Don’t make the sale hard

When you have a customer asking to buy from you, particularly when you haven't had to do any (or minimal) sales activity to attract that potential customer, the golden rule is to make it easy for them to complete the purchase. A customer who is ready to buy and needs no advertising or sales effort is surely a prize customer? Not always, as my recent experience illustrates

I was trying to organise a flat in London (as well as my home) as I was spending so much time in London, and became fed up of staying in hotels. A number of letting agents were contacted with a brief and a number of viewings were arranged. A letting agent informed me that he had a flat which fitted almost exactly my requirements, where as all the other flats offered involved compromise somewhere.

So, ideal flat, right price, and an agent to handle to process, great! However, the journey to obtaining my dream flat was far from smooth. The agent failed to understand me as a customer and instead of making it easy to do business with him, he made it extremely difficult, and hugely disruptive, impacting on my travel/accommodation arrangements and making it extremely difficult to plan my move.

If they had got their act together, I would have moved in weeks earlier and they would have gained an extra month's rent, but instead the property sat empty.

This experience provides us with a timely reminder of the following golden rules:

1.  Understand the process and its impact on the customer experience

What they failed to do was to explain everything that needed to happen in order for me to move in. Instead, I had no explanation of requirements like references, inventory company visits. They failed to manage my expectation of the entire process, resulting in some nasty surprises, delays and extra time, effort and cost purely because the 'process' wasn't explained. So the rule is: don't assume the customer knows what needs to happen.

2.  Don't sell the customer one thing and then deliver something else

Be honest. If you don't know, find out. Don't bluff, as the customer is likely to find out and then start to question your integrity and knowledge. Then trust and confidence will drop.

3.  Understand your customer and adapt your sales/service to match

I was an easy sale for the agent, yet they made life extremely difficult. The cost of sale could have been extremely low in this instance, mainly a paperwork transaction and yet they made it very complicated. Don't over complicate things for your customers - unless regulatory requirements stipulate otherwise, eg when purchasing financial products. Make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. And don't try to distract them if they are insistent, the customer will just feel that you are trying to cross sell/upsell something else.

4.  Don't rely on the product alone

If the customer really wants the product and it's unique to your business, how far can you rely on just the product? A product can be copied/adapted by one of your competitors and they could deliver it with exceptional customer service. Once they've done that, it's highly likely that customers will switch, because they have the choice.

It's an interesting dilemma for customers - emotional versus rational buying decisions. When they are emotionally (and perhaps rationally) attached to the product, but the service is poor, how far will they take it before they decide to sacrifice the product they really want?

If you do have an exclusive product that the customer wants, yet your service is not good - whilst you may achieve the sales for that one product, you are not building a long standing customer relationship. That customer is unlikely to be loyal and, if you have a range of products, they are unlikely to buy other products. And, perhaps most importantly, they will not advocate you to others.

When considering the customer experience in relation to an emphasis on product vs service, think about whether it is really sustainable to operate in a way where the only reason a customer buys is because they really want that product? And in the current climate of delivering service cost effectively, why incur extra cost whilst providing a poor customer experience?

If you would like to read more related information, see: