Robbing customers won’t grow your business
OK, so the economy is down, and a lot of places are struggling. You won’t get any argument from me.People are more and more desperate for sales. Some would say eager, but I’ve seen a lot of desperation. Interestingly, many of their efforts are actually causing the results they don’t want.For instance, I recently went to the post office to mail a book. The clerk put it on the scale and enthusiastically said, “That will be $13.xx to guarantee it overnight,” fully expecting me to go for it. “Do you think I’m stupid? It will be there tomorrow sending it first class for around $2!” He looked like he had been caught with his fingers in the cookie jar.“Well, some people want it guaranteed.”“For six times the price? I didn’t ask for any guarantees. I didn’t even say I wanted it there tomorrow.”“Can I interest you in any stamps while you’re here?”“No thank you! I’m afraid I’d have to count the whole roll to make sure you’re not cheating me!”This has happened to me in several post offices, so it must be some sort of management policy change.Could they have put postal clerks on some sort of incentive that makes them want to get as much as they can out of each customer?To their credit, some postal employees won’t sink this low, but there are many who do.If we can’t trust the Postal Service, who can we trust? They’ve spent hundreds of years (if not thousands) building a reputation of trust and dependability. Now it sounds like it’s gone because of some cockamamie scheme to try to increase sales.Of course, the Postal Service is in trouble. Think about it. How many personal cards and letters do you get?It’s mostly just bills, junk mail and magazines. As more and more people pay their bills online, paying bills through the mail will decrease. Some magazines have started publishing online exclusively, and we can expect more publishers to do so, even though I’m not sure it’s a good idea. FedEx, UPS and others provide stiff competition in package delivery. As the Postal Service prices keep going up, many of us will use alternatives.The Postal Service is in a battle for its life, but do you really think trying to overcharge customers is going to solve this?Incentivizing salespeople From there, I went to an electronics store to get a connector and a cable. The clerk tried to sell me a warranty on these! “It will save you money if anything happens to them.” Not realizing he had completely destroyed his credibility, he tried to sell me a cell phone. I actually need one, but there’s no way I would ever buy one from the likes of him.He even got visibly upset with me, and I was tempted to return what I had just bought. If he learned how to treat customers, he would make a lot more money. I’ll probably never go into that store again.I wonder how many other customers leave with the same resolution.One of the big problems with incentivizing salespeople, whether they’re in the post office or anywhere else, is their self-interest becomes too apparent. We don’t expect any salesperson to really care about us, but if they don’t even know enough to pretend they have some interest in helping us, instead of just taking as much of our money as possible, we don’t want to buy from them. Purposely try to overcharge somebody just once, and you’ve done permanent damage.Some poor sales results have nothing to do with this economy.Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham who has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, can be reached at 603-898-1871, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.bourqueai.com.