In my last blog posting, I detailed a recent visit to Best Buy, one that was perfect right up until it was time to seal the deal. . . My friend and I walked away empty-handed after spending a couple of hours fully engaged with store associates. The posting was picked up by Retail Wire and the comments and insights were a fantastic extension of the conversation (Look for choice cuts in Chapter Three).
I’ll address that specific foregone opportunity in a minute but first, the reason I’m bringing all of this up to begin with. All the retail-speak about “customer centricity,” “shopper marketing,” “connecting her world,” etc., leaves out one important point: if a customer leaves the store, the chance of nailing the sale (particularly a high-dollar sale) DECREASES exponentially, and that has never been truer than right now. Yet, the current assumption is the opposite: if retailers arm shoppers with information via corporate websites, proactively participate and trouble-shoot by leveraging social networks, and offer fair prices on trusted brands—and then provide helpful and non-pushy guidance in the store—everything will take care of itself. The assumption is that retailers will have built trust and that trust will lead to sales.
But does trust alone inspire action? No. The store may not be the beginning of your shopper’s process, and it may not be her intention to make it the end . . . but these days, it needs to be because once you set your shopper loose from your controlled store environment, she’s off into the wild blue yonder where any number of factors can derail all of that touchy-feely goodwill you’ve built up, including:
- The NEXT round of Internet research—the one where she’s armed with model numbers, delivery fees, incentives and (as was the case at Best Buy) actual written break-downs. This round will be even more productive than the one before she went to the store. Smart girl!
- “Helpful” friends – That flirty neighbor who’ll be the first to tell you that you’re crazy for paying for installation when he could just come over after work with his tool box and “slap that puppy up on the wall;” or the gal pal who can’t imagine ever paying “that much” for fill in the blank, especially when you can just (go on such and such website, hit her favorite scratch and dent store . . .) and get a REAL deal.
- Familiar surroundings – Back home, things may not be perfect, but the work-arounds for anything that isn’t have already been established. Complacency sets in.
All of this can add up to a big ol’ case of “My God, what was I THINKING?” And if there’s anything worse than not establishing trust in the first place, it’s establishing it and then breaking it by making your potential customer feel like an idiot.
I can think of three recent fiascos, including the Best Buy story, where I had both the intention to buy and a complete trust in the process and the people, but still I left the store empty-handed. Another was a trip to Sears during which I would have bought a high-end range on the spot. In that case, the salesman SHOULDN’T have told me about the incentive . . . the one that I could claim if I came back on Sunday as his special guest for “friends and family” night. All I had to do was drive back. On a Sunday night. With the invitation in hand . . . are you kidding me? The message was “You can have the incentive if you work for it and do it on our terms.” Fuggetaboutit! Still haven’t bought a range but was absolutely ready to do it that day (mine still works . . . and the holidays are coming up and . . .)
Back to Best Buy, and speaking of trust, ironically, that is the acronym that Best Buy now uses for its latest and greatest in-store sales process (according to one of Best Buy’s store managers with whom my business partner had a long conversation recently). At Best Buy, TRUST is:
T = Thanks for coming
R = Respect
U = Understand (listen)
S = Solve
T = Thanks again
Based on my experience at Best Buy, I would change the process to “TRUSST.” The first three elements are great and Best Buy nailed ’em. From there, I’d add another step and throw in a few qualifiers:
T = Thanks for coming
R = Respect
U = Understand (listen)
S = Solve. I'd add "seamlessly" to the solve stage. Additional ideas . . .
- Everything gets delivered and installed in one trip (or, if that moves the dates out, let the customer choose the multiple delivery option).
- Put a stake in the ground assessing the average installation and quote a “not to exceed.” This could be the upper end of the “range” quoted to my friend during the Best Buy visit but “not to exceed” has a nice ring to it.
- With female shoppers, present furniture/display options earlier in the process and keep catalogs of additional options at the ready for choices that could be delivered and assembled with other components.
S = Sell! Ah, the critical miss and my suggested add.
- Don’t let the shopper leave the store without buying, or at minimum, without having a defined next step
- Arm associates with on-the-spot incentives that may be leveraged based on the number of components to the sale, the dollar amount or other criteria. When asked, the Blue Shirt we worked with said he could not budge at all since the items we were considering were the “latest technology.” So, offering a 5% discount, a break on installation, throwing in a cable . . . not an option for a $5,000 sale? I guarantee that a small incentive would have closed this sale despite the other hiccups. Combined with them, the lack of wiggle room was a killer.
- If the sale cannot be nailed, identify the next step for the shopper, and get it on the books. Book the installation estimate trip while they are there, and make it that week based on the SHOPPER’S availability. At Best Buy, leaving the store without a next step actually felt weird. After that amount of time, my friend needed something to say “yes” to, not something to think about.
T= Thanks again. Fine, but I'd add some kind of validation piece . . . Complimenting them on the choice(s), calling them by name one last time (BTW, the Blue Shirt at Best Buy never asked for my friend's name) . . .
Finally, I have a sneaking suspicion that non-commissioned sales played at least a small role in the story. What was the Bllue Shirt's incentive to nail the sale? A commissioned salesperson's heart would have been racing along with ours and that alone would have accelerated the vibe and created urgency, I think.
In general, my take is that retail sales processes have gotten too soft and open-ended . . . I say that as a woman, and one who does not like to be “hard sold” (though, as I’m fond of pointing out, I actually LOVE being “well-sold”). A great customer experience doesn’t have to come at the expense of nailing the sale . . . Does it?
What would you add to the TRUST (or TRUSST) process? Does it hit the mark? Any tales of lost sales you'd like to share?
Want to explore what these and other retail dynamics mean to your retail positioning? Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org