What’s more important to you?
I suppose the immediate and most obvious answer is, “Both, as they’re equally important!” There’s no doubt every business needs to generate sales of some description; if you don’t you’re running a charity, or it’s a hobby you’re putting all your time into.
Some of you might remember the dotcom crash; building up to this, investors were throwing often millions of pounds and dollars at techie people to develop Internet businesses, with many of them not actually creating any sales.
“Total speculation! Or was it gambling?”
Extraordinary value was being placed on non-revenue generating businesses, peaking March 2000 and hitting rock bottom October 2002. So, of course, sales are absolutely essential to sustainable business.
On the other hand, what’s the point of putting time, effort and money into generating new sales if those new customers don’t like the service provided? They’ll simply become non-customers. There are lots of differing statistics around quoting it costs between 4 and 10 times as much to keep a customer than it does to create a new one.
But to simply rely on established customers is a risky strategy too! A fruit analogy springs to mind here: Fruit is at its most palatable when it’s ripe, but ripe fruit is dying fruit; it has stopped growing and is actually starting the rotting process. Simply focusing on harvesting your customers as they ripen, rather than preparing, sowing and nurturing new plants, is likely to mean your sales drying up altogether!
However, exceptional customer service is a powerful sales tool in its own right. I’m a big fan of Lakeland – the kitchenware business – with its premiere store in Windermere, branches in many bigger town centres and a massive online and mail order operation.
Why? Well firstly, they really do have some fantastic products for the kitchen and home, the vast majority of items being great quality and their shops are a superb example of how to be a successful retailer, despite so many other retailers struggling.
But I bought a roll of aluminium foil from their Windermere store and when I got it home I thought the foil had been rolled the wrong way. You know, shiny side down, dull side up.
Now, that’s a major question in its own way; should the shiny or dull side of the foil be food side? I always thought dull side to food, shiny side outwards. With this in mind I returned to the store to ask for a replacement; bearing in mind it was something like 300 metres long and cost £15.
I wasn’t made to feel awkward in any shape or form for asking what to some might seem a simple question. The customer services representative started by opening another pack, to find it was the same as mine. They then thought best to seek clarification so sort advice from one of the technical product people, who declared aluminium foil is best used shiny surface to food to deflect heat back in and dull side out to maximise heat in. My roll was as it should be!
Ok, I was happy, the technicalities had been explained to me, but that wasn’t enough for the Lakeland people; they said, “for the inconvenience you suffered, please take this other roll we opened to check yours against!” I was dead chuffed. And as a result, whilst always liking Lakeland, I’m now a raving fan. Go and visit one of their shops; if you have any interest in food and your kitchen, you’ll love it.
“So now, I’ve become part of the
Lakeland sales team!”
And, whilst Lakeland is now a large and hugely successful business, it’s still a family business at its heart. My slightly shaky claim to fame is back in the 1990s, Kim’s and my studio was the same space that Lakeland started its business before moving to their current Windermere HQ. Back then, when they occupied the building, they were known as Lakeland Plastics and supplied plastic bags to trade and retail customers.
So taking Lakeland as an example, I think it’s fair to say that exceptional customer service lies at the heart of great businesses, but don’t forget generating those all important sales; they are the lifeblood of your business.
I can’t claim any credit for Lakeland’s success, but if you want help with improving your standards of customer service, or generating sales, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll arrange a Skype or telephone call.