BrainTrust Query: After ‘I’ll Take It.’

Discussion
Sep 23, 2009
Doug Fleener

Commentary by Doug Fleener, President and Managing Partner, Dynamic Experiences Group

One of the differences between superstar retail associates and all the others is what happens after the customer says, "I’ll take it." The successful associate knows there are still plenty of opportunities to both enhance the customer’s shopping experience and maximize the sale.

These are a few of the attitudes they have and/or actions they can take:

1. Whether you call it enhancing the sale, or adding-on to the sale, successful retail associates know that they just made the first sale, not the sale. We’re doing customers a disservice if we don’t suggest additional products that are appropriate with the product they are purchasing or otherwise meet their needs. As you’ve read here before, think of it as an all-you-can-eat buffet and don’t stop until the customer tells you he’s full.

2. Reinforce the customer’s purchase. So often a customer’s first thought after announcing that she’ll buy something is to start doubting her decision. She’ll begin to tell herself that maybe she shouldn’t be buying it now or that should shop around a little more. Your role is to put the customer at ease by complimenting her purchase and congratulating her. This is easy to do if you’ve done due diligence in identifying what it is your customer needs.

3. Offer the appropriate services and needed accessories. I’m always amazed how many retailers have nice added services like free gift-wrapping in place but their employees never offer it to customers. Even worse is when associates act put-upon when a customer requests it. We can easily disappoint a customer once they return home when they realize that we failed to gift-wrap their purchase or remind them to purchase needed products like batteries, cables, etc. It’s our job to ask the customer, not the other way around.

4. Remain focused on the customer until he/she has left the store. If you’re checking the customer out it is important that you not let other employees and customers distract you. The other day I was making a purchase and the cashier was actually reading a text message on his phone. I thought about asking him his phone number so I could send him a text message to put down the phone and do his job.

5. Smile and thank the customer. It should go without saying but all too often it goes unsmiled and unsaid.

While so much of these are good common sense, the fact is that they’re not commonly done and that’s the difference between the superstars and the rest.

Discussion Questions: What are some ways sales associates can fully maximize the shopping experience after the sale is completed? What do you think of the suggestions in the article? What are some common shortcomings with associates when closing a sale?

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14 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: After ‘I’ll Take It.’"


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Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 7 months ago
The biggest opportunity is the after sale phase. It is really commonplace for associates to shut off the charm once the item has been paid for. I can recall recently where a Home Depot customer made a huge bathroom fixtures purchase and was left standing out at the curb in the rain while waiting for someone to help him load his truck. I went up and asked the gentleman what he was waiting for and he said ‘someone to help me load my car and I’ve been standing here for half an hour.’ I remember seeing this customer in the aisle with 2 associates helping him (yes, things are changing at HD but not that much). I know payroll and scheduling is tight but we don’t want to turn away our biggest fish. When I write training for retail associates, I like to use terms like concierge service, after sales phase, customer retention and basket building. The phrase ‘I’ll take it’ is only the beginning of the money part of the sales transaction and it… Read more »
Phil Rubin
Guest
11 years 7 months ago
After customers have ostensibly made up their minds on purchases is the area of biggest opportunity. Still. Reinforcement is always critical but even more basic is simply smiling and saying thank you. The combination of those words and the visual cues go along way in terms of emotional reinforcement. They are also, of course, basic good manners. Yet it is constantly amazing how many people in retail forget such a basic action…whether it’s Starbucks or your local bank branch or even Neiman Marcus. Two other ideas not mentioned above include follow up after the customer has left the store. (Yes another ambitious idea!). At one point, Macy’s made thank you notes to customers mandatory for associates. This is something that is always the nicest personal touch, especially when hand written. Depending on the purchase, there are many other tools for purchasers to see the benefit of reinforcement, some provided by merchants and some provided by the manufacturers. These tools include social media (if you like our product X, become a fan on Facebook), owner and… Read more »
Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

All great points Doug. You aren’t known for your policies but your compromises. Why all of these points are so often missing is due to focus of management. You can’t upsell when you manage by % of labor. Free services are great but we don’t need more Santa Claus programs if retail is to thrive – we need to SELL the merch. All of that starts with who you let start working on your floor and who you allow to remain.

Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
11 years 7 months ago
Every retailer should create an opportunity or two for the customer to stay engaged after they leave the store. Immediately after receiving the “I’ll take it” commitment is the right moment to make the offer. Here are some of the most effective tactics: 1. Give us feedback on what you purchased and your experience. These days it’s a must to offer feedback on your website. An incentive might be available. 2. Invite the customer to participate in your loyalty program. Make sure the advantages to the program are clearly stated. 3. Connect with the customer’s interest. So much of shopping is centered on some hobby or interest: books, learning, recreation, fashion, cooking, childcare, crafts, gift giving, etc. Invite the customer to participate. 4. Invite the customer to an event. Most stores miss the opportunity to invite the customer to come back to the store for something special, an opportunity to learn, or to preview a new collection, etc. Good retailers are always able to tap into customer’s desires to learn, to exchange their knowledge, and… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

More qualified commentators than I will enumerate specific actions that retailers can take in this area. But when faced with this question I always turn to the same place–my oft (mis)quoted here version of L.L. Bean’s admonition to his staff that “the sale is not complete until the customer has used up our product, been satisfied with its service and has ordered a replacement from us.”

