July 20th, 2012

This Friday our Frog is frustrated when a business fails to recognise that her needs as a customer are more important than an upsell.
A few weeks ago, I reluctantly ventured out to a local electronics superstore.  I say reluctantly because I absolutely hate going to certain shops.  Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m a confirmed internet shopper.  Indeed, I haven’t purchased a Christmas present offline since 1942.  There’s something quite soothing about being able to make a considered and informed purchase.
However, that changed a few weeks ago when I became the very proud owner of a colossal 3D TV.  The anticipation of being ‘almost’ elbowed in the face by a giant Norris from Corrie, led to an overwhelming urge to purchase a 3D Blu Ray DVD player as well…so I could be ‘almost’ run-thru’ by Jack Sparrow.  The exhilaration of it all neutralised my hesitation to such an extent that I braced myself for a flying visit to my local Curry’s.
Early signs upon arrival suggested this was going to be a positive visit.  The official “greeter” was congenial and the salesman made an effort with some genuinely interested small talk.  Furthermore, when I declined his offer of help, he respected my response, letting me know where I could find him if I needed assistance and then leaving me alone.   This has never happened to me before.  Usually, salespeople say they’ll leave me and then stalk me around the shop… surreptitiously peaking over laptops and jumping out from behind fridge freezers.  Yes, early signs indicated a very constructive experience indeed.
Now, it’s a universal truth that the availability of assistants is negatively proportionate to how much you want to speak to one.  So, when it came to the point that I needed help, it took me quite some time to locate someone…anyone…to talk to.  A very  bubbly saleswoman was eventually located in the Breville toaster and irons section.  She was chirpy and friendly – again everything looked good.
I’d visited the shop to purchase three things – a DVD player and two HDMI cables.  I’d researched it all online (naturally) and selected the DVD player before I’d arrived; but I required a little help with the cables as I had different requirements for each of them.  It was when I tried to convey these requirements to the saleswoman that my difficulties began.
I’d only half expressed my requirements – “I need two HDMI cab…” – when she ran off Usain Bolt-like, towards the in-store media centre, with me in hot pursuit.  When we arrived at the cable display, she then proceeded to peel the price tag off an HDMI package and blind me with random technological terms (flux capacitor, warp drive, tardis etc) intended to impress.
I pointed out that this cable didn’t meet my needs… she dragged the art of upsell into the equation to press the sale.  I re-clarified my requirements…she explained that this was the best cable on the market.  I pointed out that while the item she’d chosen might indeed be fantastic, it failed to meet the requirements of either cable I actually needed…she continued to tell me why I should purchase the one she had in her hand.
As I listened to fantastic tales of how the item had been reduced from 1.5 million pounds to £45, how beneficial it was to have a cable 13 times the length of what I actually needed and how luminous pink is what all the celebrities have these days, it dawned on me that my bubbly saleswoman was not in the least bit interested in what I actually needed and was only interested in getting me to spend more of my hard-earned cash.
After half an hour of battle, I left the store with two cables which met my needs and did not cost the earth; but still I left unhappy.  The exchange left me so overwhelmed and bamboozled that I wondered whether I’d just had a bargain… or just been had.  Despite the friendliness and approachability of the assistant, it was quite clear that her primary driver was how much money I spent before I left and spoke volumes for the underlying message from the company…we care more about our sales than our customers.
The irony is that if that initial focus had been on meeting my needs, I possibly would have spent more money – I had my eyes on a rather wonderful (and very expensive) surround sound system.  A slight shift in focus to something like “equipping the customer to maximise the quality and enjoyment of their viewing experience”, would have resulted in a far happier customer.  And, as we all know, happy customers are returning customers who spend more.
So, my question to you today is:  what is the primary focus of your business?  A one-off big sale…or a loyal, lifetime customer?


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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