Every business owner with a product to sell has heard ’the story” that begins with, “My salesperson said . . .”
And sometimes, as business owners/managers, the story we hear is entirely and regrettably true, but often it’s simply that the salesperson has failed to properly communicate with or set the expectations of the customer.
During my many years of working as a sales and marketing executive in the homebuilding industry, and dealing with literally thousands of home buying customers a year, I learned to quickly glean the kernel(s) of fact from the customer’s version of ‘the story’, the Realtor’s side of the story, and my salesperson’s side.
In spite of several dozen salespeople and a great many communities, miscommunication didn’t happen often with our customers, but when it did it was unpleasant: now the company, i.e., me, had an unhappy customer: a customer with a ruined home buying experience.
It’s hard bringing the customer back from what they perceive as a bad experience.
They’ll never forget the something “we” did wrong, and in the case of a new home . . . well, they’ll live with the memory that we “screwed up” for a long time.
And yes, before you send me a tweet or comment about customers hearing what they want to hear . . . yes, sometimes customers hear what they want to hear, but there are ways and means of helping to minimize that happening. That’s going to have to be a topic for another post.
Can we talk?
A few days ago, I had to find an appliance repair company. Without a clue whom to call, I consulted the oracle: my favorite search engine. Several possible choices for repairmen popped up in my search, one right here in my very small Texas town, but the online comments about his company had such a tone of truth to them that it made me skip the local guy and move on to someone further away. I know that there are two sides to every story . . . but there was a giant red flag in their comment that waved me away.
Social media may be a great way to advertise, but it’s a double edged sword: deliver less than what the customer thinks they have bargained for, and their opinion of you and your company will be tweeted and posted across the Internet, out there for all the world to see. Comments and posts are online and visible virtually forever, and unfavorable opinions can do a lot of damage to your reputation, whether entirely factual or not. God help you if people have the same shared negative experience!
One of the worst times to fail in communicating with the customer is when a business rolls out a promotion.
Everyone should be clear about the promotion: both the customers and the sales team. Never roll out a promotion without making certain that your sales team fully understands it. Secondly, make certain that the promotion is clear to the public. What good is a promotion if it is so convoluted that the public runs in the opposite direction to buy elsewhere?
Yesterday I tried to purchase a pair of eyeglasses from a large national eyeglass chain. A huge banner in the store window touted “Up to 50% off.” Well, I knew going in that, more than likely, the pair I was going to select were not going to be 50% off. However, to my surprise, the “sales supervisor” did show me a pair of frames at 50% off that I liked.
During the buying process, the shell game was rolled out. The entire process was more confusing than it should have been. Seriously. How difficult can it be to buy a pair of eye glasses? I want those frames with these optical lens features. What’s the price?
At time to run my credit card, the sales manager stepped in. It was only then that I learned that the glasses I was in the middle of purchasing were not on sale at 50% off. Not the frames, not the lenses. Seriously? I have a written quote from you in my hand, you have my credit card, and now you are going to change the price . . . again? After I’ve been waiting forty minutes for the sales supervisor to break free again?
I ended up walking out the door without purchasing a pair of glasses because the price changed on me a couple of times. It seems as though the company had a promotion running, but there was real or implied confusion about pricing and discounts . . .
Just after I arrived in the shop, another customer went off like bottle rockets on the fourth of July because he had been given a price only to have the “sales manager” retract it once the decision to buy had been made. The uproar in the store between the customer, his wife and the clerk left no doubt in the mind of the rest of us that the clerk had mislead the customer by not knowing what was on sale, and more importantly what wasn’t. Then the exact same selling situation and price switch happened to me.
That chain lost several customers yesterday, in a line of business that counts on repeat sales and referrals. But don’t we all count on repeats and referrals? Isn’t it easier to retain a customer than to go out and find a new one? Maybe not easier to retain one, but less costly? Isn’t a sale made through a third-party referral easier?
Can we talk?
It’s hard for a prospect to recover from a bad shopping experience. Someone’s going to lose credibility, and it’s likely to be the company. Customers are more likely to tell a great many people about their bad experience with our companies than they are to tell a few people about a positive experience. It’s just how it is.
Ten years ago, a customer with a bad experience likely told a co-worker or family member.
Today, with Twitter, Facebook, Blogging and all the other Social Media vehicles an unhappy customer can tell thousands and hundreds of thousands. Yes, we can certainly talk . . .
As a means of communication, Social Media may be a great way to advertise and promote ourselves and our companies, but it can also backfire on us. So pay attention to your communication in the other facets of your business, not just social media.
Focus, people, focus.