As a Customer Strategy Maverick, it makes me frustrated + somewhat angry to think that some businesses still think they can get away with 1970’s sales tactics.
And, what’s worse, think that that is okay?! Customers have every piece of information at their fingertips these days + more often than not (think about this yourself!) are more informed than the sales people or companies they deal with!
Case in point:
I recently went to purchase a towbar for our car, which, in itself can be a somewhat confusing exercise. Insert confusion = fears right here!
So, like a good customer, I did my research, located a few good places (thanks Google) to talk to + begin to gather my information.
Being a car nut, I also took a few minutes to trawl the forums, specific to the car in question, just to see what others had done + identify any pitfalls etc.
I had the part numbers + knew every aspect of what I needed – I just needed the right person for the supply + the job. After a bit of data gathering, I was ready to place my beloved Bimmer in the hands of who I thought had it all covered.
Wait… wait… there’s more to this story yet.
In selecting the supplier it was not (only) about money. This, after all, was a relatively small investment on a much more expensive asset (or liability if you’re from my Dad’s school of thought!). It was more about trust – knowing that, by going with them, they’d know what they’re doing + do a superb job.
Quality still means something (now more than ever!)
This encapsulates that fine balance act that every customer does – balancing quality, time + cost = the value equation. Those that nail it here, are the ones that understand + address the fears + customer pains. Those that don’t, end up playing the price game + wonder why their margins are shrinking. More on that later…
So, I chose the supplier who wasn’t the cheapest, who wasn’t the first available, but came across to me as quality… + that still means something (now more than ever!).
Back to the story.
Three minutes before arriving for my install appointment (note: that I had to wait 3 extra days for them over the other options), I get a call.
“Sorry mate – we can’t get yours done today. We’ve had an issue with another car (rant rant rant about their problem)… we can’t get it done today. Leave it with us and we could get to it tomorrow.”
Say what? I’m placed at the back of the queue because of a problem with another car? A car I have nothing to do with? I’d rearranged my work week, meetings, kids – the lot – amongst the COVID-astrophy we’re all dealing with to make it happen. Okay, so what now?
Keeping cool + calm, I think through the next couple of days + come up with a window that could work + we re-book. Mind you, after initially being put behind the work orders of the following day. Who’s the customer here?
Then, the clanger.
Come install day. Arriving early (as I like to), we go through the usual check in stuff. All good?
“Now – the technician has said there’s an extra option, that will automatically turn off the parking sensors + it is a premium option that talks with the car’s own electronics. I’ve got it here, but it will be an extra $195.”
Come again? You mean, now that I am here, after you’ve already stuffed me about, you’re telling me that I’ve now got to pay more? For something that was already agreed?!
Remember how I said I love my detail? So I asked to check out this so-called premium option. I check the part + guess what? It’s the same one that I had specified + that we’d agreed to.
But apparently, after a good 10 minutes of arguing, I was told that it was not it + that there was a cheaper one without those extra features in my quote. Can you see where this train crash is going?
Do they really think I am that stupid?
After agreeing to disagree, I state the case that I chose them over a cheaper supplier, based on trust, quality + honesty. Having done the research, I know that there was no other ‘light’ option. It was a case of trying to pull wool over the customer’s eyes. But I am not that sheepish. After getting nowhere with providing my point of view or position, I suggest they simply refund my deposit, as the deal had changed, which was met with yet another blow – “deposits are not refundable”. Really?
Again, I’m not like most customers. So, I seek a mid point compromise. I now have NO FAITH in them doing a good job but also empathise with small business in tough times. So, I suggest to purchase the towbar from them, using my deposit, so they don’t have to return it to the manufacturer, going through the hassle to find an installer myself. They go away + come back with a price that is 50% more than what is commonly available (in fact, higher than the RRP!). I point this out + out of dire frustration, have to raise my voice to demand a refund.
They’ve lost me for life + worse for them – I’ll tell EVERYONE I know.
They did such a great job in bringing me to their door.
And from that moment forward, I was theirs to lose. And, at that, they did a great job.
Reflecting on your own business.
Do you know how informed your customers are? Do you treat them all the same, or is it different for different profiles?
Do you know what fears they have in buying a product or service like yours?
Are some of your processes + tactics a little 1970s?
The businesses that shift to a true customer-led approach will be the ones that bounce back the fastest + strongest from times of crisis.
Which one do you want to be? I know what I’d prefer.
Peter is a global leader in transforming SMEs, large businesses + organisations through the eyes of their customers. As a customer strategy catalyst, he brings over 20 years of experience in consulting projects for both commercial + government organisations in the UK, Australia + throughout Europe.