Archives For Customer Service Stories

salesWhen You Sell, Are You Lying?

Last week I wrote about “5 Things Not to Say” as a reseller…you need a better value proposition but you can’t afford to lie about it. You’ll be found out and it will destroy your business. A good name is hard to establish. It’s harder to recover.  What’s your value proposition? Why should I buy from you? Some common lies…

 

We’re Better Than Everyone Else

If you resell technology and provide managed IT, it’s common to think you’re better than everyone else out there.

But is that really true?

No one knows. How can you measure the best reseller? Unless you’ve worked for both companies there’s really know way to know. If you’re both on Amazon in the form of a book there will be ratings and comparisons. But your business isn’t a book or gadget. So don’t say, “We’re the best.”

Instead, consider some alternatives:

  • Our customer satisfaction ratings are 5 star! Chances are you competition didn’t bother the poll their clients. Set yourself apart!
  • We have CISSPs on staff. Chances of smaller resellers carrying this level of certification are low. SANS.Org certs are equally impressive.
  • We provide a 100% money back guarantee. So there’s no risk. Can you say  that?
  • Show them customer testimonials expounding on how great you are.  Your customer can say “You’re the best,” you can’t.

The Price is $X. Is It Really?

Are you discounting when the pressure’s on?

Telling your prospect the price is $1000/month and then cutting it in half to get the deal is dishonest. If the price is $1000, it is. If it’s $500, then say so. Cutting your price to get the deal leaves your prospect wondering if they now have the best price.

Instead, consider these alternatives:

  • The price is too high, so cut the scope or change the payment options.
  • Add something to the deal pro-bono to prove your quality (but don’t add a monthly feature). For instance, waving your fee for an assessment lowers the up front price, but is not technically a discount.
  • If in the end the competition has better pricing, remind your prospect that low-ball pricing either means the competition is desperate and can’t deliver the same quality for the price they’ve quoted or they have less expensive people, which also means lower quality.
  • If your prospect chooses the low price provider ask to reconnect in a year to see how things are going. If the other company really can deliver the same quality at a lower price your prospect has made a wise choice…but it’s unlikely. There are no “apples to apples” comparisons when dealing with people, culture, and personality.

You Provide Security and Disaster Recovery Services

Do you really? Selling firewalls and providing security are not the same thing. Offering backup and recovery is not disaster recovery.  Yet I see these claims all the time on reseller websites.

Learn what your customers really need and then study out the fine lines that distinguish different offerings and descriptions.

For instance, pen tests and vulnerability assessments are often sold as risk assessments. But if risk is not quantified in the report the client is left without a measure of risk. When I explain this difference using the impact vs. likelihood graph in my book, The House & The Cloud (Pg. 194) the response is predictable. It’s an ah-ha moment for the client. One that often leads to conversion.

In the coming weeks I’ll be showing you have to create compelling message  that is truthful and high-impact…stay tuned!

©2016, David Stelzl

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graph-going-upHow Long Has Your Company Been This Size?

Can You Multiply It?

In 1995, I joined a couple of guys to build a new commercial focused reseller. Our vision was big. We were funded by an 8 million dollar CAD-CAM reseller, but we expected to exceed this by 10X…

So How Do You 10X Your Business?

First, it takes a lot of work ON your business, vs. being bogged down in the daily grind. There’s a tipping point, or fly wheel, or whatever you want to call it, depending on whose book you read.  Three things that accelerated our growth are important, because they still apply. NewsProCover

RETENTION and MARKET FOCUS…even in the mid 90s we knew we needed recurring revenue and long term clients. Getting a client takes time, but keeping one is far easier. (Check out Shaun Buck’s Book on newsletter marketing for more ideas on client retention – It’s free if you use this link).

Customer experience is a hot topic right now in every business. But the key to our success was problem solving. We weren’t going after the firewall sale, or even the storage sale. We were there to solve problems. When you solve a problem, people take notice, and retention goes up.

The first step might be surprising. It’s going after the right kind of customers. I call this people group. Even today I can point to profitable deals that didn’t create long term business, simply because the client was too far outside my target people group. It’s fine to sell something to someone outside your core market. But don’t spend time marketing to that group. Let them come to you. Take down the business and assume they’ll be moving on. Whatever you do, don’t rebrand your company overnight to find more like that.

