Last month's article covered the "whys" of having a customer service representative visiting your account base throughout the year. To summarize, you will become more profitable by selling more allied products, lose fewer accounts by strengthening goodwill, give the salesperson more time to sell by not requiring him or her to revisit your existing accounts, and potentially train the CSR to become a salesperson. Don't think of a this position as an expense, but as an investment in your company.
In order to equip your CSRs for success, you must design the proper forms to provide all the pertinent information that they will need in the field. You will also need to give them a list of questions to be answered in order to obtain all the information about the account that will give you insight into making more profitable sales.
A good form should have enough information to serve as an overview or story on each client.
Generate an activity report on all the accounts that your CSR will be visiting for the week. These reports should include basic information about the accounts, as well as a 13-month history of their ordering patterns. Other information should include the date when the account was first opened, the sequence of ordering dates, what products -- and how many units or cases of each -- were ordered in the past, the prices quoted, the number of invoices generated each month, the average monthly order, receivables aging, equipment supplied, rental rates (if any), comments about each account (service calls, special requests, etc.) and any other information that will make the overview complete.
Your form should also include additional information pertaining to each client. If you do not have it when the CSR goes out to visit an account, they can get those details from the decision-maker. The necessary information includes:
» Number of employees currently at the workplace, compared with number on file.
» Whether or not the account is a seasonal business, with employee count going up and down).
» Dates visited, what was discussed and with whom the CSR spoke.
» The date to follow up, if required, and why; or what is necessary.
» Break area visited: Was there anything unusual or something that's needed?
» Do they have cooler service from your competition?
» The condition of the equipment, and what services were performed. (Were the brewer and dispensers cleaned and the pots changed, among other tasks?)
» Have single-cup brewers been introduced? If not, set up a demonstration.
» Does account have a refrigerator, microwave oven, icemaker, etc.?
» Does account hold holiday parties?
» Does it celebrate birthdays and special occasions for the employees?
» Does it entertain clients (using higher-end cups, plates, napkins and the like)?
» Special requests for products currently not supplied.
Now that you have the proper form to follow, your CSR should be visiting the ac- counts that make up the 10% to 15 % of those that are your largest customers on a monthly basis. These customers most likely give you 30% to 40% of your total business. The next category, to be visited less often, should be your medium-volume accounts, and so on down the line.
Another area for your CSR to look at is the profitability of each customer. If you have an account giving you $20,000 in sales and you are only getting 30% gross profit, while another account gives you $15,000 in sales with a 50% gross profit, you had better make sure that the second account is serviced first. Sales volume should not determine the frequency or the order of making CSR visits; profitability should. Also, accounts that generate lower profits should be charged higher prices, especially if you are supplying more equipment than is necessary.
A good service representative will get to know the contacts on a more intimate level, and have more success selling more products and services.
An effective customer service tool that works very well is onsite photography by your CSRs in the many accounts they visit. Explain that the "telephone account reps back in the office want to see who they're speaking with." In turn, the field rep will show pictures of those telephone reps, and ask the account contact who they usually speak with when placing their orders. Customers love to see the person who has been on the other end of the phone line. This little technique is inexpensive and very effective in bringing you and your customers together.
Once your customer service reps are comfortable with your accounts, have them solicit letters of recommendation about your company, or about individuals with whom they had a great experience. Letters praising your company's service personnel are then presented to those who are mentioned, which creates a great bond between buyer and seller. Also, the outside sales team is given these letters to show to prospective clients how well your company staff responds to your customers' needs.
Additionally, your customer service representative can ask happy customers to refer your company to other divisions, and friends in other businesses that can use office coffee services.
As you can see, a CSR can do a fantastic job of increasing your profitability.
Please let me know if you are using a CSR in your business, and whether they are doing something differently, so I can share these new ideas with all of you. I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and after 22 years merged it with Dell Coffee, of which he became president in 1991. Sales at Dell topped $7 million dollars. Rashkin is also a founder and officer of Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage Products Association. His industry honors include NCSA's (now NAMA) Silver Service Award and NBPA's Lifetime Achievement Award; he was inducted into NBPA's Hall of Fame in 1996. His marketing excellence earned him NBPA's Crystal Bean Award and three NCSA Java Awards. He is a frequent speaker at national and local trade conferences, consults on OCS sales and marketing and has is the author of two OCS training programs.