I’ve had the pleasure of making some big purchases recently and have come across both good and bad sales and service in the process. The products in question were a kitchen and new flooring. Both come with a degree of risk for the seller in as much as there is an element of the unknown – what state will the sub-floor be in when the existing flooring is removed, will the old kitchen come out without pulling plaster off the wall or will we find some, yet unseen, horror when we start work?
I’m under no illusion, it’s a tricky balance between telling a potential customer all they need to know and scaring them half to death with too much information. You run the risk of putting a potential customer off by giving them every horror story or what-if scenario. Equally though there is nothing more damaging long-term than a customer that thinks they have been cheated or not told the whole story.
It’s important to try to get to know your potential customer and to judge how much information they want; some customer want every detail, others prefer edited highlights. Which ever type of prospect they turn out to be, it’s important that you are clear and straight with them. If, after they have signed on the dotted line, you hear yourself muttering any of the following, you know you’ve got a problem:
- It’s in the terms and conditions: small print is there for a reason and it should protect both you and the buyer. If anything really significant is ‘hidden’ in your terms and conditions, point it out to your potential customer
- My colleague should have told you that: if you have different people dealing with sales and say surveying or installation, make sure everyone is clear where their responsibility lies.The customer doesn’t care who’s job it is and they will judge your company based on all the people they come in contact with, not just the sales people
- Lots of our customers complain about that: whether it’s an extra charge for accepting a credit card or something the customer thought was included that you later tell them is extra, if your customers are telling you they don’t like it, do something about it. I’m not saying you have to waive charges, but just make it clear from the outset so that complaints don’t arise later down the line
- That’s not our job: this is particularly irksome for a customer when they perceive that it should logically be part of the job. I use the example of kitchen installation; if you buy kitchen cabinets and appliance from your kitchen installer would you expect their installation quote to include electrics and plumbing so that those appliances that they have designed into your kitchen, actually work? I suspect most laypeople would answer ‘yes’. Telling your customer that ‘kitchen installation’ only includes the cabinets is likely to leave them with a bad taste. Again, make it crystal clear what you mean, don’t use jargon that is likely to confuse, and you won’t have that problem to deal with.
It’s simple really. Put yourself in your customers shoes – what do they know, what do they expect from you and how does this match up to what you are giving them. For sure, not all your competitors will be ‘doing it right’ and you may lose a few sales on price but, rest assured, in the long run the good reputation you will build by doing things properly will build a sustainable business.