As the price of gas increases, so will the number of phone calls that retailers receive from their customers.
It's only logical. People are going to use the Internet more to research products, then use the phone to insure that product is available before driving to your store.
What's not logical is how some retailers treat the phone customer. The customer on the phone is just as important, if not more so, than the one in your store. Think of how lucky you are that they called you instead of one of your competitors. But how you treat your phone customers will determine if you keep them or lose them to someone else, possibly for good.
Think of the effort the phone customer went through just to reach you:
- They are busy at home or work and thought of a need they have.
- They stop what they are doing and go to find a phone book. (They don't have your number memorized even though you hope they do.)
- They look up your number.
- They dial your store.
- They're annoyed by numerous menu options to choose from.
- Once they make their selection they wait and hope that a person will answer the phone and not put them on hold.
To better understand what I am talking about, take five minutes right now and call a few of your stores as a customer. If and when you do get through, ask for a piece of merchandise you don't carry. Go ahead, make the calls. You need to experience what your customer has to live with. Go ahead, don't worry about me. I'll wait here until you get back …
Well, what did you think? Did someone answer the phone? How many rings? Did you talk to a person or a machine? What did the person say when you asked for the merchandise you don't carry? Surprised by any of this?
Don't be. The use of the phone as a tool to improve the customer experience and increase sales is almost non-existent in retail today.
Here are a few more things to consider:
- What do most associates think when the phone rings in their department? Interruption, inconvenience, annoyance, hassle. Instead, we should be appreciative. In most cases, on the other end is a customer who wants to give us their money. But do they hear those tones of happiness in our voices?
- Are they calling to find out if you have something in stock? No. They are calling to see if they should eliminate you from places to buy from.
- What do associates say if you don't carry the exact product that is asked for? Most of the time they say, “No,” and the call is over. But you aren't selling exact products; you are selling answers to customer needs. You have a product that will fit that need, so why didn't they tell the customer about it?
- Do they invite customers over to the store to try the product out? This seldom happens. Why? Is it because you already have too many customers in the store? When a friend calls to borrow something you say “sure” and tell them to come over. Why not do the same with the customer? Remember, they want to give you money!
- The customer on the phone had to work just to get in touch with you. Find a way to show your appreciation and give him the same attention you would if he were standing right in front of you.
Be an innovator. Teach your staff how to use the phone to increase sales and improve the customer experience. Do this and watch your sales and customer loyalty increase significantly.