Please add value


Retailers would have you believe that Memorial Day Sales cannot be missed.  The advertisements make it sound like the stores are giving things away for next to nothing.  Caught up in the fervor, my wife and I headed out on Monday to catch the end of some of the sales.

As we wandered through one of the stores something caught my wife’s eye.  Uninterested, I continued to wander through the store when a customer interaction caught my eye.  So I moved in for a closer look. Something just didn’t seem right.

The customer was looking at some devices in a locked glass case while the clerk was trying to answer his question about one of the functions. (I use the term clerk here since the employee was not acting as a salesperson.)  Not sure of the technical aspects of the product, the employee pulled out a hand-held device to access more product data through the company website.  Without asking any more qualifying questions, the employee launched into his spiel by listing all the features of the first device.  After finishing the first device and without checking in with the customer, he followed up with the features of a second and then a third device.

I saw the glaze fall over the eyes of the customer as he dealt with the firehose of product features aimed at him. He began to fidget uncomfortably in front of the case nervously handling the iPhone in his hand.

“Could you tell me the difference between these three again?” asked the customer while pointing into the locked glass case.

Rather then providing some value to the customer by differentiating between the three devices, the employee once again fire hosed the customer with the same list of features from the three devices.  All three devices shared the majority of the features he listed.

The fog never lifted from the customers face but rather thickened as the employee droned on, reading from the hand-held device.  I moved on to the next aisle so as not to raise suspicion.  From my new vantage point I could see that hanging next to the glass case was a product information sheet.

This just added to the list of questions that I had about the interaction.

  • Why did the salesperson firehose the customer with features?
  • Why was there no mention of benefits?
  • Why didn’t the salesperson ask more questions to better understand what the customer needed?
  • Why wasn’t the customer offered a product information sheet?
  • Why didn’t the clerk show the  customer how to get access to the information on the iPhone he had in his hand?
  • Why didn’t the clerk unlocked the case and hand the customer the product?
  • Why, when asked by the customer to differentiate between the products, didn’t the salesperson call out the differences?
  • Why did the salesperson continue to firehose the customer with features without checking for understanding?

At this point, the interaction was too painful to watch so I moved on.  A while later, I wandered by the case again only to see the customer standing there alone with a bewildered look on his face.

Teachable Moment

There are a variety of things that the clerk could have and should have been coached on.  But what I would call out is the simple fact, he added no value to the customer’s experience.

  • The customer came into the store yet never got to touch, see, feel and experience the products.
  • The customer was never provided with the information available from the product information sheet.
  • The customer was never empowered to use his smart phone to gain access to the same information that the clerk was giving him.

Salespeople need to understand that their role is to add value to the customer experience.  This one surely didn’t.

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