Customer service - some observations

Discussion in 'General Discussions and Advice' started by red deacon, 9 Jan 2016.

  1. red deacon

    red deacon

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    I head up a luxury item retail operation, and am responsible for a sales team numbering 8. Although I have responsibility for other departments within the business, sales is my passion and I love interacting with the different characters within my team as their sales methodology and customer skills are so diverse. There are occasions when I am amazed at the tenacity shown in getting deals done, often long after I have personally written a prospect off as being a "tyre kicker". I am then pleasantly surprised by getting an order. The other side of the coin is true as well. I am often infuriated when absolute unprofessional behaviour, often apathy related and more often than not, not doing the basics, results in a lost sale due to the customer buying from another store.

    The reason I mention all of this is because I was left amazed at the general apathy shown by LFS staff when I wanted to spend money recently. With one or two notable exceptions, I have been completely underwhelmed by the level of service received when I venture in to stores in the greater PWV, some of them sponsors on here, some of them not. 99% of sales staff in these LFS, I put firmly in the category of what I term showroom spiders. These intrepid sales people come to work and spin their web, hoping for someone to become entangled in it. The absolute standard when entering a store, often when sitting on their arses, not even bothering to stand up and greet, is the old faithful " Can I help you?" I often wonder whether the management/owners invest in any sales training and whether they are aware of the absolute disinterest their staff show their customers when they visit their store. On one memorable occasion I heard the distinctive click of the tongue when the salesman had to interrupt whatever he was busy with on his computer. I apologised for disturbing him and left!

    In December I was fortunate enough to get a great bonus and I decided that I wanted to upgrade my RSM250 to at least a 600 litre tank. I had no hard and fast ideas and wanted the "experts" to guide me insofar as the new setup would consist of. I wanted a full system, and the only constraint I had was a budget of around R60K but I had some flexibility there too. During the period 17 to 24 December 2015, I physically visited 6 stores in the PWV area, and responded to one online deal proposal, and asked for assistance in getting their best deals to me. I am truly disappointed at the lack of interest shown. The apathy of some of the sales staff was terrible and if any of these guys worked for me, they would be responding to situations vacant as we speak. One thing that was blindingly obvious was the lack of a plan B when they had nothing tailor made to meet my request. If there was nothing available on the floor to show, then basically it was a sorry we don't have anything and have a nice day. Of the 6 stores I visited only ONE of them took my details with a promise to phone me back. The reason for this was that the tank builder they used was on holiday and that contact would be made early in the new year with a quote. It is now the 9th of January and I still await a call. To give some leeway, perhaps this will happen next week but I sincerely doubt it. The store I approached who were running an online offer for a system that was above my budget, basically derided me for asking if the offer included installation costs. I was told "we can make a plan" or something to that effect, and that was the last I heard from that establishment. Not a quote for delivery and installation, not a follow up, nothing. That deal would have cost 80k and more. Clearly times are good in the marine industry if we have keen customers who are not looked after. Or is it a scenario that maybe times are not as good because the industry does not give customers the service they deserve? Judging by my experience, I think the quality of sales staff is a major problem and is costing these businesses dearly.

    You will note that I have not named any of the stores I dealt with. Some are forum sponsors, some are not. It would be interesting to hear from fellow forumites whether my situation was isolated or whether this is the standard.
     
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  3. Willie85

    Willie85

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    When I started with my tank last year in June I got the same feeling. I sent numerous emails to lfs and asked if I buy all equipment needed from them will I get discount. I gave them a list of stuff I needed which was over 10k. Three lfs reponded with only prices on the list of things, two of them told me I need to wait because they are busy with a price increase (even though the stock they had was bought on the old price) Dorry pets was the only lfs who sold me the stuff I needed on the old price plus they gave me discount. Guess who I am supporting?
     
  4. r0ckf1re

    r0ckf1re

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    Totally agree with Op. It seems like we the customer are doing them a favor by shopping with them. I usually buy where service is good irrespective of price.
     
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  5. reefer101

    reefer101 Archangel

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    Well I walked into a lfs few weeks back with no customers there but me, told them I'm interested with the mushrooms and a shrimp please pack it up for the next I see everyone helping another customer who came in long after me and who was buying for a good couple K. Made me hang for 20mins with no help afterwards I left the shop. So I guess my R700 wasn't good enough or maybe cause I look a kid?
     
  6. r0ckf1re

    r0ckf1re

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    A noob mistake lots of sales people make, they judge people on looks.
    I had this issue at two car dealerships. First was Audi and one was GM. Ended up buying the cars from another dealer.
     
    Last edited: 9 Jan 2016
  7. NewbiePta

    NewbiePta

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    Reading this has made me laugh as much as it makes me sad. As a sales person myself it seems the art has been lost and we have entered the age of ordertakers.

    I have experienced the excact same service from buying a R1000 aluminium to a BMW. It seems all to common to find someone playing solitare on their pc or angry birds on a tabled and not even have them look up when you say hi can someone help me? I had a guy say "yes what can i get you? "and not even look up from his tablet.

