The boutique was packed, perhaps more than usual for even a Saturday afternoon due to the gray drizzle keeping everyone from the beach. My shopping companion, Julia, had found a pair of earrings she liked in a locked case. She asked whether someone could help her take a closer look.
The reply was instantaneous.
“We’re very busy helping some other people right now so it is going to be a while before we can get to you.”
Can you say “deal breaker”?
Can you be any clearer about how unimportant my friend was made to feel?
Or how explicitly the salesperson conveyed, more than anything else, that a sale to Julia was a very, very low priority?
Which, in turn, left us thinking –earrings or no earrings — that other shops were beckoning pretty strongly pretty darn quick.
All that from one careless response?
Yes, all that.
You know its true.
You get exactly one chance to make a first impression.
The words you say convey only a very small portion of your message – tone of voice, inflection, facial expressions and body language speak the rest for you.
Are you aware of the message you’re sending?
Can we excuse that clerk who lost the sale because she wasn’t aware of hers?
No one is perfect after all.
And yet . . .
Shouldn’t that salesperson have had a better response at the ready? One that could have sped from her mouth as easily and quickly as that unacceptable response came out? Sort of an automatic “be right with you.”
My vote is “yes, she should have.”
We frequently think of prepared responses in a negative way – they’re “canned”, “programmed” somehow less sincere.
Most of the time our experience tracks that summary like a foregone conclusion.
We tune out the automatic “thank you Ms. _____” from the grocery clerk, quickly steer away from the department store sales person offering assistance and rush past the parting comment in the salon.
Like muzak in the elevator they are easy to ignore.
Funny, isn’t it, how in contrast the spontaneous wrong response stands out as clearly as a bell.
Both preparation and presentation make the difference between a successful automatic response and one that is just so much white noise.
You and your team should have a menu of appropriate responses to choose from when regularly repeated situations occur. The goal in composing this menu is to eliminate the thinking step, to relieve the speaker from the challenge of knowing what to say.
This preparation eliminates a poorly chosen word or thought that detonates with the sound of a loud explosion. And frees the customer experience from the dictates of the employee’s mood, challenges or whatever.
Reduce that situation to an if/then proposition:
- If customers are waiting then say “Just a moment I will be right with you.”
- If delivery of an order is late then begin with an apology while you look into the details.
You can create the scripts that will come up in your business dealings.
But preparing the content of the response is not enough. Presentation counts — and the only way to ensure the right presentation is practice, practice, practice.
On my last trip to the grocery store the cashier, as usual, said “Uh. What’s your name ma’am” as he handed me my receipt. I responded “Clarke”. To which the clerk replied, again as usual, “Thank you Mrs. Clarke.”
A scripted exchange at least in part.
How much better would it have been with practice?
The right response needs to roll off the tongue automatically.
The same way it should have for that saleswoman in the boutique.
A quick, neutral, “Just a moment, I’ll be right with you” would have made all the difference.
And not just because Julia was looking at a very nice pair of earrings.
Anne Clarke, is a personal and executive coach and principal of ABClarke Coaching. She helps individuals, professionals and entrepreneurs achieve success – however they define it. Anne is featured in the newly released “CRAVE Boston: An Urban Girl’s Manifesto”; contact her at [email protected] or on the web at www.setting-and-achieving-goals.com