Customer Service and Book Sales

customer_serviceEarlier in my professional career I held the position of Director of Client Services. My firm provides professional services related to investigations, auditing, and security consulting. In the Client Services role I was tasked with leading a team that provided management of a client’s various program components. The department had many responsibilities, but the most important was managing the client relationship. Much of what I learned about the corporate client is true about the individual consumer. Today I lead the global marketing efforts and what I have discovered is that customer service and marketing are just different sides of the same goal – building a credible and trusting relationship.

In book marketing our goal is to promote our work, but also to build trusting relationships with our readers. I buy all of my favorite authors’ books, sight unseen – I know I will like it if they wrote it. Whether a potential customer buys or does not buy is dependent on a number of things. The first is not controlled by the author. The “book” which is the product, is either written in a reader’s preferred genre or it is not. All the marketing in the world cannot get me to purchase a YA novel. Not that I have anything against such, it just isn’t my “thing.” Beyond that product match, however, all other aspects of book marketing are in the control of the author. Success or not success is determined by the actions or inactions of the author in his or her marketing campaign.

That doesn’t mean you have to be a marketing expert to be successful. But it does mean that step one of the process is to ensure you meet the basic requirements of a marketing campaign…which is employing the basic foundations of good customer service.

1. The Myth of “build it and they will come”: Unless your book is Noah’s arc and we’re on day twenty of forty days of rain then this is not true. Customers/Readers have a lot of choices, but it is the one that is most visual and most interactive that will get their attention. I could always tell my weaker client managers because their clients often purchased services or did their own research on products and services we offered. It was not that they didn’t trust us, it was statements such as, “Oh I didn’t know you guys did that.” There is a reason why, when you walk into a store, the associates are trained to greet you and ask you questions. Such proactive customer service results in higher sales and better service ratings. The same is true for your book efforts. A book needs to be clearly, consistently and constantly broadcast to the world until you become an Icon of the Best-seller list.

2. Speaking is the same as interacting: One direction messaging is a part of marketing, but selling requires interaction and speaking is not the same as interacting. In other words, a blog is a great idea, as is a web site and advertising. Those things help the reader find you, but they are not necessarily enough in today’s book world. You need to interact with your potential buyers. Places like Goodreads and other forums are the best way to do that. One of my Golden Rules of Client Services was “a complaining customer thinks we can do better, a quiet customer assumes we cannot.” This is a hard concept for some people to understand. “Well no one is complaining” also means no one is raving either. So often “quiet” is the same as disinterested. In order to “hear” the buyer you need to listen as much as you talk. Until each of us is famous, we need to build relationships with as many people as possible. Relationships are built on interactions…the best are built on a fair division of speaking and listening.

3. A customer never dials twice: I remember early in my director role I received a phone call from an employee at one of our clients. It was a field person and not my usual point of contact. The person opened with, “Hi, I was talking to your employee “so and so” and he suggested I call you to get an answer to my questions.” That was one of the last times I ever had such a call. The following day we implemented the “customer never dials twice” policy. When a client or any of its employees have a question that our folks can’t answer we don’t ever suggest they call someone else. We take their number, pass it on to the person that can answer, and that person calls the customer back. In other words, we don’t put the work on our customer, we put it on ourselves. I often see authors looking for reviews and offering free books. I occasionally take them up on the offer and I am astounded at how often they want me to “work” to get a copy. I’ve had authors tell me I can get it on Wattpad or download it from their website. Any guess how often I do? When we have a potential reader on the “hook” we need to give them every option available and ensure that we do what is easiest for them. The more proactive the better.

“Hi, thanks for offering to read my book, I’ve attached the PDF, but if you prefer you can use this code at Smashwords here’s the link, or go to this link on Wattpad, or if you want to provide your address, I’ll send you the book.”

The last thing I want is for someone’s busy life to potentially get in the way of reading my book. I want to make the connection fast and I want to make it easy for the reader.

All of these things really build upon the same thing. Positive Interactions with our potential readers. Take a moment and think about all the people who have said they would read your book compared to those who actually have read it. Each one of those non-readers stands a better chance of being converted if you give them all the tools they require to get your book in their hand. As for everyone you haven’t touched…let them know where you are and then let them discover who you are through two-way interaction. It’s a long process at first, but brands are built one customer at a time until they reach a tipping point where “everyone” knows them.

Keep it sane

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