    I had two sales people try and sell me a GTI and ST without getting up from their desks.

    Unfortunately service is a thing of the past. Everyone acts like they are doing you a favour for letting you buy from them.
     
  8. Andre@ReefAquatics

    Andre@ReefAquatics Sponsor

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    We really feel your pain. It's not only the marine industry but all other industries too.

    On the flip side just imagine how frustrating it must be for us retailers to spend 3 weeks advising customers and multiple queries on products only for you to chase up a customer on his enquiries to find out that although your have provide every ounce of info, spent 3 weeks, probably 50 emails to find out that the customer has used all this info to go to another store as he could save R100 on a R5k purchase.

    How disheartening to the sales guy and lfs. There are so many times that the quote is forwarded to other stores dorectly and because R100 is knocked off the deal is done there.

    Just my 2c as this happens on numerous occasions.
     
  9. r0ckf1re

    r0ckf1re

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    This is what makes the sales business what's it is. I still feel no matter what, all customers need to be treated alike and great service needs to be provided.
     
  10. Andre@ReefAquatics

    Andre@ReefAquatics Sponsor

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    I only speak for our company and you have to admit that all the effort and advice offered we do expect the R100 saving to be not an issue especially when the sale is over R5k.

    I personally would have awarded the sale to the store investing time and sound advice and being assured that should support be required in the future it will be available on tap.
     
  11. r0ckf1re

    r0ckf1re

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    I understand, but there's always going to be customers like this, the problem is how do you tell the apart.
     
  12. Andre@ReefAquatics

    Andre@ReefAquatics Sponsor

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    You can't but you learn and you train your staff to give their ultimate best to ensure the best customer satisfaction possible. Shrug off dissapointment and treat the next customers as a potential long term client.
    That's our policy anyway.

    All new customers are treated equal but we do learn the customers that are using our advice and time and quotes to save a buck. Surely that's accepted, we believe in competion and saving, but don't crucify us.
     
    Last edited: 9 Jan 2016
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  13. r0ckf1re

    r0ckf1re

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    Sounds like a recipe for success.
     
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  14. Juan27

    Juan27

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    Whilst we on this topic, just a few pointers to the LFS that I'm sure a few guys will agree on.
    1. Please put your pricing on the live stock. I'm making sums in my head(I will buy something from you today, that's why I'm there) but you would know that I can't add 15 fish at once, and it gets pretty irritating asking for a price the whole time.

    2. If I want to buy a Yellow tang etc, please let me know that my tank might not be big enough, or my tank is too young for a Nennie etc, stuff like that gets you a customer for life.
     
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  15. Andre@ReefAquatics

    Andre@ReefAquatics Sponsor

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    "2. If I want to buy a Yellow tang etc, please let me know that my tank might not be big enough, or my tank is too young for a Nennie etc, stuff like that gets you a customer for life."

    With all due respect.

    Please be aware thet in reefkeeping you own your ecosystem and you are responsible for owning the pets you keep and providing their compfortable habitat. We sell the live stock and cater for varying levels of experience , what you put into your ecosystem is your responsibility and you should educate yourself. Otherwise let us do your ecosystem and stock lt as we feel what your system can take and you just enjoy a beautiful tank maintained by us.

    Very sorry for the harsh words.

    The rule of thumb is start slowly learn progress and educate yourself.

    Never take advice from someone helping you in an lfs. There are many other avenues more reliable.

    A point to note we are in 2016 and all info is available on Google don't be lazy to research. You are wanting to keep sensitive livestock please be responsible and teach
     
    Last edited: 10 Jan 2016
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  16. EFJ

    EFJ MASA Contributor

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    I agree with you Andre. If you are going to buy something do your research but now you enter a lfs with the intention to buy that something you want and then you see something else that attracts your attention that you did not research. At that point in time I would like the sales staff at least to have some form of guidance to guide me in doing a good purchase or a bad purchase. At the end you want a happy customer when he leaves your store knowing that he will return time and time again. I notice that sales staff these days don't have that positive welcomeness these days (and I am referring to all types of stores etc.). I am a very fussy buyer when it comes to stores and if I don't get the service I expect then I won't return no matter how cheap the item is I am looking for. Remember that the customer pays the bills at the end of the day. Just my 2c.
     
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  17. viper357

    viper357 Admin MASA Contributor

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    Please be mindful of personal attacks, thank you.
     
  18. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    People do not listen. Or more like they do not care about your opinion on their tanks. Maybe they got some company maintaining their tank and therefor think their system is bulletproof. Or they did read something on the internet and who are you who works in a shop, how do you know better. Yes, the customer is always right.... yeah sure. People are funny.

