I received an important reminder about giving customers our hearts as well and our heads. I was having lunch with a good friend and client last week and we got onto the topic of the benefits and pitfalls of engaging technicians in business development activities. In particularly we were talking about how sales people can use the proactive promotion of services by their technicians to differentiate themselves when selling contract services. I mentioned that while most companies give their customers their hands (i.e. do good work), proactive service companies provide customers with their heads as well. By looking out for their customers and making helpful suggestions to allow them to be more effective at operating their facilities, they are providing the highest level of service.
Steve, who is a key part of a large, national service firm suggested, “Actually Jim, I agree with you but I think you need to be more specific. When engaging our service technicians in speaking to customers about the other things we can do to assist them, we need to ensure that they use their hearts as well as their heads.” Steve went on to relate a story that a service manager told him. It seems that they had a technician on staff who took promoting services to a new high. He would promote anything and everything to anybody that would listen. As a result, this service manager was getting complaints from several customers. They didn’t appreciate being “sold” when the technician was really there to service their equipment. Steve went on, “This technician wasn’t really acting on behalf of the customer, he was acting for himself and the benefits that he would get if the customer bought the product or service he was offering. His heart was not in the right place and the customers could spot it a mile away.”
Steve was right. Technicians have to engage the customer in these kinds of discussions for the right reasons. They have to believe that the customer will be better off by taking their recommendations. If they don’t believe that the recommended action is in the interest of the customer, then they should not be suggesting the service at all. That is one of the reasons I don’t think that “commissions” or “bonuses” should be paid for services sold by the technician. It encourages the behaviour but for the wrong reasons.
I encourage you to look closely at your own programs for promoting services through your technicians. Are your technicians empowered to give your customers their hearts as well as their hands? Do your support systems (like bonuses or commissions) reinforce this approach or do they encourage them to leave their hearts in the truck? Have you made it clear that you want them to use good judgement before making recommendations and be certain, in their own minds, that the recommendation is truly in the interests of the customer?
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“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
– Nelson Mandela