And like the Christmas shopping season, customers have many questions, are seeking more of your time and are looking for the product that is the right fit.
However, poor customer service on your part could result in a boost in business for your competition. As a customer, you expect quality when you buy something and service to go along with it, so why would you expect your customers who provide your livelihood to have any lower expectations?
No matter what part of the agricultural production chain your business is in or the structure of your business, customer service is very important. Demonstrating customer service and respect for your customers shows your foresight as a leader.
In this column, I will share a story I heard from a beef producer friend of mine who, along with her husband and family, is a genetic supplier (selling registered bulls and females) into registered and commercial beef herds annually.
A little step made a big difference
I will refer to my friend as Lisa. As mentioned, Lisa and her family have an annual bull sale, and last spring their top-selling bull sold to a brand-new customer.
This customer had researched their beef herd online, studied their sale catalog and was slightly familiar with their cattle, seeing a few heifers sell at a consignment sale the year prior. All in all, the customer was impressed with the cattle and decided to purchase a bull for the first time from Lisa’s program.
Lisa and her family were excited to add a new customer to their portfolio. However, this new buyer lived more than 700 miles away, so an afternoon drive to deliver the bull or make a short visit was not feasible. To take that step and get to know this new customer would take time and devotion.
That summer, an opportunity arose, and Lisa made it a priority to visit this new customer’s ranch. She toured the 200-head cow herd, and a priority was to see how her bull had progressed in the past four months, wanting to make sure the new customer was happy with their purchase.
Later, over a steak supper and lots of cattle business talk, Lisa was shocked when the bull customer spoke up and said how thankful he and his wife were that Lisa took time away from her family and her ranch to show such interest in their program.
He went on to say, “We have been in the cattle business for more than 20 years, and you are the very first person we have ever bought a bull from that has ever come to visit us, to see our cattle and follow up on our purchase.”
Lisa was shocked. She could hardly believe it. She herself has raised beef cattle for more than 25 years and couldn’t imagine not having someone show interest in her family’s ranching program, especially after purchasing cattle from someone – how disheartening, she thought. Do you think these new bull customers will be back at Lisa’s sale next year? I would suspect so.
I have another friend in the seedstock business who, every Christmas, mails her bull buyers some home-baked cookies or cakes. I’ve been trying to figure out how to round up money to buy a bull from her and her husband just to get those home-baked treats.
This young couple also realizes the importance of taking an extra step to say “thank-you” to their customers, new or long-term customers.
Three tips about customer service
Stellar service – How would you rate your level of customer service? Extremely well, very well, well, not well or poorly? If you cannot document why you rated yourself in the top two categories, then you need to re-evaluate the customer service goals of your business.
What are you missing? Is there just one or two more steps that you need to take to push your business into the top categories? (e.g., Did you call all your bull customers last year or just 50 percent of them?)
- Be prepared for things to go wrong – Have a plan in place to deal with issues before they arise. A refund policy, a guarantee on your cattle or a form of re-payment to prevent the process of getting into an uncomfortable discussion with a customer.
Often, customers become friends in the cattle business, and this makes it difficult to deal with a situation should it arise. Will you refund a bull three years after it was sold when you get the call, three years later, that it’s lame? You want to be fair but need to be realistic. When you have a plan in place and can express it, this will diffuse the tension and aid in resolving the issue.
- Go from good to great – You may have the best cattle in the industry, but if you do a poor job in customer service such as communicating with the buyer, getting them the paperwork in a timely manner, etc., your ability to deliver quality to that customer will slip away.
You don’t want to step back in customer service; you want to move forward, as customers appreciate care and attention – and if they don’t get it, they vocalize it.
A dissatisfied customer, research shows, tells some 20 or more people about a bad experience, so don’t give that customer a chance to change their mind and go somewhere else.
B. Lynn Gordon
- Teaching Learning and Leadership
- College of Agricultural and Biological Sciences and College of Education
- South Dakota State University
- Email B. Lynn Gordon
PHOTO: Staff photo.