Sue Barrett, Marketing mag’s very own sales guru and founder of Barrett Consulting poses the question: If customer service is sales 101, then why are we not delivering?

There is a strong slump in Australia’s retail industry and things are not looking to pick up anytime soon. Not only are Australian consumers hip pocket conscious, but there is also the competition of online shopping, with consumers actively sending the strong Aussie dollar to secure purchases overseas.

Although these circumstances are more than enough reason to send the retail industry into a decline, perhaps there is more to the failing industry than just economic factors?

The retail situation gives us an interesting case study to consider about customer service. Online shopping portals have a hard task to provide shoppers with the “shopping experience” despite not having face-to-face customer service.

One of the reasons why salespeople may be lacking in customer service motivation is that customer service can sometimes be seen as a lesser role, a “servant’s‟ role, a role where you are required to put up with abuse and bad behaviour. As well as this, I too often see customer service being undervalued by businesses and trivialised as “fluffy‟ and being overtly nice. This is not the case.

Customer service is not the vendor who ‘sells stuff’ or taking the “customer is always right‟ approach. It is a ‘hard to substitute’ Business Consultant who adds critical value to their customers choices and pays close attention and understands their customers needs and wants. Here are a few facts to consider about the customer. People who stop buying from or dealing with a particular business do so because:

– 1% die

– 3% move away

– 5% seek alternatives or develop other business interests

– 9% begin doing business with the competition

– 14% are dissatisfied with the product or service

– 68% are upset with the treatment they have received

Customer service is crucial. Businesses need to start aligning every aspect of sales, marketing and the whole of an organisation around their customers. We all need to change customer’s perceptions around the type of relationship salespeople have with them, and the value salespeople bring to their decision making process.

When starting to put the customer first, listen and be aware of the dialogue you are having with your customer. If nothing else, start to put customer service first and deliver this in the correct way by following four basic rules:

1. Misunderstanding – correct it

2. Doubt – resolve it

3. Limitation – compromise or put it into perspective

4. Question – answer it

Customer service is the back bone of any business, driving home our values, messages, vision and the state of our relationships with each other and our customer community. Let’s take customer service seriously.


Sue Barrett
BY Sue Barrett ON 15 September 2011
Sue Barrett is one of the leading female voices commenting on sales today. An experienced business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur and founder of Barrett Consulting, which provides sales assessments, sales consulting, sales coaching and sales training programs.

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