The same was true in our 1995 start up. We sold 10s of millions of dollars to one single customer in one single year. But the chances of landing more like it were nearly zero. Not everyone agreed with me on that, but over the 5 years (before the company was sold,) those who tried never succeeded. It was a wasted effort.  On the other hand, those in our target market were by far our most profitable clients.

MAXIMUM LIFE TIME VALUE…next is understanding the lifetime value of a customer. A few weeks ago I entered an ice cream store with my family. Now we have 9 people in our family, so when we buy ice cream at a boutique, it’s a large ticket sale. But in the course of ordering, the owner yelled at my 8 year old son. My son was tired, not feeling well, and accidentally wandered behind the counter looking for a restroom.

Not believing my ears, I confronted the store owner – at first politely. But he remained stubborn, so we all walked out. What did that cost him?  He might be thinking, $30. But no, it’s far more. We travel by that store on trips pretty often. The lifetime value (LTV) far exceeds that $30. Customer experience is essential if you want to increase LTV. What about your business. How long do clients stay on your managed services? What if you increase that average by just one year? What happens to your profit?

When a new client comes on, you need a real problem to solve, and an experience they won’t forget. You need long term retention.

GROWTH AND UPSELL…Finally, the 80/20 rule says that 20 percent of your customers are worth 80% of your revenue. So what can you add for those premium customers, to give them a premium service?

A one off sale does not lead to growth. So start thinking, what can we add to provide higher level services, with recurring revenue, which ultimately increase LTV?

Let’s say you have a base MSP offering of $X per workstation – let’s say you have 100 of these. 20 percent of these customers are going to pay enough to make up 80%, so give them something more expensive to buy.  But don’t stop. The 20 customers are paying a multiple of what the other 80 are paying – and of course getting something far more valuable. But 20 percent of that 20, or 4 of them, will pay enough to make up 80% of the profit coming from the 20. In other words, you can offer a higher level service to the 4, worth a multiple of what those 20 pay.  But wait, there’s one more step – that last 20% is one person, willing to pay for one more level of service.  So go ahead and create one.

If you do the math now, you’ll see that this 100 person group is now worth far more than they were with the original MSP offering.  As your business grows, the group grows, and new levels get created, growing your business.  It took us 5 years to hit the 10X mark. Of course this takes people, time, and vision…but there’s no better time to start than right now.

© 2016, David Stelzl

 

 

 

NewsProCoverMaking Your Client’s Feel Welcome

Just Might be The Easiest Way To Establish Value Quickly

One of my clients recently joined NewsletterPro – The newsletter service I wrote about a few days ago.  When he signed up, they welcomed him.

First step – getting Shaun Buck’s Book.

It’s free – but when you order it, he welcomes you. His handwritten letter (which is, of course, a copy) comes to you with a bright orange package.

He’s ships two-day to make sure you get it while you’re still thinking about it. Right before it arrives, he sends you a video, explaining what’s in the package and why it’s important.

When y0u actually commit, he then sends you a bunch of potatoes from his home town in Idaho!  Pretty cool…

From there he spends time on the phone understanding your target market, and builds a newsletter just for you.  Meanwhile, you are receiving his newsletter monthly, even if you didn’t actually buy. It’s part of his marketing program.

The Welcome Letter

Like the newsletter, the welcome letter is important, and should be printed. When a client enrolls in your managed services program, send them a letter – here’s what to include:

  • First, you need a letter. The letter should start out by restating their need. Why they need you in the first place. Security would be a great start – if they don’t watch out, ransomware will hit them.
  • Your letter should then transition to how hard it is to run a business, and stay on top of security as well as IT overall. Technology is more than computers and networks. It’s the thing that will allow these companies to be the next Amazon.com…but who in their company understands how to make that happen? No one.
  • Next, your program.  You’re here to help – you’ve been building your program just for this type of need, for the past X number of years. You’re ready to jump in and help them move forward.
  • There should be some sort of roadmap – a guide to take them through some steps to achieve something. Perhaps they need compliance, better security, or something else. Your company’s value proposition belongs here. Let’s say it’s security. You know your client needs better detection and realtime response. Your guide shows them the 6 or 7 steps you’ll be taking them through to get them to where they need to be.
  • Help their people get started – I recently worked with one of my clients on a booklet for all end users.  When someone signs up, all end users get a booklet – page one gives them clear instructions on how to get help FAST!  Following that are some instructions on what to do in case of an emergency.  For instance, your computer is encrypted by ransomware – what do you do?  They also have a section on keeping your systems running and performing. They’re not highly technical things – rather end-user related.  Finally, they include tips on keeping data secure. This includes using phone apps, etc. Very practical.

