Am I available to my customers when they need me?

24.7.365. That’s the minimum acceptable availability time. Ever order anything on the Internet after 10 o’clock at night? Of course you have. Everyone has. Could you have gone out to the store at 11 o’clock at night? Or bought that toy at midnight? People buy automobiles nowadays at 1am and think nothing of it. Ever try to call someone five min-utes after they close, or call too early in the morning before they open? What happened? Probably something between disapp-ointing and maddening. Do you think your customers are any different? Customers have questions all the time.Customers need service all the time. Customers wanna buy something all the time. And they will buy from the source that is most available. Take the bookstore model. It took Barnes and Noble almost two years to realise that was not a joke. Since then, they’ve spent the last 10 years, and millions of dollars, trying to catch up to a competitor they thought was a mere gnat when they began. That gnat has now grown into a swarm of locusts that descends on Barnes and Noble’s sales like a plague. Yes, Barnes and Noble is the biggest. Their bookstores are among the best in the world. But their inability to recognise that customers would buy books at midnight cost them hundreds of millions of dollars. 24.7.365. That’s the minimum acceptable availability time. Here are 6.5 things you can do to insure that you’re ready when your customer needs you, and will insure that you’re ready when your customer wants to give you money. 1. Answer your phone with a live, friendly, human being 24.7.365. Yes it costs a little more, but the phrase, “In order to serve you better, please select from the following seven options” is not only an annoyance to every customer that calls, it’s also a bold-faced lie. 2. Make your website service friendly. Can you schedule a service call on your website? Can your customers find service answers on your website? 3. Make your website question friendly. Everyone has ‘frequently asked questions’ – but it seems as though those questions are never the questions I want answers to. Just how interactive is your question-ing capability? 4. Make your website sales friendly. Can your customer place an order? Is your ecommerce user friendly? Can your customer buy in one click? 5. Make your website information friendly. Can you track a service call or package? Can you tell me where my order is? Or when it will be shipped? If not, you will lose to someone who can. 6. Create automatic or rapid responses to all Internet and email inquiries. Your customers expect ‘immediate’. Hey, you expect immediate, don’t you? 6.5 Make yourself available before and after hours. If your company can’t, or won’t, do it yourself. Give customers your mobile phone. Give customers your email address. Give them more ways to buy – and make it easy for them to spend their money with you. On the surface, these things don’t look hard to do. So then why does almost no-one do them? Global mystery. Please, someone tell me. TAKE THE AVAILABILITY TEST: Go to your competition’s website. Try to buy something at midnight. Try to schedule a service call. Try to ask a question or contact someone by email. Now go to your own site and do the same thing. Did you win? Or will the next person who visits both websites go do business with your competitor? Now call your competition on the phone. Try to place an order for $100,000. Call yourself and do the same. Did you win this time? The person that is the easiest to do business with is the person who wins. The person that is the easiest to do business with is the person who wins the order. The only question that remains is: Is that you? Availability trumps satisfied or loyal customers. Availability trumps price. 24.7.365. That’s the minimum acceptable availability time. Send me your best idea or example of being available. Put AVAILABLE in the subject box. I’ll post them all in Sales Caffeine next week. Thanks! Jeffrey Gitomer is author of The Sales Bible, and Cus-tomer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. He is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts internet training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to © 2005 All Rights Reserved

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