7 Truths about Customers No Retailer Wants to Admit

By Chip Averwater — December 07, 2012

"The customer is always right" is a mantra that business owners hear over and over again. Of course, this way of thinking doesn't always hold water. Sometimes customers are just plain wrong. But if you don't want your retail store to join the estimated 95% of failed ventures, you'd better figure out quickly that even when the customer is wrong, he's right. It's a retail truth that you simply have to come to terms with if you want a successful store.
 
Retail doesn't get rave reviews. Most shoppers agree that the typical retail experi­ence isn't good. Why can't retail rate better satisfaction? One theory is that consum­ers experience retailing almost daily and become highly discriminating in their standards. Also, consumers often see excellent examples of particular aspects of retailing individually, but rarely does any retailer get it all right at once. And finally, retailers who do manage to get it all right are too expensive to be competitive.
 
Be-backs don't come back. Customers say, "I'll be back later to purchase this!" to extricate them­selves from the situation without disappointing the salesperson. When a customer says this, ask if you've shown her the correct product, answered her questions, and provided enough informa­tion. Keep asking questions and providing information. With persistence, maybe you'll convince your be-back to come back.
 
Happy customers come and go; unhappy customers accumulate. Dissatisfied customers have long memories and look for opportunities to warn others away. It's usually worthwhile to actively look for unhappy customers, open a dialog, and try to make up with them. Often, a little attention turns them into equally vocal advocates.
 
Complaints are signs our customers want us to do better. When a customer complains, it often means many others feel the same way but don't bother to tell us. One complaint represents an opportunity to improve ser­vice to all of your customers.
 
Low prices won't excuse poor service. Retailers must find a balance between service and price that appeals to customers. Sometimes a cheaper price with lower service works out, but often it leads to dis­appointment and dissatisfaction. Never believe the rationalization that poor service doesn't matter if your prices are low enough.
 
"Take it back where you bought it" alienates customers. Occasionally, you'll encounter a customer who asks for help with a product he purchased elsewhere. The customer is coming to you because they are unhappy with the competitor's transaction. Do you really want to send them back?
 
You don't see your competitors' happy customers. Remember that the complaints you hear about the competition aren't a balanced picture. Only dissatisfied customers come see you; satisfied customers are happy and have no reason to go elsewhere.
 
When you admit these truths are out there, you can begin to implement ways to keep your customers happy, keep them coming through your doors, and most importantly, keep them buying from you!
 
Chip Averwater is a retailer and chairman of Amro Music Stores in Memphis, TN. He has been a featured speaker on retailing in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia, and is the author of Retail Truths: The Unconventional Wisdom of Retailing.

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