital to fund a failed solution only serves to damage an LP/AP executive’s reputation. Therefore, Solutions Providers have an obligation to be certain whatever solution they are offering fits within the framework of the retailers’ needs, infrastructure, and culture. Anything less than that is a recipe for disaster.
2. Lack of Empathy
Empathy is defined as, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” The importance of this cannot be overstated. Our industry is fraught with Solutions Providers who have mastered this, as well as those who have failed in this area. Failing to understand the complexities that arise for LP/AP executives once service levels deteriorate might as well be a final nail in the proverbial coffin. Like retail shoppers, retail operations managers don’t usually contact company executives to compliment LP/AP initiatives. In most cases, they only contact the upper hierarchy to complain when something goes wrong. Often times those complaints make it to the CEO before the LP/AP executive ever hears about it.
Situations like this cause LP/AP executives to lash out to their Solutions Provider partners asking why, after 7 – 10 service calls by Store Managers, is the solution in question still not working? The embarrassment experienced by the LP/AP executive is not only palpable but damaging to the executive’s reputation.
3. Lying About Capabilities
This is especially a problem with Solutions Providers offering software. It is not uncommon that during the software salesperson’s pitch, the LP/AP executive (or other executives in the room) will ask if the software can perform a specific task. Unfortunately, a common problem exists within the Solutions Provider community in which the salesperson will embellish the truth as he or she affirms that the proposed capability exists, even though it may only be either in the pre-testing phase, or not exist at all. The problem with this is that the truth always comes to light and when it does, the relationship between the LP/AP executive is damaged beyond repair.
4. Over-Promising and Under-delivering
This mistake, though similar to the Lying About Capabilities section above, is its own category for a reason. In an effort to close a sale, salespeople will sometimes promise just about everything. This is especially apparent when dealing with installation deadlines. Once an LP/AP executive signs a contract committing to a particular Solution Provider, they often learn that although the Solution Provider promised many things, including installation completion dates, service turnaround times, and other values designed to earn the contract, the Solutions Provider neither has the infrastructure nor the support to follow through on the contract.
The damage caused by these mistakes is irreversible and the damage to the LP/AP executive is difficult to capture in words.
The term “Trunk-slamming” refers to shady salespeople who will sell LP/AP executives products they do not need by taking advantage of the executives’ possible lack of technical knowledge. For example, Solutions Providers who offer CCTV equipment will sometimes sell cameras to retailers with lots of bells & whistles, such as adjustable backlighting, even though the cameras may be placed in areas not needing such an option. In this instance the LP/AP executive obtained the necessary capital to purchase a state-of-the-art CCTV system even though many of its capabilities will never be utilized. If top executives discover that the LP/AP executive purchased CCTV equipment with more capabilities than what was needed, embarrassment is sure to follow.
The Bitterness of Poor Quality
After reading these Top 5 Customer Service Mistakes, it’s easy to understand why LP/AP executives who have fallen victim to any of these has trouble getting off the bitter bus. LP/AP executives have a fiduciary responsibility to their organizations. They have been entrusted to protect assets and being misled or otherwise let down by Solutions Providers understandably causes a bitterness unlikely to quell.
It is likely this same unquenchable feeling of disappointment and distrust that caused Benjamin Franklin to quip, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
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