I’ve worked in customer service, in a variety of different settings, for many years now and until recently I didn’t really ponder the dynamics of the customer service relationship too deeply.
A couple of weeks back I had the displeasure of shopping at a chain of clothing
stores whose staff have been mercilessly beaten with an attitude of “push, push, push” and the result is a flow-down effect on the customer. I entered their store and after about 5 minutes of contented browsing I was approached by a young man whose face was split by a smile that was not reaching his disinterested eyes.
“How are you today man?” he boomed in faux-enthusiasm. I replied that I was great and returned my eyes to the racks.
“You looking for something in particular, because these are made and designed in Oz” He said at me, while holding up a shirt from a nearby rack and pointing at it suggestively. I replied that I wasn’t and I was just browsing. However, this seemed to be like waving red to a bull – how dare I attempt to browse this store without his input.
“Yeah, I get that all the time. Did you know that all those jeans are handmade? You’d rock the mauve ones” He said pointing behind me. I thanked him and told him that I was just browsing – again.
After an awkward silence he exclaimed “You look lost!” and moved far too close to me. I assure him that I was not, and I was exactly where I wanted to be.
“Are you sure?” He asked. I repeated that I was fine but I now had a sinking feeling that I will not be allowed free reign of the store without being rude to this “salesman”.
“Well, you sure look lost. Hey, you’d look good in one those jackets. I’m thinking you’re a dark blue kinda guy” he says while physically grabbing my arm to drag me somewhere. It was at this stage that I decided enough was enough and told him, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t want anything anymore and left the store.
I think this kind of persistence is something that, if we’re honest, we’ve all experienced in a sales environment. For me, it drove home the importance of ‘reading’ a customer. Great salespeople will tell you that a good sales pitch gets the sale and a repeat customer. The ‘brute force’ method of mercilessly pushing a product will sometimes get the sale, but it will likely deter the customer from coming back to you because they found the experience to be uncomfortable or intimidating.
By no means should customers be ignored, what I’m trying to illustrate here is that it’s equally detrimental to overshoot in the other direction. A salesman who’s obviously faking his enthusiasm, and covering the customers like his opponent in a footy match is more likely to put off customers than keep them coming back.