Posted on July 6, 2010 by Dennis Snow
A comedian on the Comedy Channel was talking about the differences between dating and marriage:
"When you're dating… You picture yourself growing old together."
"When you're married… You wonder who will die first."
"When you're dating… He knows what a 'hamper' is."
"When you're married… The floor will suffice as a dirty clothes storage area."
"When you're dating… He loves to discuss things."
"When you're married… He develops a blank stare."
(It was a female comedian)
While watching and laughing, maybe a bit sheepishly as some of the comments were clearly directed at me, it struck me how easily you could substitute the differences between marriage and dating with the differences between being a prospect and a customer.
When you’re a prospect... The company promises outstanding quality.
When you're a customer... The service rep tells you the quality would’ve been better if you'd only purchased the “Platinum Package.”
When you’re a prospect… The company promises instant responsiveness.
When you're a customer… Getting someone to return your calls or respond to your emails becomes an exercise in frustration.
When you’re a prospect… The company promises you’ll be treated like family.
When you're a customer… You realize the family they were talking about is the Osbournes.
Some purchases, of course, are more like speed dating in that they’re more transactional in nature. You need to buy a wrench, so you go to the store, find the wrench you need, pay for it and you're pretty much done. But other purchases are more extensive, and typically more expensive. Home remodeling, hiring a lawn care service, contracting IT support for your business, or any type of consulting arrangement usually involve a longer sales cycle and there is typically a lot more on the line than with a simple purchase.
When you’re in the role of prospect, the salesperson is usually promising the world, making you feel like you’ll be the most valuable customer the company has the privilege to serve. As soon as you sign the contract and send in the check, however, everything changes. All the promises of quality, responsiveness, communication, and personal attention evaporate. And you're left scratching your head over what happened.
The best companies know that the critical time in the relationship is what happens immediately after the contract is signed. They make sure that what they said would happen DOES happen. They make sure that everything is as good as promised or even BETTER than promised. The best companies know that the loyalty factor is never more fragile than that moment between signing the contract and delivering the service or product.
A company can follow three simple rules for demonstrating that a customer is as valuable to them as a prospect:
1. Do what you said you were going to do, with the quality you promised.
2. Do it when you said you would do it.
3. Show that you care about me as a customer.
If you do these three things, I’ll sing your praises to anyone who will listen. I’ll be your best salesperson and you don’t even have to pay me. If you don’t do these three things, I’ll still talk. But it won’t be the kind of talk I think you’re looking for. And the bigger the gap between how you treated me as a prospect and how you treat me as a customer, the more likely I’ll end up the eager prospect of one of your competitors.
Something to think about: Are you treating your current customers with the same care and attention as with prospects? Because in fact your current customers are prospects and they're your best prospects; you don't want to lose them.