So near yet so far! The worst customer service.

I have an 11-year-old son called Jack. Jack loves camping.

It was Jack’s birthday last week. He received $150 cash from various friends and relatives and had his heart set on buying a 3-man tent.

So in we went to the camping store today.

Jack and I looked around and decided on 2 tents. One for $50 and one for $90. A salesperson came along and told us something about the thickness of the tent poles. After much analysis and thought by Jack (he takes these things very seriously) he selected the $90 one to buy.

Up we went to the counter to pay.

“Oooooooh, look there Dad!”, said Jack.

Swiss Army knives! Every 11-year-old camping boy’s dream!

So we picked out one of those as well.

The salesperson took a look at our purchases and pulled out a warranty form for the tent. She filled in the tent type, the cost and where we purchased it from.

She then took Jack’s money, gave him his change and receipt. Off we trotted – one very happy little boy with a tent, a Swiss Army knife and $48, and his Dad.

I dropped Jack off home and then came back into the office. Then I sat down to write this article.

Is that camping store owner out of his mind??!

I think so. Either that or he is making so much money he just doesn’t care. Or maybe he just doesn’t know what he is doing!

And yes, I’ve written that heading just to grab your attention. I’ve done that because of this.

This camping store owner is just like the vast, vast majority of businesspeople I see. I’d guess 98%.

98% of business owners are not fulfilling the potential of their business. No where near it. And the reason is simple.

They have no idea what they are doing!!

I’ve gone on for long enough. Just off the top of my head here are a couple of things that should have happen. These things would shoot the business owner’s profit through the roof, his customers would be happier, they would refer more people and they would return again and again.

Thing 1: Sell something!

I’ve called the two- (2) people we dealt with salespeople. But they ain’t. They are just cashiers. There to take the money and that’s it.

The first guy came up to us as Jack and I were reviewing the two- (2) different tents.

“The $90 tent has poles that are 7.9 mm. The $50 tent has poles that are 6 mm,” he said.

Big deal! That means nothing to me, less to Jack and does not help our review at all.

He told us a few other differences in the products and then wandered off.

This is what he should have said.

“Howdy folks. Looking at our great tents – what will you be using the tent for mainly?”

Stop right there. Notice I didn’t say “Can I help you?” Everyone says that and it’s boring, dull and likely to get a “No thanks, we’re just looking” response.

I started with a bit of enthusiasm and then start my analysis of my customer.

I’m not going to just launch in and tell the customer about the features of each tent. I’m a salesperson and a damn good one!

I’ll be finding out exactly what my customer needs and then I’ll be giving him the best recommendation I can!

  • “How often will you use the tent?”
  • “Where will you use the tent?”
  • “What’s the ground like there?”
  • “When will you be using the tent mainly – summer or winter?”
  • “How many will be sleeping in the tent?”
  • “Will you have extra gear outside the tent?”
  • “Will you be walking to the camping area or driving straight in?”

Every single one of those questions elicits information from the customer. And now I have the information I can make a recommendation. And it’s a recommendation that will be believed, trusted and acted upon because it comes from someone who has just analysed the customer’s needs.

So here goes!

“That’s great Jack. Sounds like you have some great camping trips coming up with your Dad. Okay, based on what you guys have told me, here is what i would recommend. Go this this tent here – firstly, the poles are 7.9 mm rather than 6 mm like the other one.

Now what that means for you Jack is a sturdier tent. And a sturdier tent will last a lot longer, you’ll get less stress on the material – the material lasts longer. Those poles are also much, much harder to get blown down in a storm.

Okay, now because you are mostly camping during the summer – we get most of our rain in the summer – the $90 tent is better yet again. It has this canopy at the front that does a couple of things:

  1. It provides cover for your excess gear that you mentioned you leave outside, and
  2. It provides shelter for the entrance so you don’t have to have the tent completely sealed all the time. Lets a bit more air in during those balmy summer nights.”

I could go on (and yes I know I do!), but I’m sure you get the picture that the salesperson with information can make an fantastic recommendation.

And even if that recommendation was for a $150 tent when were looking at the $50 and $90 tent, we would have almost certainly gone with the recommendation (the clever salesperson would have established a budget).

