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What You Do Speaks so Loud

"Walking the walk" with customer service

Just last week, I was driving through town with my twin sons. I approached an intersection for which the cross traffic had a stop sign. On the street to my right, was a truck that did one of those "slow roll through" type of stops. In addition to his failure to stop, he turned into the lane I was in, forcing me to hit the breaks. From there, he sped off well in excess of the speed limit.

The point of this story? The equipment in the back of this truck indicated he was a pool service provider. The magnetic sign on the side of the truck told me the name, address, and phone number of the store. Now, I know exactly whose driving that I am unhappy with. My wife refers to this type of incident as an omen, for we had been talking about my writing this article and the subject matter. "There is the perfect example of what you want to say", she said. "What you do speaks so loud, I cannot hear what you say". Examples of this situation are not limited to our industry.

With the laptop I recently purchased, there was an error with the billing. When I called the store to speak to the sales rep, their phone system told me they were busy waiting on customers and would call me back. (They never did.) When I called their 800 number and pressed the necessary buttons, I was told there was a wait of 30 minutes. I hung up, redialed and then pressed the button that indicated I was interested in purchasing a new computer. Someone answered within 90 seconds. This tells me about where they place their values. What do you think?

Customers don't really need to be told we offer great customer service, or that we are glad to special order something for them. Or that we make house calls to help determine the problem with their pool or spa. Or any number of other things we can do for them. What they need is to experience it. If we make sure they have that type of experience, they will spend an unbelievable amount of time telling other pool and spa owners about how wonderful their favorite pool and spa store really is. I watched as one store owner explained the sign posted on his cash register. It stated that he would not take any checks from a certain regional bank. "We took a check to them, and they wouldn't cash it. THEY gave over $350 worth of merchandise to that customer."

What actually happened was that the store became concerned about a check they had taken. So, they drove to the bank and asked them to cash it. For whatever reason, the bank refused to cash it. As the store processed the check through their own bank, the check failed to clear and was returned. Now the store is mad at that bank and has decided all of the customers who use that bank should pay for his failure to use a check clearing service.

Where else do we often fail to take care of customers? How about merchandise that is being returned? Realistically, what percentage of customers do we think are actually out to beat us out of some merchandise or service? Maybe, one percent? For every one hundred sales we make, there would be only one person who has an intent of dishonesty. There is no way any merchant could determine ahead of time who that one person is. Yet, when something is returned, we require the customer to go through numerous "hoops and forms", before we resolve the situation with an exchange, additional visit, or refund.

How about special orders? Is a special order a problem for us, or in reality is the customer telling us, "I would rather do business with you than go looking for the merchandise elsewhere? Can you help keep me out of your competitor's store?"

Understandably, there will always be occasions of a special order when the customer fails to return to pick up the item. It is a part of doing business. But instead of a sign listing all of the rules of special ordering, why not one small sign which states we offer a 10% discount on special orders that are prepaid?

House calls provide an excellent opportunity to invest in a long term customer. When a customer is a weekly service customer, or one needing a one time visit, most of the rest of the retail industry does not have this unique opportunity to visit with the customer one on one. Rarely do other retail industries have the chance to see the home of the customer; to see all of the products the customer keeps on hand. (Including the products they have purchased from your competition.)

With a house call, we can provide sample products for a customer. We increase our chances of add on sales because the customer is in a most comfortable surrounding. The last opportunity of letting our actions speak louder than words comes in the utilization of all those names and addresses we have on file. When we advertise in the newspaper or on radio or TV, we are speaking to the general public; including those who do not have a pool or spa and thus cannot be our customer.

Yet, every name in our database is a pool or spa owner. When we think how infrequently we have received a call from a store we personally do business with, think about what our customer hears when this scenario occurs.

One store we spoke to has a policy of assigning phone calls to each new employee. The conversation begins with the employee introducing themselves as a new member of the staff.

The employee explains that they have researched the customer files, and noticed this customer has not purchased anything in the past six months. They ask how the products they previously purchased have worked for them, and if there is anything they can do to help them.

The retailer reports the customer's usual statement is, "I just haven't needed anything lately." Of course we know in this industry that is impossible.

Often, the customer visits the store within a few days of having received the phone call. What has happened is that the customer has forgotten the retailer, but has responded to the invitation to return.

There is an old saying of, "A dog with a full food bowl does not go looking at other food bowls." For you see, what you do speaks so loud, I cannot hear what you say.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179