If you only make one resolution…

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Here’s one to take to heart.

It’s a new year, a time to make resolutions (maybe break resolutions) and generally approach our endeavours with fresh perspective and hopefully, renewed energy.

So where should you start?

Here’s my suggestion: from this point forward, assume every customer is well informed and treat them accordingly.

Sound too simple? It shouldn’t, because it’s not. To really live up to that notion will require a significant change in attitude, culture and approach in many stores.

Let me give you an example that happened to me recently. I was considering a vehicle change, so I wanted to see what my current ride would be worth as a trade-in. Since it was in the dealership getting scheduled maintenance done anyway, I asked the used- car manager to take a look and give me a trade-in value against a new vehicle in their line-up.

The dealership in question is the only one that has ever serviced this vehicle. They have all the records. They also know me well, as I have been a loyal customer for the entire time I’ve owned the vehicle. There have never been any incidents with the vehicle, and being a bit of a neat freak, I basically keep it pretty spotless.

I left the car for the day, and returned after work to pick it up. I was greeted by one of the sales staff, who informed me of the trade-in value. He told me the number reflected both their knowledge of my car’s service history, its excellent condition and my status as a loyal customer.

Great, except the number they offered was less than 50 percent of the Black Book value of the vehicle. It was also less than 50 percent of two other firm offers I had in hand from other stores. Basically, it was a complete rip-off.

I simply responded by quoting both the Black Book value and the trade-in offers I already had in hand, so thanks but no thanks. At that point the sales person blamed the used-car manager, referring to him in very unflattering terms, and promised to go to bat for me and improve the number.

You must be kidding!

I have a better suggestion. I’ll simply go elsewhere, and I won’t be back.

So, in considering your New Year’s resolutions, remember the world you now operate in.

Customers have access to more information than they ever have.  Social media tools make it possible for consumers to learn from each other’s experiences, access opinions of strangers they will never meet, and come to your store armed to the teeth with information.

Respect that, and train your staff accordingly. Insist that they treat customers as informational equals, and have them manage their conversations on that basis.  Encourage full disclosure as a sign of confidence in your products and your process.

The reward will be stronger relationships and a better understanding of your customers’ concerns and motivations.

And the risk of playing the old shell game? You may lose far more than a single customer when your store boots it like mine did.  A ticked-off customer now has unpredecented ability to share negative experiences far and wide, posted for others to search, read and share. So the risk is your reputation. What’s that worth?

Happy New Year.


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