December 3, 1999
By Richard G. McNeill, Ed.D, CHME
During the Implementation Step
The Implementation Step. As discussed in Part I, “The After-Sale Service Process,” customers have three distinctive stages of perspective during “Implementation of the Product/Service” step of the “after-sale service process:” (a) The Novelty Stage, (b) the Learning Stage, and (c) the Effectiveness Stage. Sellers must be aware of and have strategies to manage each of these stages. The most important stage to manage is the “Learning Stage” where the customer undergoes a concept called the “Motivation Dip.” The “Motivation Dip” refers to a sharp decrease in the customer’s enthusiasm or motivation during the “Learning Stage.” Just after the purchasing decision and during the “Novelty Stage,” it’s common for the customer to have high expectations and motivation toward the product/service. As the customer enters the “Learning Stage,” generally enthusiasm will rapidly drop off. This is phenomena is a fundamental part of psychology; enthusiasm is replaced by the realities of working harder (to learn about the product/service) and/or having more focus and concern about the success of the product’s projected successful implementation and results. Once results begin to be realized (the “Effectiveness Stage”), the customer’s enthusiasm and motivation will usually climb again to the levels of the “Novelty Stage.” An illustrative metaphor is the enthusiasm of a New Year’s resolution to “get into shape” through an extensive exercise program. Enthusiasm is often replaced by a “motivation dip” as the real work of the exercise program becomes a reality. After results start coming in the “Effectiveness Stage,” (getting in shape), motivation climbs again. Effectiveness of the exercise efforts becomes the motivation driver. Three Strategies for Handling the “Motivation Dip”
Strategy One: Start Before the Contract Is Signed. In the installation phase, an anxious customer will look critically for any sign that things are going wrong and may overreact to minor difficulties. The salesperson can look to the “Buying Process” to guide this strategy. The salesperson can begin during the “Evaluation of Options” step in the buying process. The salesperson can make sure that the customer genuinely feels that the product service matches customer needs. In other words, ask enough questions and clearly and honestly demonstrate the product/service as compared to the competitive offerings. During the “Resolution of Concerns” (negotiating buyer objections) step in the buying process, the salesperson can make sure that the customer fully recognizes and sees ALL potential consequences or concerns. These must be FULLY resolved or they will become a potential future concern that will exacerbate and accelerate the “motivation dip.” For example, if the customer feels nervous about the salesperson’s company’s reputation, it is important to resolve the issue BEFORE signing of the contract, so it won’t resurface in the form of negative reactions during the “implementation of product/service phase (Rackham, 1989).” Strategy Two: Involve the Customer. Regardless of how carefully the installation and implementation of a new product/service, something will go wrong. While a detailed step-by-step installation plan is essential, it will not guarantee success or protect against unexpected problems. Build a detailed implementation plan and the customer will gain a comfort level. Making sure that the customer is involved in the construction of this plan will ensure their loyalty and satisfaction should any unexpected problems occur. After all, it’s hard to “point the finger” at yourself. Salespeople successfully implement when they get the customer to play a central role in the development of the implementation plan. Here the salesperson does not take the lead in designing the plan and plays the role of a “facilitator” who...