When you have a customer asking to buy from you, particularly when you haven't had to do much sales activity to attract them, the golden rule is to make it easy for them to complete the purchase. A customer who is ready to buy is surely a prize customer? Not always, as this personal experience illustrates
"I was trying to organise a flat in London, as I was spending so much time there and became fed up of staying in hotels. A number of letting agents were contacted with a brief, and viewings were arranged. A letting agent informed me that he had a flat which fitted my requirements almost exactly, whereas all the other flats offered involved compromise.
"So, ideal flat, right price, and an agent to handle the 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 disruptive, impacting on my travel/accommodation arrangements and making it hard 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. I didn't understand the requirements such as references, inventory company visits and so on.
"They failed to manage my expectations effectively, 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 tell the customer one thing and then deliver something else
"Be honest. If you don't know the answer to a query, admit it and then find out. Don't bluff, as the customer is likely to find out and will 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 overcomplicate things for your customers - unless regulatory requirements are involved, 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 - the customer will just feel that you are trying to cross-sell or up-sell 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 much will they put up with before they decide to abandon the purchase?
"If you do have an exclusive product that the customer wants, yet your service is not good - whilst you may achieve the sale for that one product, you are not building a long-standing customer relationship.
"Think about whether it is really sustainable to operate in a way where the customer buys in spite of your service, not because of it."