Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine

The Forgotten Gatekeeper

By Candice Wentling

When we think of the most impactful aspects of our businesses we generally invest much of our time and money in training our sales and service staff. We, as leaders, invest in improving our own skills, in an effort to grow the business and meet the needs of our customers and vendor relations. Relatively, while administration and office staff are generally the least paid and least invested in when it comes to ongoing development, they are generally the first experience our customers and vendors encounter. Are these employees prepared to recognize and respond effectively to potential lead opportunities? Because of the vast array of customer options, it could take only one bad customer service experience or one missed opportunity to lose an existing or potential customer.

Are these forgotten gatekeepers aiding or hindering the growth of your business?
On average, let’s say that customer service representatives take 25-35 calls per day (do you know how many calls each of your staff encounter?). Of those calls, I would suspect that about half of those calls would be questions from existing customers. These questions would likely be in the form of billing, verifying arrival time or they are experiencing a service-related issue. Another quarter of incoming calls would be best categorized as advertising and cold-calling inquiries. The last quarter would be lead calls from potential customers seeking guidance. Of those 25-35 calls, I would assume less than five would be forwarded (appropriately) to management. These calls (depicted in yellow Figure 1) would suggest those calls would represent a small portion of the customer questions (complaints) and marketing calls.
This would mean that the management staff would have little interaction with the majority of its customers and are relying on their staff to handle the daily business operations. While administrative staff may be highly trained in customer service etiquette, computer skills and multi-tasking, how trained are they on other aspects of your business—in this case, water treatment and company processes?
While we could continue discussing the importance of the office staff in reaching organizational goals, I think the foundation has been laid to move onto practical adjustments that can be made right away. We limit ourselves to what we think the role of an office person entails and grossly under-train them by assuming their lack of contribution or capabilities. Why don’t we expose our office employees to the same training as our field employees?

What if your office staff was fairly fluent in water treatment basics?
Staff’s ability to answer basic water questions, look for opportunities to set sales appointments, identify up-sell or service opportunities and even improve customer files regarding notes and discussions would contribute to increased revenue opportunities. Here’s another visual. Let’s say that out of all the potential revenue opportunities that customer service representatives are presented, 60 percent are converted into viable lead opportunities for the field staff. Note: I think that 60 percent is a high estimate considering most sales professionals close their leads less than 50 percent of the time but let’s assume the best. Now let’s say that your office staff increased their conversion rate by 15 percent through adequate training (represented in yellow in Figure 2). This would mean that out of 100 opportunities you would be increasing your revenue opportunity by over $20,000 (considering an average order of $1,500). In the long term, these kinds of results would justify a significant investment in training your office staff.
An example of a good accessible option for training your office staff in water treatment basics would be the MEP (Modular Education Program) provided by the Water Quality Association. Their water treatment basics course runs as little as $100. Pair this with the existing wealth of knowledge in your dealership and your office staff would be in a position that could be described as the heart of your dealership. Interdepartmental exposure is a great way of improving administrative results. You can do this by including them periodically in service and sales meetings, in training opportunities or ride-alongs and filling them in on how their leads succeeded in the field.

Conclusion
Ultimately, employees who are challenged and feel valued have higher job satisfaction and loyalty toward their employer. They are motivated to contribute more when they begin to experience success. Educate. Engage. Expect. Empower.

About the author
Candice Wentling is Sales Trainer and Distributor of Action Selling™ and Director of Certified Action, a business consulting firm. She has been conducting sales training seminars, field coaching and leadership accountability for the last 13 years. Wentling began her sales career in the supplemental insurance industry and was quickly promoted into a management role. She became the youngest District Manager in the organization, going on to win their top sales award 18 times. Wentling then transferred her skills and began working in the water treatment industry as a Sales Manager with an industry-leading company, reorganizing and developing training programs. In addition, she has conducted regional workshops, worked directly with on-boarding and training of new sales representatives and consulted for leaders in multiple organizations.

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