Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Shopping Experience, Part 4

The shopping experience continues after the sale is done. How you handle things that may come up later like questions about the product or service or if there is a problem with the purchase in some way can strengthen the shopping experience or it can damage it severely.

You must want all of your customers to be happy customers and to enjoy their purchase and their experience. You also might think that a customer having a problem would be a negative thing. I think it is a very positive thing. Not that I want to create these situations, but when the customer has a problem, now you have an opportunity to really shine. You can move up the point ladder very quickly if you handle a problem well. Matter of fact, I believe that a customer wants to know how you will handle a problem and by not having one, they cannot know. Once they do and you handle it well, they now develop a certain trust factor they could get no other way. Of course, if it is handled poorly, the trust factor is dramatically lower and possibly nonexistent.

I'll give you some examples. I sell books on eBay and Most are used books in very good condition. I briefly look over the books prior to listing them to make sure that there is no underlining, notes, torn pages, etc. There isn't time to turn every page, you cannot take that kind of time. I try to describe it accurately. In every book package, I have a note to contact me immediately if there is the slightest problem. My guarantee states: "every sale guaranteed to please--every sale, every time, no exceptions." Once in a while a customer will send me a note that there was underlining or some similar problem. In this case, I immediately refund their money in full prior to answering their email. Then, I look for a replacement in better condition than the one I sold. If that book is still available new, I will check for availability. I order the most appropriate book, pay for expedited shipping, put in the customers shipping information and get it ordered. Then, I contact the customer, apologize for the problem, state that I have refunded their money in full and a replacement book in better (or new) condition is coming to them directly from an associate supplier and I have paid for expedited service. I state that I appreciate their business and trust and hope this solution will be satisfactory. So, how would you feel if you bought this book and had this problem. I move so far up the trust scale when these problems come up, that I create very loyal customers. Yes, I lose money on the transaction, but some of those customers have gone on to buy many hundreds of dollars worth of books from me. It comes back in spades as the saying goes.

Sometimes what you do for a customer may not come back to you through that customer, but through another customer. I really believe that is true. Here's a story about that. I was a sales manager at a Chevrolet, Cadillac dealership. We had a prominent, long time resident and business owner who bought Cadillacs at our store. They were on a trip and had a breakdown in the Monterey area about 130 miles away from home. The wife called me up and explained the problem. She was none too happy about it. I sympathized with their situation. The vehicle had been towed to the local dealer down there, so I hired two drivers, took a late model used Cadillac for them to drive while their car was in the shop. I sent the drivers down to Monterey with a chase car, dropped off the loaner so they could continue their trip. I followed up with the Cadillac dealer down there and when their car was finished, I sent two drivers down again to retrieve their car, brought it back up here and delivered it to the customers, picking up our loaner car.

If you know anything about the car business, you would know that this scenario is so unusual. It just would not happen at most stores. It was really exceptional service to the extreme. There was not even so much as a thank you for all the expense and effort. This lady is just an unhappy person and lets everyone around her know it full well. Nonetheless, the service was given with a good heart. I am confident that it came back to us in many different ways through other people. You just cannot give service like this, whether it is the books or an expensive car and have it come back void. Getting something back should not be the reason you give the service, but I tell you that I believe firmly that it will come back and it will come back in greater quantity and quality than it was given. That is powerful.

Go the extra mile with your customers and it will pay you large dividends. If there is a problem, go out of your way to make it right. Don't think about your costs. They are really insignificant to the value of a happy client--especially one who had a problem and was made happier by having it be handled well. If you think about yourself and your costs, you are not being of service and that attitude will come back to you fully.

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