Take a look at your welcome process. Consider putting together a package that surrounds your new client with love and keeps them thinking about you and your great service for years to come.

© 2016, David Stelzl

vance morrisAre Your Customer’s Getting The Disney Experience?

Retention with any form of managed services depends a lot on customer experience.

No one can argue that Disney hasn’t been a leader when it comes to attracting people – and building loyalty.

Yesterday I had the privilege of interviewing Vance Morris as part of our monthly SVLC Insider’s Circle Program.  Vance has lived on the other side of the Disney experience – the side creating it. Today Vance works with companies like yours to help create differentiation through customer experience.

There are two key value propositions out there right now that really matter… Customer Experience and Security. Imagine if your company could provide both!

Here are a few highlights from yesterday’s program… Want more? Join the Insider’s Circle

Read More About Joining The SVLC Insider’s Circle

First, Vance tells us it’s not really MAGIC.  But what is it? It’s more about consistent processes that make everyone feel loved.  He talked about the script you use when you answer the phone, and how your SE’s approach a client when arriving onsite. These simple things go a long way when you engineer them correctly, and train your people to follow through.

The Welcome Matters. Welcome kits are a big deal. But Vance took this a step further, talking about how to keep clients thinking about you long term. It’s more than just good service. The extras go a long way. An important point here was charging enough to add those extras.

Newsletters Create Magic. Vance showed us how a dentist and a carpet cleaning business leveraged the newsletter. This is an area I believe we are failing in!  In fact, I had to look back at my own efforts and make the decision to recreate. It’s not cheap, and it takes time. But I am convinced it matters.  People do read newsletters when they are worth reading…but no one wants to read about Microsoft patches…Vance told us exactly what to put in the  Newsletter if we want it to sell for us.

And there’s a lot more.  But these three things stand out as steps every one of us can take without too much effort.  And if we did…we would see some amazing results.

For those of you who are already in the SVLC Insider’s Circle – your copy of both the video and audio are going out this week…with our NEW newsletter (in hard copy as Vance recommended) shortly to follow…If you’re not – please consider joining us using the link above. These programs are designed to keep you up to date on the industry and in front of your competition.

© 2016 David Stelzl

 

bcbsDo Your Clients Love You Or Hate You?

Here’s How Blue Cross Blue Shield Got Me to Leave Them…

Put your clients on hold for 4.5 hours, with a deadline so that they can’t hang up. Don’t provide any sort of automated system to schedule a call back. And make sure there is no other way to get what you need without a call.  I just did that this morning.  But let me back up…

In December I received a friendly letter from my Health Insurance Provider – BCBS of North Carolina… letting me know that my policy would no longer be offered in the county I live it.  That was puzzling to me, but it is what it is.

I then received another letter telling me my premium would be double with the new plan they were putting me on – all part of the “Affordable” Healthcare Act.  $1 HC Book Ad

So this morning I was forced to hang on the phone listening to their music and a hold message telling me they were to busy to talk to me…knowing that in just a few days my bank account would be syphoned off to a new plan that I did not order.

Over the course of 4.5 hours I did have a few contacts with different people.  People who could not help me, but who would be happy to transfer me to another hour-long queue. The first person I spoke with actually told me I was not in the system and no longer had any plan, and not to worry about the automatic bank draft.  The second person said, “That’s not right, but I can’t help you…hold please.”

Finally I reached the right person…who told me that actually I did have a plan, and that my annual rate would be grandfathered in at a similar rate to the old one…in other words, the letters I had received, and all the research I did in December to find a new plan, could have been avoided.  But of course, I had done all of that with the information I had, and was ready to quick BCBS…After a 4.5 hour wait, it’s hard to feel good about staying.

What a disaster…Are there other industries out there that can operate like this and still be in business?  If there are, yours in not one of them…what are you doing to make sure people on are getting their answers quickly?

© 2016, David Stelzl

 

blackfridayBlack Friday, Cyber Monday – How Are You Treating Your Best Clients?

