8 STEPS FOR RESETTING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS (When A Customer Commitment Is In Jeopardy)
There is an old sales adage that says: “No sale shall go unpunished.” Although humorous, it is also unfortunately true in some cases.
From time to time in every sales organization – for whatever reason – the company is unable to meet a commitment to the customer. A common example of this occurs when a customer has been given a committed delivery date and some time during the fulfillment cycle the company realizes that the date cannot be met. While to some customers a delay in delivery may not a big deal, to others it is unwelcome news that directly affects their business and the business they do with their own customers. At best, it is a case where the delivery commitment is pushed out to some future date. At worst, it’s a case in which delivery is unknown and no commitment can be made at all.
Situations like this instill dread in the hearts of sales people. The news will disappoint and frustrate the customer as well as damage the trust and sense of control that sales works so hard to create. Unfortunately, as the primary customer interface and relationship owner, the sales person is usually the one required to communicate the bad news to the customer – and often take the heat for the company’s missed commitment.
To avoid this distasteful interaction, sales people often wait until the last possible minute to communicate the bad news to their customer in the hope that the situation will be miraculously resolved. As sales leaders we know that the avoidance approach is rarely successful and usually ends up creating even more frustration and animosity on the part of the customer.
So how does a sales person communicate bad news to the customer while maintaining as much trust and customer satisfaction as possible? Here is a 8-step process that your sales team can use to manage the communication while effectively re-setting expectations with their customer:
1. Advise the customer of the situation before it becomes a problem for them (earlier rather than later)
2. Emphasize that although a revised date is not the desired situation for either party that you wanted to ensure that they had timely knowledge of the situation so they could reset expectations and make any necessary accommodations within their organization
3. Let the customer vent (Be quiet, listen and do not interrupt!)
4. Acknowledge the customer’s frustration and/or concerns (and apologize if appropriate)
5. State the course of corrective action your company is taking
6. Reset expectations with the customer
7. Thank them for their patience and understanding
8. Let them know that you will keep them informed and let them know when their order will be delivered
When communicating bad news, remember that:
• Your company’s internal issues are not your customer’s problem – Don’t air dirty laundry
• Keep the message simple – Stick to the facts and don’t muddy the waters with a litany of issues
• Assigning blame does not help the situation – Don’t throw the company, departments or individuals under the bus
While this process is effective when resetting expectations with customers it can also be used just as effectively to reset expectations with other resources or functions within your own company.
Since not every situation requiring setting of excitations is the same, it is important to take the temperature of your customer and use these steps in whatever combination is most appropriate to meet the needs of that specific circumstance.
For more information, please contact Compendium Advisors at Dave@CompendiumAdvisors.com or 925-984-5381
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