Every so often I have the good fortune to be asked to write about customer service. This past week was one of those times.
My friend Kelly Kovack, founder of Beauty Matter asked me if I had any insight into how to help salespeople coping with a customer who “needs X product now!!!
You bet I do.
While I was at it, I also threw in how to cope with a customer who’s losing their mind because you discontinued their favorite product.
Have a read! And please do let me know if it helps.
Come wallow with me – let’s wallow, let’s wallow today!
Many of you may recognize this as a riff on “Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly today!” Why the changeup? Because today we are focusing on how wallowing with someone before moving along to problem solving can help you close the sale.
What do I mean by wallowing with someone? Let’s look at two scenarios: One where the item has been discontinued and the other where it is out of stock.
Let’s start with the discontinued item. In my experience this sounds a lot like,“But I can’t believe you no longer have X! I love X! I always get X!” Most of us, when confronted by this, move briskly along to problem solving, which sounds like, “No, we don’t have X anymore, but we do have Y.”
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. The tricky thing, however, is that your customer isn’t ready to move along with you. She needs to feel her feelings for a bit. She needs to wallow. When you move her along, she doesn’t feel heard, which means you are in for a few more minutes of, “But I can’t believe you don’t have X! I love X! I always get X!”
What do I recommend instead? First, validate her distress. This might sound like, “I absolutely understand your frustration. I know you’ve been using X for a long time.”
At this point,PAUSE to give her time to tell you (hopefully in a pithy way, but possibly at length)how much she does indeed love X.
(Wallow, wallow wallow . . . nod understandingly, adopt an appropriately solemn expression.)
It is only after that, that I recommend attempting to move gently along to another option. This should be done very delicately; this should sound like, “I know it’s not the same, but would you consider Y?” The beauty of saying it’s not the same reinforces your mindfulness about her unhappiness.
Ah, now she can hear you. Now you can begin to point out the aspects of Y that are similar to X and, if she seems at all intrigued, how Y is really just an extension of her beloved X.
At that point, the wallowing is over and you’re ready to make the sale fly.
Far less dramatic—but certainly common—is the customer who is frustrated that the item she loves is out of stock. This can sound a lot like: “What is wrong with your company— why is everything ALWAYS out of stock?”
While it can be tempting to say something along the lines of, “Everything isn’t ALWAYS out of stock…,” that makes it sound like their statement is plausible. Instead, you want to wallow. This might sound like, “I understand your frustration—you’ve been a loyal customer for a long time and it’s got to be crazy-making when everyone else catches on to something you have known about for years.” What this does is remind them that they are both a) loyal and b) trendsetters.
At this point, I would offer them two options. One would be for you to call them when it’s back in stock and/or call another store to see if they have it. The other would be to move them along to something else that is sure to be the next sought-after item (This makes them feel like they are being told a secret. . . always a plus. If you can pull it out from under the counter, even better.) This might sound like, “I know you are used to X but let me tell you about Y. It doesn’t have the same recognition yet, but since you’re someone who is smart about getting out in front of a trend, I thought I’d recommend it to you.”
And now, you’re out of the wallow and into the win.