Late on a Wednesday evening my trusty cooling buddy- a sturdy fridge, that served my family well for many years, quit on us. We had seen the signs coming, the complaints and waterworks had started showing their tell-tale complaints a month before. We should have acted sooner but like many cases, the urgent overshadowed the important, and we were suddenly left fridge-less.
I was in charge of project re-freeze. I had 24 hours to fix the problem. This entailed taking a day off as the project needed my undivided attention. Luckily I have friends in cool places and getting a service visit was done with ease. The verdict by mid-morning left little doubt that a new fridge was in order.
I began the task of figuring out what fridge to buy and how best to order it. Here is where my lesson in closing a sale takes place.
In this 10-step process that I outline below – my customer journey of buying a fridge, one mis-step at number 5 proved to be the 60 seconds that turned the tide.
- Phone a friend to get advice. Among other tips, an important nugget of information gleaned. Buy from a dealer close to you. They will also take the old fridge away so you don’t have that hassle to deal with.
- Go online and check different brands and models of the size and capacity that I want to buy.
- Have discussion with wife on research findings, discuss pros and cons, and then decide on the brand we want.
- Call Super Sales* to place an order as I know they are a big name in this game.
- The person who picks up is in a very noisy area does not seem too interested, takes my number and says he will organise a “call back”. Done and dusted in under 60 seconds. Highly efficient from one point of view. Or maybe the exact opposite.
- I wait for ten minutes. Get fidgety and google again, for retailers near me. This time I find another dealer, let’s call them Duper Sales.*
- Call Duper sales and get an infuriating IVR that takes me three minutes to navigate and then cuts me off.
- I call a friend again who I know will know a guy in either Super Sales or Duper Sales. He assures me the key account guy he knows at Duper will get it sorted.
- Now Super sales calls back. But it’s too late. I know a guy who knows a guy in Duper sales, so I’m committed to what lies behind that door.
- By Thursday night the payment has been made and Friday morning before 9 my shiny new cool friend has arrived.
It took a day of dedicated attention to get this done. As I sit sipping a nice cold drink and reflecting on my learning for this week, three things stand out.
First the need for speed and attention. I want it now and I want someone who is interested in my business. I was not willing to wait for the call back. If the guy who picked up the phone at Super sales had engaged me in a conversation found out a bit more than just my phone number or immediately connected me with the right person, I would never have dialed the next number.
Brands matter. I wanted to buy from an organisation that was “known” and I wanted to buy a brand that was “known” for making good refrigerators. So it’s not just awareness and visibility. It’s about expertise and what the brand stands for.
The role of the influencer. Three key sources of influence. Friends who I trust from the industry. The service engineer who came to visit my home and the online review and ratings. A cocktail of offline good old fashioned word of mouth and some online reassurance is what worked.
In the end it all came down to that moment of truth when I made the call.
The person on the other end of a phone can close the deal or close the door. That’s the power of a single person. That’s the power of having a strong service orientation. The team that serves together succeeds together. Every team is as strong as its weakest link. One bad apple left unchecked can spoil the basket, one bad day when someone’s mood is off because they are sulking with their boss, a few inattentive minutes or in this case, 60 seconds where I did not feel valued and listened too, was all it took to lose my business.
Note to myself. Make every call count. Make every person in my team aware of the power they have to help the person calling, and in doing that, to help us succeed. Every customer call is an opportunity to solve something for them. It not a call to just be managed. Intent matters the most. Here is me reminding myself to make the call to be of service, to do my best to solve the problem, and I am confident that relationships will thrive and business will flourish.
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