Post-sales in maintaining client relationships
“Communication with clients after the business deal is never waste of time. It helps to keep the clients coming back to me; sometimes, they even come back with their friends. In other words, ‘Once a client, always a client’ is my philosophy for success in this communication industry.”
Nguyen Minh Lam is a young 25-years-old man working for Clone Production – one of the fastest growing TVC production companies in Vietnam. Mr. Lam works as a client service expert by currently holding Senior Account Executives position in the company. I have had an interesting interview with him about after-sales service and its role in client relationship management from the agency’s perspective. After two years working for Clone, to his bosses and colleagues, Lam may be not the most handsome man in the world; but he is the most attractive guy in the clients’ eyes.
Nguyen Minh Lam – Senior Account Executives of Clone Production
In today’s world, almost salespeople are aware that providing high-quality products to clients is no longer enough. In many academic books and journals, we can easily find the idea that selling is a thing but achieving customer retention and purchase repetition is another different thing. This is why post-sales service is born to facilitate client relationship management as well as earn customer loyalty to keep companies’ business surviving (Biggs 2010; Freeman 1997; Chedley 2001).
Similarly, Mr. Lam also has the same attitude towards the importance of post-sales in maintaining relationship with the client. He believes that showing the client further help and care after the business deal is a key to increase customer retention, not only selling products.
“Nowadays selling is not the end of the process of sales. You will fail to build a long-term relationship with the client if you say “goodbye!” after he paid the bill even though you have done a good job. We have to be aware that clients nowadays respond to us based on what is happening, not what happened few months ago.”
Figure 1. Reproduced by Cartoonstock 2012
After-sales service refers to a process in which several technical service of managing product sold are offered to clients, attempting to ensure that their demand are meet after the purchase. There are already various research papers suggest that companies need to develop a strong after-sales service system to build a long-term relationship with their clients, such as ‘keep in touch’, feedback system and repair services system, etc. (‘After-Sales service’ n.d.; Muhlbacher, Dahringer & Leihs 2006). However, have we ever wondered that how do small companies, especially who do not have large budget to develop a strong after-sales system, improve their after-sales service?
Clone Production is a small local company established in 2009; therefore, they currently lack of budget to develop their own post-sales service system. Meanwhile, maintaining client relationship is still considered one of their concerns. As an Account Executives, Mr. Lam has a belief that salespeople should have their own techniques to ‘take care’ of the client after the purchase, especially when their company do not have a strong post-sales’ strategy. To him, the term ‘care’ is considered an open-door towards the world of post-sales activities. That’s why he prefers using the term ‘Customer-care’ service to describe his own techniques of post-sales, which is much more emotional and friendly.
“’Customer-care’ from salespeople is a crucial part contributing for customer satisfaction because clients often appreciate and feel happy when they receive highly personal care after the business deal. A happy customer is a loyal customer. To make my client happy as maintain a long-term relationship with them, my weapon is to use my own post-sales techniques, which is called ‘3 Ways of Customer-care’.”
Figure 2. Reproduced by Salon Voice Blog
Mr. Lam has successfully maintained relationship with several big clients, including Masan and Vifon. His ‘3 Ways of Customer-care’ has been created based on his three-years-working experience in communication industry.
‘Be a friend’ – Several academic sources suggest ‘keep in touch’ with clients as the most common post-sales’ technique, for example, making monthly client telephone list to ask about the use of product/service sold (Ma’arif n.d.; Freeman 1997). However, Mr. Lam believes that simply ‘keep is touch’ with the client is not enough; instead, salespeople should truly treat the client as a friend. For instance, besides asking about products’ use, salespeople should make phone calls for clients’ birthday and sing them a song; or sending a hand-written card for special days, which have potential to achieve great personal touch. Furthermore, salespeople should not be hesitated to invite past clients to have lunch or coffee sometimes. These friend-to-friend activities help to narrow down the distance between clients and the agency; hence, the client relationship can be effectively maintained.
‘Social Media – a relationship killer’– Social networking sites are considered an effective tool to maintain client relationships after business deal through regular interaction. Social media offers salespeople an opportunity to put extra effort of showing further care towards the clients (Muhlbacher, Dahringer & Leihs 2006; Asugman, Johnson & McCullough 1997). However, to Lam Nguyen, some social media sites, including Facebook, blog, etc., have potential threats to client relationship management if salespeople lack of control towards managing their image on these social media sites. People often share their personal thoughts and feelings as habit without much consideration on social media, especially Facebook; therefore, their image can be negatively influenced. As Mr. Lam’s advice, salespeople should connect with clients on LinkedIn (more formal platform) or use their ‘working’ Facebook account as a better way to maintain a strong client relationship through interacting and updating information between two sides.
Figure 3. Reproduced by tom2network
‘Don’t be selfish’ – Clients will be happy if they see your concern as satisfying their needs. Therefore, it is important to show that you truly care about the clients rather than their money. Mr. Lam is known as a generous salesperson with advice whenever the client mentioned problems with him after their purchase. To him, salespeople sometimes do not need to conduct a full section of consultancy; instead, if the salespeople have ability to handle the problems, they just need to have a coffee with the client and then giving advice as friend-to-friend. The more time that salespeople invest in helping their client, the more they are rewarded – achieving client repetition or clients’ recommendation.
It is true to say every company needs after-sales service to maintain a long-term relationship with their clients. Lam Nguyen has shared us his own tips ‘3 Ways of Customer-care’ as the useful post-sales tips for a salesperson, including ‘be a friend’, the danger of social media and be generous in giving advice. These techniques may be not the best ones in after-sales area; however, they are probably effective for salespeople who work in small companies in term of client relationship management.
‘After sales service’ n.d. , Management Study Guide, viewed 22 March 2012, <http://managementstudyguide.com/after-sales-service.htm>.
Asugman, G, Johnson, J & McCullough, J 1997, The role of After-sales service in international marketing, Journal of international marketing, vol.5, no.4, pp.11-28.
Biggs, D 2010, Management consulting: a guide for students, South-Western Cengage Learning, UK, pp. 237-238.
Chedley, D 2001, Client relationship management, Human Resource Department, Canada, pp.15-16.
Freeman, J 1997, Client management for solicitors, Cavendish, Britain.
Ma’arif, N n.d., The power of marketing, Salemba Empat, Philippines.
Muhlbacher, H, Dahringer, L & Leihs, H 2006, International marketing : a global perspective, 3rd edn, Thomas Learning, London, pp.568-576.
Posted by Le Thi Van An (s3260612)
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