There’s a saying in customer service and sales; Receive good service and you might tell one person but receive bad service and you’ll tell 10. Having received both kinds recently it got me reflecting on my time working in a ‘hard sell’ culture and thought I’d lift the lid on some of the shocking things that go on or at least did, in the places you trust to give you the best advice.
But first things first; I was recently in the market for a new camera. A boss one. A digital SLR bad boy. I went to Curry’s in Aintree in the January sales and told the lad in the camera section exactly what I was after. He kept trying to sell me this new Samsung compact camera which had some sort of promotion on it. I quickly told him I wasn’t interested in a compact camera, I have one already. He completely disregarded what I was saying and carried on trying to show me all the ‘cool’ features it had.
“Listen, it’s really not what I’m after.”
“But I haven’t finished showing you…”
“No, I appreciate you can make your pictures black and white an sepia an tha, but I want a professional quality camera, not a compact so it’s pointless. Preferably with the ability to upload via wi-fi”
The salesperson, visibly annoyed, snapped “Well we haven’t got anything like that. That technology doesn’t exist.”
“Sound. That’s all I needed to know.”
It was a familiar situation, a salesperson pushing their own agenda rather than listening to what you actually want. I left feeling irritated and pissed off.
Luckily I went to Wilkinson’s (camera shop on Lord St in town), a small Northern chain, and the staff there are much more knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. I was approached by the assistant manager Chris, who informed me that the technology I needed in fact did exist and he ran through a load of options with me and let me use the camera and different lenses. Even when I said I wanted to go away and think about it, he didn’t pressure me at all. I went back and bought it two weeks later AND I e-mailed head office to highlight the great service I received (trying to redress the balance of the first sentence of this blog, one experience at a time). I ended up getting a Canon 100d (everyone keeps asking me on instagram which one I’m using so there’s the Amazon link to it).
Anyway, back to what I promised. I used to work in a high street phone shop, I certainly won’t name it here but when I think back to the things we were coerced into doing by the management it actually scares me. We were actively encouraged to lie to the customers as long as we got the sale, “tell them anything, it doesn’t matter” “Just add the insurance on, they’ll never notice.” And if you wanted to return your phone within 14 days? Well you better hope and pray it didn’t have the tiniest of scratches on it because you had no chance. This never really sat right with me but it’s what we were made to do, my own personal sales style was to know as much about the phone/network that I was selling as possible and match it to the customers needs and that seemed to work for me but the pressure we were under was immense.
One Saturday morning, the store manager didn’t think we all looked awake enough so he sent every member of staff to stand outside in the middle of the street in the freezing cold, in front of all the competitor phone shops, locked us out the shop and then stood there laughing at us with the other management for about 5-10 minutes. Yeah he was a bit of a cunt really. (He was the same guy who sexually harassed me in this blog)
Now when you go to buy a phone you have to present ID right? What would happen if that ID was found to be incorrect at a later date? For example, out of date or address spelt slightly wrong? Well the shop would be fined and the member of staff who sold you the phone would have £100 docked from their wages…even if they’d only earnt say £10 for the sale. Once a quarter there would be a head office audit of the ID and…let’s just say it wasn’t uncommon to find members of management downstairs with scissors, glue, tippex and a photocopier.
Naturally with an attitude like this the company ended up in dire straits and was voted one of the worst for customer service in some industry poll so they decided to clean their act up. This is where it gets cringey. They sent all their staff away on a paint by numbers sales course so that everyone would sell in the same way; I appreciate the sentiment but the course was wool as fuck.
Basically this was the sales process they came up with:
- Walk up to customer browsing.
- “So, picked a nice day for it!” (what the fuck? Picked a nice day for fucking what? I HATED this line with a passion.)
- Customer agrees (in reality looks bewildered)
- “What phone have you got at the moment? Let’s have a look.” Holds out hand.
- Customer in a reflex action would normally GIVE you their phone, at which point you WALK AWAY WITH IT so they have to follow you. You’d then tap a chair, indicating that they sit down. Which they would of course, you have their phone.
- You’d then fill out a sheet with all their information on it, without giving them a chance to protest. Then there would be a certain part of the sheet marked BMWW, which if you were talking to a man on his own was an indication to pause. You would then click your pen (it had to be a clicky pen for dramatic effect), lean back in your chair and say, “So, brave man buying a phone without ‘the wife’?” as a challenge to his masculinity. How’s that for reverse sexism? He would then protest that he could make his own decisions meaning that if later on he said he’d have to think about things and speak to his wife you could then throw it back in his face. BMWW – Brave Man Without Wife.
The whole sheet was basically an exercise in stitching up the customer, one piece of information at a time. The idea would be to find out enough about what they wanted that by the end they would have no objections left. I agree that a lot of sales is about objection handling but I always found the whole thing a) devious and b) cringey. Whenever the manager wasn’t on the shop floor I just did my own thing.
Fortunately that part of my life is nothing but a distant memory, the company is still going but it’s been taken over by a much more customer friendly organization so I’m going to hazard a guess that they don’t follow this process anymore. I don’t know, I’ve never been back – the stuff I’ve just told you about is just the tip of the iceberg, put it that way and I’m sure in some companies things like this still go on. Go into these sort of shops with both eyes open.
Anyway, back to my boss camera – absolutely made up with it and I can recommend Wilkinsons 100% if you want great advice and customer services. They even offer a course for £30 which shows you how to use all the settings on the camera so you don’t always have to leave it on auto and hope for the best. Look at me go now, I’m a pro.