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Keep Your Customer In The Loop

communication skills sales training

My son first asked for a cell phone when he was 7 years old. That's too young as far as I'm concerned. He wanted it for his 8th birthday but even so, I was not ready to get him a phone at that age.

"At what age will you be ready to get me a phone?" he asked. (Yes, I teach my kids to negotiate and move the sales process forward. They're my kids after all). So without thinking I said, "10. 10 years old would be about right" and I forgot all about it.

Now as any parent can tell you, the years go by quickly, and before I knew it he was turning 10. "What would you like for your birthday" I asked him. And without missing a beat he said "Well you told me you'd get me a phone for my 10th birthday".

I Was Shocked

How did he remember that? But he did. And as I teach my kids, we must always honor our promises. So here we are. I've placed an order for his new iPhone. And I was pretty excited going into the store to pick it up today. Happy for him. Planning on surprising him with it when I got home. 

This was the emotional state I was in when I walked into the store. When I walked out without a phone a half hour later I was in a decidedly less celebratory mood.

So What Happened?

The customer service rep at the front counter greeted my professionally, took my name, went in the back to retrieve my phone AND THEN NEVER RETURNED.

After standing at the counter for about 10 minutes I started to wonder what was going on.

After 15 minutes I waved down another sales associate and told her how long I'd been standing there without any communication, update, or explanation as to why.

I literally didn't know if he was still looking for my son's new iPhone or if he'd gone to lunch, or if he was trapped under a pile of boxes and unable to call for help. So she went to check on it.

After another 10 minutes the original sales rep reemerged without any explanation or acknowledgment of what was going on and simply said "I'm looking for it, bear with me" and then disappeared in the back again.

Hold On Now. Stop The Presses. Let's Back Up A Second.

Let's review. I came into the store in a celebratory mood. Excited to make a purchase that could have a total lifetime value of many thousands of dollars to that company. Was then kept waiting for 25 minutes with no explanation as to why. And then asked to "bear with" the person who was ostensibly assisting me to complete this purchase.

Never Ask A Customer To Bear With You

The phrase "bear with me" puts the onus of responsibility on the customer. It's the customer who's being asked to make an accommodation for the sales professional who's job it is to close the sale and complete the transaction to the satisfaction of that customer. Not the other way around. It's not the customer's job to do anything for the sales rep. The sales rep serves the customer. Asking the customer to bear with you reverses that dynamic.

Why should I, the customer, bear with with person who has left me standing there for 25 minutes with no explanation? Again, why should I? What's to stop me from just walking out and giving my business to a competitor?

My time wasn't being valued and I didn't even know why. I felt taken for granted.

I was not a happy customer. Not because I had to wait but because of the lack of communication. And that's the real problem here. 

Would Could He Have Done Differently?

He could have kept me in the loop. He could have, and should have, addressed the situation head on and explained what the problem was, what he was doing to solve it, and given me the option to either wait or to leave and come back later.

In point of fact, I did leave after about 40 minutes. I wrote down my name and number and asked the other rep to have him call me when he found my order.

And I have no idea if that will even happen. I'm still waiting for that call as I write this now.

So the next time you're having an issue with an order remember, good communication is the key to customer satisfaction. We'll forgive a lot if spoken to in an honest, transparent, timely manner. But if you attempt to hide the issue or deal with it while keeping the customer in the dark it breaks rapport and threatens to undermine the entire relationship.

So talk about it. Explain the issue. You don't need to apologize or make excuses or false assurances. Just keep your customer in the loop and let them know what's going on. More often than not they'll understand and appreciate that you communicated it with them upfront.

I'm still waiting for that iPhone by the way. My son's birthday is in a week. There's more than one company that carries it. Tick tock.

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