6 Critical Lessons Bike Shopping Taught Me About Customer Service
When we start talking about marketing efforts, we tend to focus on the obvious things such as websites, brochures, ads, and social media. However, do you know what the REAL core of your marketing efforts is?
Customer service. That’s right, it’s that face-to-face, phone-to-phone, and email-to-email interaction between you and your customer that is the actual core of your marketing efforts. If you aren’t succeeding here, all of the marketing and promotion in the world won’t grow your business.
Over the past few weeks, I went through the process of purchasing a new bike. As someone who has been a mountain biker for years, switching to a road bike required a lot of research and education. Not to mention, upgrading to a “big girl” road machine from my old Toys”R”Us bike would require a financial investment that took several years of saving. Through this process, I visited several bike shops and also had to contact several auto shops to get a rack system for my vehicle. For this discussion I want to use examples from Awesome Shop, Super Whack, Lamewad Wheels, and Bogus Business (real names concealed for their protection, of course).
I had some wonderful experiences and some horrible ones, and through them all I noticed 6 critical customer service lessons that I think a lot of business owners overlook, to their demise. Here they are…
1. Some purchases require education and patience. If you provide both for your customer, you will be rewarded.
Make the process a learning experience. Buyer’s remorse goes away when the customer has an understanding of the value of what they’re investing in. When a customer feels like they’ve made the right choice, they feel better about the process as a whole AND feel more trusting that THEY made the right decision, not that a salesman “got” them.
One thing that stood out to me with Awesome Shop is that the first salesman I met answered my questions, educated me a bit, made a few recommendations, and then said this:
“Well think about it, go home and do some more research and come back and see us.”
When was the last time a salesman sent you away empty handed? I was quite appreciative of this because it showed that he cared more about me making an educated decision than selling me a product on that day. Honestly, I don’t think he would have sold me a bike on that day if I wanted it.
2. Understand that the bigger the purchase, the longer the process.
The more money the customer is spending, the longer it typically takes them to make a decision. It doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t serious. When you have more invested, you rarely move on impulse. Embrace the process and help the customer through it.
3. Just because they don’t buy today, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to buy.
Have you ever been in a store and the salesman is doing everything he can to sell you something, anything, right that moment? And when you get ready to leave empty handed, they get an attitude with you? Have you ever received a phone call from a solicitor who just insisted on selling you that whatchamacallit at all costs? And when you denied them 17 times they finally expressed their anger with you and hung up in the middle of your sentence? Now, consider how many of those establishments you returned to and spent your money there. I’ll bet the answer is zero.
Sometimes the customer is just one check in the mailbox away from making a purchase. In my case, I started my research well in advance of when I would actually be able to purchase. Never assume what a customer is thinking. Focus on conveying your value, so that when they are ready, you’re the one they buy from.
4. If you don’t care, the customer won’t either.
I can’t stress this one enough—you have to care about customer service. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling or how awesome you think it is. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re the cheapest or the best in town. If the customer feels like you couldn’t care less whether or not they buy, guess what? They won’t either, and they will take their business elsewhere.
When I visited Lamewad Wheels, I encountered a saleswoman who couldn’t care less about what I bought or if it was what I really needed. All of my questions were met with “This one’s good…so is this one. It costs $X. Do you want it?” She obviously didn’t care. Therefore, neither did I, so I left and never came back.
5. Word of mouth can be lucrative, or lethal.
People talk about their experiences, ESPECIALLY the bad ones. Good word of mouth can make you, and bad word of mouth can break you. This is especially critical in businesses that rely heavily on referrals. People talk, and it matters what they’re saying about you.
For example, sometimes I don’t have time to search for a vendor, so I turn to a trusted colleague for a recommendation of a resource they’ve used before and had a good experience with (someone who’s already been “vetted”). If you’re the first one that pops into their mind when I need a referral, then you’ve just landed a sale.
On the other hand, this can also work against you. A memorable experience that is negative can be a detriment. I am one of those who will warn others not to use a business if I had a bad experience. Remember, it only takes one bad experience with the right customer to poison your reputation.
Speaking of referrals, if you were referred by someone, the worst thing you can do is make them regret their decision. Now you’re not only affecting your reputation, but the referrer’s as well.
6. People buy from those whom they know, like, and trust.
If you’re honest, attentive, and take the time to educate the customer, they feel less like they’re being “sold” and more like you’re actually helping them figure out how to meet their need. You gain their trust. One thing I appreciated about Awesome Shop was that they always made recommendations based on what was best for me, regardless of cost. If it was an unnecessary expense, they said so. If it cost $150 more but was really a critical investment, they explained why it was worth it. They respected my budget and never tried to sell me beyond what I could afford.
What are your thoughts? Have you had a particularly memorable (positive or negative) customer experience? How did you react to it? What was your response afterwards? Tell me about it in the comments.
Tune in next month when I’ll share 6 MORE Critical Lessons this experience taught me.