I know what it's like to be invisible
- 10 July, 1996 14:20
It's an uneasy feeling being invisible. You can see everyone and everything yet no-one sees you or what you do; it's like being in a really bad B grade science-fiction movie. Actually it's more like visiting a growing number of reseller premises these days.
You'd think they were ignoring you on purpose, hoping that you'd feel unwanted. In fact, it's almost as though some resellers wake up in the morning with the intention of alienating as many punters as possible. I hate being ignored, especially when I go out of my way to visit a store. Worse still, however, is the argumentative and rude salesperson who is just not willing to go that little bit extra.
Customers need to feel like they belong; they need to feel comfortable, assured that they are being given the best possible service. These days, punters are a whole lot smarter, they need cajoling and mollycoddling. Let's face it: when they buy, they shop, shop, shop till they get the best price and service. Resellers need a point of difference and that may well be good service. Some say that it costs almost $100 to get each client merely to walk in the door, taking into account advertising and all the overheads. Yet you'd be surprised just how many welcome their prospective clients with less than open arms.
It used to be that one would have to visit a government department to get bad service; however, now that public servants are a lot more accountable, it appears they offer better service than many private companies (well, actually, I can still name a few lousy departments, but that's another story).
It takes a lot more than just a wholesaler's price list and an advertisement in the local paper to run a successful computer sales/service operation. There's little doubt that when it comes to bits 'n' bytes most resellers are as savvy as the best of them; however, their interpersonal skills sometimes leave a lot to be desired.
To make any business work you need competent staff. Training goes a long way to making it happen and it really is an absolute necessity. I'm not talking about the need for owners and salespeople to have a good knowledge of accounting and cash flow. I'm not even going to mention that they should have some training in small business management. What I am saying is, they really need a good attitude towards clients, and that means some sort of sales training. There are any number of firms that offer this type of service, either as a customised course in the client"s premises or off site in a classroom type of environment. The cost you ask? Well, it's a lot cheaper than losing a good portion of your business through lousy service.
Here's a great example of what I mean by bad attitude. I swear I wasn't involved, but I did see it happen!
A reseller's customer telephoned one day to say that the software she had bought was unsuitable for the job she had intended it for. The store owner (let's call him Basil) was already having a bad day, he'd just been subjected to three lots of customers wanting ultracompetitive quotes that he couldn't match.
Upon hearing that the lady wanted a refund, he stood firm and repeated his statement several times: "I'm sorry madam, we do not accept software for return."
Up to this point Basil could have turned the situation around and asked the lady to call in and discuss her needs. Perhaps he may have even been able to sell her up to a more expensive and more suitable software package . . . but he didn't . . . he went on to say: "We don't refund software because some people copy the programs and then return them to us; that's called pirating and it's illegal." It was at this point that I could clearly hear the lady shouting, even though I was at the other end of the store. I won't tell you what she said, but it was colourful to say the least.
With this Basil gave in and explained that he was willing to offer an exchange if she brought the package back in good condition.
About 15 minutes later Basil was called out from morning tea to personally attend to a client asking for him. Basil stormed into the showroom and walked straight up to the familiar lady waiting. Without as much as an introduction, he demanded to see the package. At hearing this, the lady tightly hugged the paper bag she was clutching and gave Basil an uneasy look. He smelt a rat!
Basil was not going to take this from anyone, let alone a possible pirate, and with one swoop he snatched the bag from her and pulled out the contents. "Oh God," he said under his breath. There he stood, open mouthed, clutching a "super large" sized box of Panty Shields!
It would have been a tough call if you wanted to bet on who was redder in the face. Basil drew a deep breath and started to ask "Who are you . . . ?" when he realised that she was the lady who bought a system from him the previous week. Suddenly it hit him, he had asked her to call by anytime for the mouse mat he'd forgotten to supply her.
Basil never saw that lady again, nor anyone else from the local High School, of which she was the Head Mistress.
Next time a prospective client comes to the door, make them feel like they're wanted; after all, they are needed, right? And don't ever treat them like they're invisible, it may be the last time you don't see them.
Savvy Advertising and Marketing
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