It has been said that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. The most crucial contact of all is the first one that the customer makes with your business, because if you lose the customer here, the customer is likely lost forever. This reminds me of a past experience with a local ice cream parlor. One summer afternoon around 3:00 p.m., I walked into the ice cream shop with my two young daughters. As we walked up to the appropriate counter, I noticed that we were the only people in the shop. Behind the counter was a young female employee. Being so occupied with talking to her boyfriend on the phone, she refused to immediately acknowledge us. Growing impatient, I made a couple of “clearing the throat sounds” to grab her attention. Finally, the young lady looked up and said, “You got a number?”
“I got a what?” I asked, trying to control my emotions and anger. “You got a number? You gotta have a number.” I replied, “Lady, my daughters and I are the only customers in the store! I don’t need a number. Can’t you see how ridiculous this is?” But she failed to see the absurdity and insisted that we take a number before being waited upon. By now, it was obvious that she was more interested in following procedures than helping the customer. I slowly went to the take-a-number machine, pulled number 37 and walked back to the young lady behind the counter. With that, she promptly went to her number counter and yelled out “Number 37!” I said to her, “Thanks for acknowledging us. We have now got your number and will never forget it!” With that last statement, my daughters and I quickly left the shop and drove down the road to one of her competitors and purchased our ice cream.
It is imperative that those having initial contact with customers do their utmost to help the customer and make him/her feel appreciated rather than treating the customer as an interruption. A local body shop repair company has up on their wall the following poster that displays this idea very well.
What is a Customer?
A Customer is the most important person ever in this office…in person or by mail.
A Customer is not dependent on us… we are dependent on him.
A Customer is not an interruption of our work … he is the purpose of it.
We are not doing a favor by serving him …he is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.
A Customer is not someone to argue or match wits with. Nobody ever won an argument with a customer.
A Customer is a person who brings us his wants. It is our job to handle them profitably to him and ourselves.
Today in the world of selling, customers seem to exchange their hard-earned money for only two things:
■ Good feelings
■ Solutions to problems
The success and failure of a sales professional depends on how many people are rewarded with those two things. Former IBM Vice-President Francis “Buck” Rodgers said, “The secret is to understand the customer’s problems and provide solutions so as to help the customer be profitable and feel good about the transaction.” If the customer buys solutions to problems and good feelings, then it is the seller’s duty to provide these two things to the buyer. Tom Hopkins, a well-known national sales trainer states that the buyer always buys first emotionally, and then second justifies it with logic. Most people don’t buy what they need, they buy what they want. Customers are more willing to buy when they are feeling good toward you and the product. If you create negative feelings, the customer will probably go away. People are more willing to spend money when they are feeling good. It takes a personal touch to keep customers coming back. In the book, How to Win Customers and Keep Them For Life, the author Dr. Michael LeBoeuf suggests six powerful keys for all sales professionals to refer to in providing the “right touch” to the buyer.
This book is one of the best for receive when interacting with customers in selling situations. Dr. LeBoeuf’s six keys are as follows:
■ Put yourself in the glad emotional state. Remember, people buy when they feel glad and feelings are contagious. Be the carrier and not the catcher. People like to do business when and where they feel good.
■ Never tell customers your problems. Ninety percent of them don’t care and the rest will actually be glad that you are as miserable as they are. Telling people your problems makes them sad and sad people only buy at funeral homes. If you want to run customers off, just keep telling them bad news.
■ Remember that customers buy for their reasons, not ours. To quote Bernard Shaw, “It is unwise to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” Every customer has a different emotional makeup and different problems that need to be solved. You win and keep customers by giving them what they want and not what you think they should want.
■ Act as if you are the only personal contact that the customer has with the company and behave as if the entire company’s image depends on you. That is what IBMs encourages its employees to do, and its record for outstanding customer service speaks for itself. When you are dealing with a customer, you are the company to that customer, and his/her decision to become or remain a customer depends on you.
■ Use both logic and emotion to win and keep customers. While the overwhelming majority of buying decisions are made emotionally, never underestimate the importance of logic. Emotion causes customers to buy, but logic keeps them sold and coming back. ■ Use the problem-solving approach to move customers from mad, sad, or scared to glad. According to psychologists, a person is capable of experiencing only four basic emotions. They are glad, sad, mad, and scared. Those are the only feelings we ever have, and at any given time we are in one of those four emotional states. Whenever a customer has a problem calmly ask him, “What is the situation now?” and “What would you like it to be?” Once you know the answers to these two questions, you can decide how to solve the problem. Even if you can’t solve the problem, letting him/her express it and taking the time to listen will make him/her feel better. If you pay attention to the customer, he/she will come back. If you pay attention only to the goods, he/she will not come back.