    To add on to Andre. There are guys "window shopping", maybe saw a tank at somebodies place, or woke up that morning, or saw "Finding Nemo" who decided that day, yeah I want a marine tank! And they come in and ask 100 and then some more questions. Clearly they done none research. Or they did keep a guppy tank successfully way back in high school and only now realize that a marine tank differs vastly from a 60L Daro tank. I have to wait my turn until they are done, to ask the sales person something. Most of the time, those guys goes home, never to return after realizing that they cannot have Nemo and Dory tonight in a little round glass bowl for under R500.

    When it comes to cars, buying a new car, the same new guys do walk in with somewhat of an understanding of what they can afford. They did check some prices, either magazine or online. They prefer this brand over that brand because of whatever. They know that they will be able to afford the 2L base model with maybe one or 2 add-ons, not the 3L V6. The amount of time spent asking a car sales person questions compared to a LFS shop assistant does not even come close.

    And then again, there are plenty of times I walk in at Dorry Pets, say hello and scan the tanks. And walk out without buying anything. They are on my way home. Eish, maybe I'm the one wasting the time of the shop assistant.
     
  19. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Another viewpoint.

    These shops only got a limited number of salespersons working there. Else what do you think they fish prices would have been if they double up their sales staff?

    On some of my Dorry Pets drop ins, I was the only customer guy in the shop, talking shit to the guys, making jokes. Next moment a lot of customers walks in and they cannot even help them all. There was instances where I chatted to the "new in the hobby" guys, answering their questions etc. The new guy actually rather surprised when he realize that I do not really work there.

    My point, maybe you just caught the shop at a particularly busy moment. It happens.

    But if the sales person got an attitude, that I cannot defend.
     
    Last edited: 9 Jan 2016
  20. red deacon

    red deacon Thread Starter

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    There have been some interesting responses. From the outset, let me make it clear that there is no malice in my post, I have listed what my experiences were, nothing else. Due to the fact that I am so involved in the sales processes at my business, perhaps I view the interaction with sales staff differently. Whilst I hear the viewpoints of Andre regarding the time wasters, I cannot for a second understand the logic behind not maximising every opportunity a walk in presents. The absolute basics would be to stand up, greet, welcome the prospect to the store, determine why the prospect is there and take down his particulars. In my line we get enthusiasts literally kicking tyres on a daily basis, my staff still have the job to qualify the individual. A while back there was a kick back from retailers on this forum against people importing equipment directly. In my opinion, from the experienced gained, I may now take the risk of buying high quality equipment with the voided warranties. I have no faith that I will be assisted should there be any problems. I have, as has been suggested, used google and done my research. Prices are significantly cheaper even with the current exchange rates. Brick and mortar businesses have some huge advantages over online ventures, those advantages disappear when shoddy, inefficient, couldn't care less staff cock it all up. My 2c worth.

    Selling is . . .
    . . . the one game in town that pays the bills,
    that keeps the doors open, that nobody wants to admit they do.

    "I'm not in sales, I'm a supervisor, doctor, lawyer, banker, administrator, accountant."
    "Don't look at me, I'm just the secretary, nurse, receptionist, shipping clerk."
    Funny - if nobody sells . . .
    how do you get new students, new patients, new clients, new customers?

    Selling is everyone's business and when it's not, you're in trouble.

    Think about it . . .
    remember the time you decided not to go back to a company,
    because the shipping clerk sent you the wrong item,
    the receptionist was cold and surly;
    the manager didn't have time to talk to a mere customer,
    the doctor had you wait two hours.

    That's selling . . . negative selling.

    Remember - everyone sells, and not just externally, but internally as well.
    When you want a raise, you sell your boss on your skills and value.

    When you set new policies and procedures you sell these to your staff in a way they can accept,
    or you'll soon find they'll ignore them.
    When you expect more of your staff than you're willing to properly train and supervise them for,
    you're whistling up a hollow tree,
    because they're only as good as the training you give them.

    But there's more to selling than that . . .

    Selling is knowing . . .
    Who's your competition?
    Who's your customer, client, patient or public?
    And what's important - you or them?

    Selling is knowing . . .
    What your service, idea, or product is - and isn't;
    what your public's needs are;
    and what services or products you offer to fit those needs.

    Selling is knowing . . .
    When to market and where;
    Where your competition isn't and then being there;
    Why some things are accepted and others not.

    Selling is knowing . . .
    How to treat your public as you would like to be treated;
    How to market and merchandise better than your competition;
    How to listen and learn from your staff as well as your public;
    How to assess your own knowledge, or lack of it about your services, ideas, goods or products;
    and how to make it easier for your public to accept what you are offering.

    And finally, Selling is knowing that this business is after all, a profession . . .
    The Profession of Selling.

    Let us not pretend it's someone else's problem.

    Alan J Zell
     
    Last edited: 10 Jan 2016
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  21. Juan27

    Juan27

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    Andre, although I don't disagree with your statement, we all are responsible for what we keep. Let's take an Emperor Angel for example, I've seen juveniles rock up in a LFS close to my house that were literally the size of a R5 coin, a beautiful fish but they grow far too large for the average guys system. It really wouldn't hurt the sales staff to ask the customer that bought that Emperor about his tank size.
     
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