Why do you shop where you do?
It’s an interesting question that could lead to answers about your own business and your customers.
I’ll ask it again. Why do you shop where you do?
Is it because of the prices? Special offers? Discount coupons you get in the mail? Good customer service? Convenience?
The answer is probably “all of the above.”
I’ve got three grocery stores within two miles of my house, but I only shop at one. Why? It’s cleaner, smaller, more employees speak English than at the other two and I can always find what I’m looking for. The prices are a bit higher, but I don’t have a problem paying more to shop somewhere I feel comfortable in.
I bought some pants a few weeks ago from Dockers.com. I signed up for their email list and got a coupon for 20% off. A week later, I got an email offering me 30% off plus free shipping. While I don’t clip coupons to go grocery shopping, that 30% off coupon coupled with free shipping had me placing a $150 order.
I needed an odd battery that my local Radio Shack didn’t carry and didn’t sell online, so I had to search for a place to get it. I found an online store that offered the “world’s largest selection of batteries and power accessories.” I reluctantly paid $27 plus $7.95 shipping for the damn thing and after two days of not receiving a shipment notification, I emailed. No response back. Instead of calling, I just hung in there. A day later, another email, no response. The next day I picked up the phone. “Sorry, we don’t have that in stock.”
So much for the “worlds largest selection.”
We all have shopping experiences that either make us either love or hate a company. As merchants, we try to cultivate the love and rectify the hate.
Cultivating love within your customers is simpler than you may think. Go back to the question I asked earlier. You love shopping at stores that provide you with an excellent customer service experience. From knowledgable sales people who are more than happy to answer your questions to timely responses to inquiries, each interaction your customer has with your company is an opportunity to make them fall in love with you.
In the case of my pants, I fell in love with Dockers.com immediately. That 20% off coupon I got for just signing up for their email was enough to get me to order a few items. But when the second coupon arrived, it was like my new love just took me to Morton’s and didn’t make me pay the bill. The continual flow of 20%, 30%, free shipping, today only, emails is enough to get me to come back and buy again as psychologically I feel like I’m one of their valued customers, even though I know I’m just another email address in their database. But hey, it works! I feel the love.
Neil Sedaka taught us all that breaking up is hard to do, but let me tell you something. He’s a liar. Well, kind of. As a consumer, we find it very easy to break up with a merchant we used to love. All it takes is one messed up order, a lost delivery, a miserable employee or a unreturned email to throw some people over the edge and never order again. As an eCommerce store owner, you know what I’m talking about! We all have the unfortunate story of the one long-time customer who you suddenly lost because you screwed something up.
I remember back to our very first customer at TheFerretStore.com. We were only around for a day or two and somehow, someone found the site (don’t ask me how!) and placed an order for a $219 ferret cage. Joe and I looked at each other and said, “holy shit, an order. And for $200 bucks!”
Problem was we didn’t even have inventory yet!
We called the company we were buying the cage from and pleaded with them to ship us one that day. I think I wet myself when I was told the cage was on backorder.
A quick phone call to the customer resulted in him wanting us to hold the order and ship it until the cage came in. Phew!
Well, long story short, the cage remained on backorder for a very long time. We communicated with the customer at least twice a week to let him know the current status and that we’re really sorry for the delay, yada, yada.
Towards the end he was getting a little (to put it mildly) upset. Luckily, we persuaded the manufacturer to ship the cage directly to the customer as soon as it came in. It finally arrived and he was happy even though it took the same amount of time to get it to him as a Christmas fruitcake takes to go bad.
That was 1994. Several, and I mean several, years later I was filling in for our warehouse manager who was on vacation. I was spot checking orders to make sure they were picked and packed properly and noticed a name on a box that was very familiar. It was our first customer. I immediately looked up his order history in our system and saw that he was ordering from us on a monthly basis.
I was so excited, I picked up the phone and called him. I thanked him for his business, talked about his pets and asked how that now ten year old cage was working out for him. He admitted that he was ticked off over the amount of time it took to get the cage to him, but was loyal to us because he was impressed with the way we handled the situation and kept him updated.
Roger, if you’re still around, thanks!
With 400 – 450 packages going out a day, it was pretty coincidental that I picked that one box to spot check, but I was glad I did.
I was sure that after he got the cage, he wouldn’t be placing another order with us ever again, but the way we handled the situation instilled some genuine “love” in him.
I’m not in love with the purveyor of the “world’s largest selection” and breaking up with them was really, really easy.
I’ve got an assignment for you. It’s not hard, I promise! Here we go:
- Download this PDF file that I created for you and print it out.
- Write the name of the stores you shop at – online and bricks-and-mortar – and a what you like and dislike about them.
- When coming up with your likes and dislikes, think about the whole experience. From the you enter to the time you leave and any followups you may have to make. Don’t sugar coat anything! If you think the cashier ringing up your 10 for $10 yogurt had too much of an attitude, write it down.
- When you’re all done, go back and circle the stores you think MOST resemble YOUR business. If you find yourself circling stores with more dislikes than likes, you’ve got some tougher homework to do than this!
It’s a good lesson and one you should sit down and do every now and then. It gives you the opportunity to see what you think of other businesses you do business with whether the principles that make them one of your favorites are incorporated into your own business.
When it comes to making customers fall in love with your company, you don’t need to read a ton of books, waste money at some motivational speaking seminar or have a doctorate in customer service. All you need to do is follow one simple principle of business that isn’t taught in schools:
“Treat your customers like you would want to be treated yourself.”
I’d love to hear how you did with this little assignment. Please drop me an email at email@example.com and include your worksheet.