This next bit is the critical bit. And it’s the bit the majority of salespeople do not do.

Ask for the sale!

“Okay Jack and Dad – do you have any questions? No, terrific. Would you like to buy this tent then?” (There are 100 variations on that line of course, but the issue is the same. Ask for the sale. Ask for the sale. Ask for the sale.)

Thing 2: Add-on sales

The attendant looked at what we bought, took Jack’s money and gave a receipt.

This is kind of related to the first ‘Thing’, sell something. But not only do you sell something, you then sell something else.

You have a son and his Dad buying a tent. Please ask us to buy something else.

Here are a few ways to do it:

Add-on sale 1: “These are great tents – one of our best sellers. Did you know we have a special when you buy these tents? – 15% off a great Acme lantern. They are perfect for camping, provide terrific light for when you guys are sitting around chatting and come in three- (3) colours. Would you like to add one – just $19.95?”

Add-on sale 2: “Oh yes, wonderful tents these. I always find the ground a bit hard when I go camping these days. I use a foam mat to sleep on – here they are here. Do you have a foam mat for sleeping on? They’re very light and very comfortable and I highly recommend them… etc”

Add-on sale 3: “Jack! Your own Swiss Army knife – wow! Right beside them here (and they were right beside them) are knife holders that clip on your belt. Your knife won’t fall out of that and get lost – plus it keeps it safe and clean. Would you like that as well?”

Okay, so my examples are a bit corny but the principle remains the same.

When your customer is buying something they are highly likely to buy something else that complements their purchase. Sure, not every time, but plenty of times.

A client recently told me his sales increased by 25% when they implemented an add on pitch.

That covers the selling and the add-on sale.

Thing 3: The secret question

I’ll just take a step back here and let you in on a secret. This secret is incredibly powerful. It can save and make business owners thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars.

And it is top secret because I don’t think I have every seen a business owner use it. Ever.

So here it is. It’s a question you have to ask every single customer that deals with you. Move in closer so I can whisper it.

“How did you find out about our business?”

That’s it. Not too difficult to ask.

You have probably heard the old joke of “I know half of my advertising works, I just don’t know which half.

Don’t let that be you.

Chances are your business spends thousands of dollars on advertising – I once had a client who was spending the major part of his advertising money on Yellow Pages ads.

A quick survey showed that less than .3% of his customers found him through that ad!

Ask a very simple “How did you hear of us?” That’s all it can take for you to evaluate what could be one of your major and most wasteful expenses.

Okay, let’s move on

You’ve sold the tent and the knife and met the customer’s expectation. Great!

Actually no. If you meet your customer’s expectations chances are they won’t be back. Meeting their expectations isn’t good enough.

Thing 4: You have to thrill, excite and amaze your customer!

Then he’ll come back.

Okay, slight exaggeration there. How about this?

You have to exceed your customer’s expectations. Let’s see that in practice.

So this is what the camping store might have done with Jack.

“Thanks for coming in Jack. We do appreciate your business. That’s a very nice tent. The problem I often have with my tents is losing the tent pegs. Here’s 6 free ones to put away – never know when you’ll need them.”

Rewarded behaviour gets repeated. That’s why I buy my wife flowers. She rewards me for it by kissing me – viola!! More flowers next week.

Rewarded behaviour gets repeated.

Reward each and every customer you have. Only then will they repeat the behaviour you want. And that’s coming and and buying more of your stuff.

Let’s keep going.

Thing 5: Give an incentive for repeat sales

The customer is in your store and he’s buying. That’s fantastic for a number of reasons.

  1. They know you
  2. They know where you are
  3. They trust you
  4. They will have dealt with you before

Now those 4 aspects mean that the customer is much more likely to buy from you again. But that’s not good enough. You are in business and you want every customer that you can lay your hands on.

It’s your success we are talking about here!

Get your customer into some sort of loyalty club. If my favourite Japanese restaurant down the road can do it (buy 10 coffees and get one free, buy 10 sushi’s and get 1 free, etc), your business can too.

