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I wanted to share a story with you all that happened recently. So many times when working in an industry, we forget to look at the best practices of other industries and how we can apply them to our chosen professions.
My wife recently got hooked on blenders and purchased one that, after six months, did not perform to her satisfaction. I was promptly informed that we needed to upgrade. I did not fully understand why we needed to do this and the product she selected was, naturally, considerably more expensive. Somehow, when I was home from traveling, we ended up at Bed Bath & Beyond “just to look” at the potential new blender. Upon reviewing it (and the price), I must say that I was looking for the quickest way out, or the possibility of deferring this purchase to a milestone event, such as a birthday or Mother’s Day.
As we were reviewing and discussing the price, a gentleman (A staff member named Tom) came by and told us that the blender of my wife’s choosing was an incredible product. I am not 100% sure if Tom was teed up by my wife to walk past at that exact moment but I engaged him in conversation and began to ask questions about the blender. His product knowledge was incredibly detailed and when I informed him that we had purchased a blender of inferior quality, he said, “No problem, just return it.” I informed him that my wife had purchased it six months ago, and he responded, “If you are not happy with the product, return it and we will exchange it for you.”
This gentleman was professional, knowledgeable and personable and, as I found out after we went home and collected the old blender, Tom was the store manager. We received a full refund on the old blender and a 20% discount off the new one. Unfortunately, I was not aware that I would be forced to drink thick green beverages on a daily basis with this new blender but I do not blame Tom for that.
The moral of the story is that the service and the branding were unbelievable and Bed Bath & Beyond earned a customer for life. It was great to see a manager fully engaged with a customer, proactively sharing product knowledge and exhibiting incredible customer service.
I have been on both sides of the equation in our industry as a vendor and as a dealer, and too many times we fall into our own foxholes. We generally are reactive to customers when we should be proactive. We lose the personal touch of talking with people face to face and we get tunnel vision behind our desks and phones.
I know buying a car is not the same as buying a blender. However, every purchase, especially in today’s economic climate, is an important purchase to a customer. At a past auto retailer, we offered a three-day return policy for any vehicle, new or used, with no questions asked. If memory serves me correctly, we returned one car with this policy. Over the same period of time, we sold more than 12,000 cars.
On the vendor side of the equation, we should be treating the customer the same way. We work in an industry that lives and breathes on customer service but, all too often, vendors are reactionary to their customers’ (the dealers’) needs. The game of duplicating leads and waiting to see if dealers ask for credits or if they will accept a 5% close rate from your product is deplorable. We should all take a page from Tom’s book and walk the floor, getting in touch with our customers and providing them with a quality experience instead of a quick, final sale.
All customers want to know is that you are sincerely grateful for the opportunity to have earned their business and hard-earned money. I assure you that automotive dealers are just like any other customer – the same as I was at Bed Bath & Beyond!
So, now is the time for all vendors to take a look in the mirror. When was the last time you proactively did something refreshing and sincere for your customer base?
Gives meaningful expression to the name "& Beyond". Interesting you make reference to BB&B. I, too, have noticed a new change on the floor of the store. Employees seem to have a new level of friendly training.
Connie-couldn't agree more! Thx for taking the time to comment and now vendors need to be looking "Beyond" the sale and supporting their Customer base!
Good article Simon. Having worked the dealership and vendor side as well this topic hits close to home.
At the CRM company which I currently serve dealerships we call every new salesperson or manager to get them set up in the system, offer initial training and make sure any questions are answered. We have found that employing this proactive approach has been essential in the success of our dealership partners with regards to CRM utilization.
Thank you for sharing your experience,