By Jordan Statt
Ask any VAR in the channel how they differentiate themselves in the market and you will undoubtedly hear at least one component that ties back to the superior service they provide to their customers. In fact, a true Value Added Reseller has the opportunity to deliver merchant satisfaction in many ways throughout the lifetime of every customer, whether it be consulting pre-sale to inform merchants of true total cost of ownership, or post-sale for implementation and on-going support.
Now, ask any Vendor the same question and you will get answers pointing to superior product technology, distribution model, and, similarly to VARs, service to their customers.
But how do we truly know if our customers value our services? Much has changed in the Point of Sale world with the paradigm shift to Cloud technology over the past several years. System implementation is easier, remote monitoring commonplace, and merchants are increasingly more tech-savvy. All of these are welcome changes to us all in the POS Space as we aim to empower merchants at the most critical point in their business.
However, there is a secondary byproduct of these changes that are real threats if left unchecked. Robust Cloud systems often require less effort to run for merchants, and so merchants are reaching out less than they would with some of the more well-known legacy systems for support. Technology is changing rapidly, and software features that were cutting edge yesterday can become old-hat tomorrow. Also, perceived switching costs are far lower in the Cloud world than they were after merchants had paid large up-front sums for their technology.
Ultimately, these threats require us all to constantly stay in front of our customers in order to provide the level of service we pride ourselves on and earn our keep from every month. Here are ways to do that:
At Heartland, we work with our Dealers often on the importance of staying in front of your customer. Many successful Dealers in our channel have inside teams who act as customer advocates, proactively engaging customers not simply when things are bad, but when they are good. You can no longer assume that because a customer has not called you with a support problem that they are happy. You must find new ways to engage with them. Some of our Dealers organize group gatherings of customers (pre-pandemic of course), while others take a more direct consultative approach, and work to ensure their merchants are growing their businesses either through more technology solutions or through process improvements that VARs can teach from years of experience solving merchant problems. At the end of the day, you cannot sit back and enjoy the phones not ringing, because while you are not talking to your customer, the competition is asking them when the last time they heard from their Dealer was.
I am always thrilled when I hear stories about how our Dealers have come to the rescue of a merchant in need, but anecdotes of happy customers are not enough. The real long-term goal for all looking to better satisfy their customers is collecting hard data. Data will help you drive your behavior over the long run. There are several ways to collect data today, from simple surveys through one of several simple, inexpensive, online products, to more complex tools that provide actionable analytical tools. At Heartland, we utilize Net Promoter Score as a way to collect data on our customers’ satisfaction with us, our products, and our Dealer partners. You should choose the tools that are right for your business of course, but to get out of the doom loop of “I think our customers are happy with us,” you must collect and use data regardless of the platform chosen.
Get Better Continuously
Use the data you collect. The beauty in having this data at your fingertips is the opportunity to let it guide your business to actually improve customer satisfaction over the long haul. To make the data more useful, you should endeavor to collect feedback from a very high percentage of your customer base. One negative customer experience should not define your business, but you should use each one as an opportunity to grow. Conversely, a small sample of happy customers may not accurately reflect the typical viewpoints of your customer base. You also must collect and use customer feedback continuously. Our strongest Dealer partners keep many customers for five years or more, and over the course of that timeline, a lot can change for the merchant, and Dealers must adapt to support the changes.
One Final Thought
The funny thing about happy customers is the lift they bring in new sales, especially at the local level. Dealers are cornerstones of virtually every merchant community, and your Dealership’s ability to produce perennially high satisfaction from customers actually begets more customers. It may seem like common sense, but it is an important factor to point out. After all, we all want to support more happy merchants.
Bring great happiness to your community—become a Heartland Dealer.