“Jack, love the tent! Because you like camping and you are one of our customers, you are eligible to join our “Junior Explorers Club”! You get heaps of free stuff – a free map of local bushwalks, a “Survival Tips” booklet, discounts on entry to the local zoo, a newsletter sent to you every month, a cool membership card, free entry to our monthly “Bushcraft Alive” nights, and a discount of $10 for every $200 you spend here!!

It doesn’t cost anything to join and you can do it right now just by filling in the easy application form!”

Jack would be a “Junior Explorer” in about 5 seconds flat!

Jack wouldn’t dream of ever buying any camping gear anywhere else, he would be going to those “Bushcraft Alive” nights (and buying the stuff the instructor sells there) and telling anyone who listens all about it.

Because he’s now one of them. They own him!

Customer loyalty is gold. Previous customers are the cheapest possible customers you will find. They are the most profitable. They refer others. They act as a strong advocate for your business. Get you customer’s loyalty!!

Thing 6: Names and addresses

One thing you probably picked up in the loyalty program above was that the applicant has to fill in a form. Here’s what should be asked – at a minimum:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Occupation
  • Email
  • Age
  • What was purchased

That would be the basic stuff. But that is gold anyway!

But you don’t have to set up a Loyalty Program to gather information. Some businesses use competitions:

“Jack, do you want to enter our competition to win a camping chair? It’s free to enter – you can fill in the form whilst I get your change.”

Keep in touch with your customers. Tell them what’s happening. Send them a newsletter. Make them an offer. Send a Christmas Card.

Thing 7: Added value

Did you notice that I included an email address in what should be asked of your customer.

Imagine this. Imagine if Jack entered a competition, joined the “Junior Explorers Club” or just gave his name and information on request.

I’m at home now finishing this article off in the study. Jack is in the lounge room with the tent unwrapped – he’s showing his little brother everything associated with that tent. He’s already shown the next door neighbour the pocket knife and been through an elaborate display of all the things that knife can do.

Jack is very excited (I’ve already agreed to sleep with him in the tent tomorrow night in the backyard!).

Imagine if in Jack’s email box there was a “Thank You” from the camping store right now – just hours after he purchased.

“Thanks Jack!

Hi Jack! Thanks so much for coming into the store today and buying your tent and knife. as you know, we only sell top quality gear and we’re so pleased we could help you.

It’s a great tent and we hope you have a wonderful time camping in it! It’s such a good tent that it is fully guaranteed for a year! It’s that good! And the same goes for the knife.

If you need any ideas on camping you can visit our web site at (I just made that up) – you’ll find heaps of great camping tips, wonderful spots and much, much more.

The site even has games, you can ask camping questions and a FREE Bushwalking Guide. You’ll love it!

Thanks again Jack.

Take care.

Mary and the team”

(Sending out 1,000 emails basically costs nothing and takes 5 minutes. Posting out 1,000 letters costs a lot more.)

Jack would be feeling very special and very important. And very inclined to keep buying from that store.

Adding value to your customer’s experience is easy. And adding great perceived value is no harder. It might be as simple as providing a discount voucher for an associated business, giving a small gift or even further information.

Adding value to the purchase adds value to the customer’s experience. And by giving the customer a valuable experience you are maximising your chances of success.

Business is hard

Business is hard. Setting it up to maximise sales and make the most of every customer isn’t easy. But it can be done.

The 7 things I’ve identified above are very powerful. But they are relatively easy to do. Every business should be doing the. And I’d be willing to bet that the businesses that already done these things are more profitable than those that don’t.

  • Thing 1: Sell something!
  • Thing 2: Add-on sales
  • Thing 3: The secret question
  • Thing 4: You have to thrill, excite and amaze your customer!
  • Thing 5: Give an incentive for repeat sales
  • Thing 6: Names and addresses
  • Thing 7: Added value

Go on! Give them a go.

Train your staff and yourself to make sales (and then sell related stuff). Ask everyone how they heard of you. Give your customers more than they expect every single time. Start a loyalty program, run a competition, whatever – just get those names and address. Now market to that list.

Try all of those things for 1 month. Then come back and tell me how well you’ve done. And maybe buy yourself a new car!!