You just can’t say it any better or more completely than that.

Others have already pointed out that the gap between knowing what actions to take and genuine customer service is the atmosphere management creates. Sometimes a little parable or truism–oft repeated by the boss in a compelling and memorable fashion–goes a long way toward creating such an atmosphere.

Doug Fleener
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Thanks for the comments so far. Bob, I really like the line “You aren’t known for your policies but your compromises.” This is so true. Retailers need to manage to the opportunities instead of the lack of perceived opportunity.

And Bill, you’re spot on about connecting with the customer’s interest and events. The ability to engage and reengage that customer and pulling them back in to the store this holiday could make or break a lot of independent specialty retailers.

Marge Laney
Guest
11 years 7 months ago
Bingo! All terrific points! First of all “sell” is retail’s four letter word. Selling has been relegated to being thought of as hawking, cajoling, and pushing product on an unsavvy and uneducated consumer. Both of these premises couldn’t be farther from the truth. Today’s consumer is far from unsavvy and uneducated, and most have done at least some online research before heading out to shop. Consumers take the time to shop brick and mortar retail because they can have what they purchase right away, they still like to “touch and feel” before purchasing, and they want to consult with an expert regarding the items they intend to purchase. It is the retailer’s job to provide their customers with sales associates who are selected for their personality and sales ability and are trained to provide customers with the expert product knowledge they are looking for. Retail sales associates have little control over the number of people who walk into the store, but they have total control of the experience each customer has once they’re inside. That… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

All fine except for one big thing. What about customers who are happy with the item purchased and really do not want any further attention? How do you train staff to identify them and not pressure them? Respect and that smile with a thank you is often enough to make a customer come back another day. Anything else may just drive them away once and for all but knowing how to judge is pretty darned tough to teach.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

All great points. I’ll add that number 2 helps mitigate a problem that many retailers think of as unavoidable (and one that escalated to new levels last holiday): returns. It’s easier to return something to a store when no personal connection was forged to begin with; harder when a person was behind the transaction. This point also goes back to a previous RetailWire discussion on the topic of fitting room assistance. As Doug pointed out, assuaging doubts and concerns plays a bit role in nailing the purchase.

Bernie Johnson
Guest
Bernie Johnson
11 years 7 months ago

We all understand the importance of saying Thank You and the need to stay engaged with the customer not only while in the store, but after. But let’s face it, where it becomes vital to do so is when it involves big ticket sales.

During times like these it is easy to place all our focus on just getting the sale, leading retailers to sometimes forget the equally important and much abused phrase of “after sales, service.” Yes it is nice to get a Thank You or even a Christmas card, but does that really make it alright if the customer has to wait 10 days for their dishwasher to be delivered?

And then:
-Who will install it and how long will that take?
-What if it arrives damaged?

This list is endless and we have all experienced it weather it is that dishwasher or something as large as a new car. In the end it all boils down to myopic leadership and short-term vision.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
11 years 7 months ago

These are great points, but the success of any customer/client interaction is to create long-term engaged/loyal fans and it is important to understand that all customers do not want to be treated equally. Yet, in an age of lessened customer service, increased complexity of purchase (risk of post-purchase regret), it is very important to realize the company’s mission and keep it consistent throughout the customer interaction and the process.

Jodell Raymond
Guest
Jodell Raymond
11 years 7 months ago

What we are evaluating is that customer relationship spectrum. This is truly such an exciting time to be a retailer! Now, as never before, do we have the tools and capabilities to interact with our customers at so many points of contact and on so many different levels using traditional and basic (saying thank you) and new social media marketing tools such as Facebook and Twitter which can further solidify your relationship and create on-going dialogue and interaction with your customer which leads to overall brand recognition and positive brand image.

The key is to find the process that works best for your organization and that customer and then integrating various strategies into your operations that help you connect further. Creating and sustaining that customer relationship is an on-going effort that begins when that customer first visits and can now continue on at many different levels.

Donna Adams
Guest
Donna Adams
11 years 7 months ago

I believe that a sales associate’s TONE OF VOICE is one of the most important issues when speaking to a customer. They can say all the right things but if their voice has a negative tone it ruins the entire shopping experience for the customer. I have had customers call me after they’ve returned home to complain about one of my employees for that very reason.

Scott Knaul
Guest
Scott Knaul
11 years 7 months ago

As always, it’s about the behavior and attitude of the associate. One of the stories I always tell my retail teams about is a experience I had at the McDonald’s drive through. When I pulled up to place my order the voice on the other end said (in a very monotone and scripted manner) “Welcome to McDonald’s, would you like to try two cherry pies for a dollar?” I hadn’t even placed my order and they wanted to sell me desert!

The point is you can script language for add-on-sales and other selling behaviors but if the associate doesn’t understand the process or the motivation for the client it’s going to fall on deaf ears and in many cases decrease the overall buying experience.

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