November 19, 2013

Customer Service: How can you make the wait profitable?

In last week’s post, we looked at communicating with the customer during their wait in long holiday lines.  Communication can make the wait not only bearable for the customer but profitable for both them and the product or service provider.  How so?  Well, besides letting your customer know you care about them and their time, you can soft-sell additional or substitute products while they wait.  In this post, we will examine ways to direct your customer’s attention away from watching the clock while they wait and towards other items that they may be interested in.  (Remember last time, we suggested you skip to your type of business to save reading time and spend more time on planning what you can implement.  Do that again.)

Register or counter:  Ever been to Frye’s Electronics?  This is one store that knows how to handle their customer base!  During the holiday season, they out up walls to create a single winding line for their customers to await the next open register.  It seems most of their customers do not mind the lines because the line appears to be gadget heaven!  There are toys for the kids to try, devices and accessories for the adults and teens to peruse, even snacks you can nibble on and then pay for when you finally get to the register.  People purchase additional things that seem “cool” or “neat” that they played with while waiting in line.  Hey customers typically reach the end of the line and will be at a register within seconds they and barely remember when they got in line. 

Many retailers know to stock some “impulse” items near the register.  How many know to take advantage of the waiting area by making it multiple displays.  This year, instead of ropes to mark waiting lines, think what products can we display or services can we market instead?  Having a TV for customers to watch like at amusement parks may seem like a good distraction, but how many people are actually entertained by it and can they hear? (If you go with a TV or movie, use closed caption so watchers have to watch to keep up.)  Instead look for ways the customer can distract themselves.  Remember to keep them informed of their wait time throughout the process!

Phone customer service:  Ok, there is no way to provide distractions to people in the line other than the methods posted in the last chapter.  Instead concentrate on making the final call a wonderful experience for them.  Start by thanking them for their call and waiting for you, but you do not have to apologize for their wait time if you kept them informed with recordings. 

If the item they want is out of stock – do not tell them they should have called sooner!  Instead tell them that the item they wanted was very popular (this is a subtle way of letting them know they originally made a very good product choice so they feel better about it being out-of-stock without your having to say you are sorry) and the item is no longer available at this time.  Then offer to put them on a wait list for notification when it comes in stock, offer to place a back-order for them to automatically be filled when the item becomes available, let them know if you have the item available in an alternative color, or suggest another similar item that is still in stock.  If they choose any of these options, your chance of keeping the customer and selling them future products increases.  If you just tell them most of the items they called for are already sold, then you will lose the sale to a competitor and the customer most likely will not come back to you in the future.

On-line store:  I covered error messages in the previous post which is the most frustrating part of ordering on-line for the customer.  The second most frustrating thing about ordering on-line is finding out the item you wanted is no longer in stock.  A possible response for out-of-stock items was in the previous post.

Another thing you can do to prevent the customer from going to a competitor for your products is to suggest alternative items to the one that is out-of-stock.  (This take a little more coding, check you store system to be sure it is an option.)  These alternatives could be the same item in another color or a similar item that has more or less options that the first.  Be sure to have a note above the suggestions or in center of page pointing to the suggestions that state why they customer may want to choose one of the options instead of leaving your store.  Suggestion should range in price from slightly lower than the desired item to slightly more.  If a new item is on sale for a special price or requires a coupon code for discount – be sure to let the customer know that too.  Often, they will be grateful for the special offer rather than being angry at not getting what they wanted. 

If you have any suggestions for helping the customer “endure the wait” that may have been missed in these two posts, please share.  You may share using the post comments.

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