It’s the Christmas Season! Over the past few years I’ve avoided the lines by doing my shopping online. Last year my wife and I went to the mountains for the weekend, stayed in a cozy hotel in a small town, and did our shopping in our PJs – Online.  It was great.

This year, due to travel schedules and a super busy quarter, we opted to do our shopping at Starbucks while sipping Lattes. The kids convinced me to go on Cyber Monday, thinking that might make the dollars stretch – more gifts for the same price!  Not so…it turns out.

Amazon – Very Disappointing

I’m a prime member on Amazon. It’s great. Movies, 2 day shipping, music – it’s all included. And with 9 people in our family, and most of us running some sort of business, we buy a lot of stuff online. So, of course I headed to the Amazon website.  Everything is on sale. After all, it’s Cyber Monday.

However, the truth is, everything was about 20% more expensive!

My kids, knowing I would be shopping on Amazon, handed us Christmas lists with links from Amazon (high-tech Christmas shopping!) They even noted the price of the item they were considering…Boy were we surprised to find that just about every price cited on the list was 20% less than the new “Cyber Monday Price”.

It would be fine if Amazon advertised a price increase – but they didn’t. I’m sure something on Amazon was on sale. Maybe the paper towels, or toilet cleaning brushes. None of that showed up on my kid’s lists.

I’m sure we’ll continue to buy from Amazon – it’s easy, quick, and you can’t beat 2 day shipping. But it’s a shame when you have to micro manage your suppliers, watching for dishonest business practices.  Let’s agree that our clients are worth a lot more to us than that, and no matter how big we get, we’ll always treat our customers like we appreciate them.

© David Stelzl

PS. If you’re looking for a great gift for your spouse or kids, you know they’ll want to read my latest book, The House & The Cloud, 2nd Edition! You can save money right now and get it for $1.00! No shipping, and it’s not even Cyber Monday.

$1 HC Book Ad

 

 

 

 

 

appleHow Quickly Are You Responding to Your Customer’s Needs…

Time is important. The way you view your customer’s time just might be the most important part of your offering. Three recent interactions over the past week underscore just how important this is.

Apple Has Great Support

I mentioned in a post the other day that my daughter had been contacted online by a fraudster offering support. She called me in before paying the fraudulent charge, but I still went to Apple to make sure we were doing the right thing.  Apple was easy to contact. My daughter’s system is not new. In fact, it’t time to upgrade. But contacting support was easy, fast, and free regardless of the date I made the purchase. Using the online chat software I had my answers in less than 5 minutes, and the instructions on what to do were easy to follow.

American Airlines Calls You Back

My airline travel was down last year due to more online programs – so I lost my chairman status (USAirways). As a chairman member I always got immediate service.  Now that I no longer have the privilege, I have to wait in line like everyone else when calling in with a problem or question.  Last week was my first call into the now merged AA and USAirways company.  While the wait time was over 15 minutes, the automated system did take my cell number and call me back.  This is a great service for support organizations that don’t have to give immediate assistance. Sure enough, about 30 minutes after I placed the call they called back. I was connected immediately without being tied to the phone listening to hold music and marketing announcements. MMS Blog Ad

Quickbooks Makes You Wait

On the other hand, I had a Quickbooks App issue this morning. My first contact was with a woman who didn’t really speak English. Make sure your people speak the language of the people you support. I’m okay with a slight accent – we get that between northern and southern US. Not a problem.  But this was “Broken Engrish”, and very hard to understand.

She must have asked me 3 or 4 times which version I was using. For some reason she didn’t understand me either. When we finally agreed that I was on a Mac using the App, she told me I needed to talk with the online support team. Before placing me on hold she informed me that Quickbooks does not allow the support team to call out.  So waiting was the only option.

18 minutes later I am on the phone with online support. When I told him I had a Mac with an App, he simply said, “You have to uninstall it and reinstall it. We don’t support the App.” When I complained that the first person should have told me that, he insisted that he had told her to tell me that on the phone. I’m sure he did, but for some reason she did not relay the message. He apologized for wasting half an hour of my day and we hung up.

Computer support is critical. Most of us spend the entire day doing something on a computer. If you’re in the managed services business your clients should be support contracts, not T&M, and the support should be nearly instantaneous.  If you support the security side of your client’s business (which is a must these days) your response time is even more important.  The good news is, fast, quality support is worth paying for when you make money using a computer.

© 2015, David Stelzl