White lies, sales fibs and the customer experience
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.
Most storeowners or retail managers would never let anyone on their staff intentionally disrespect or be dishonest with a customer or colleague. But some behaviors are accepted even though they often undermine relationships and experiences between employees and customers.
My advice is to avoid accepting any behaviors that could hurt an individual or a store’s reputation. Here are three troubling behaviors:
White lies: White lies are usually harmless unless the customer or colleague hears the truth. In my Sharper Image days, a customer called to inquire if the piece of luggage he had dropped off had been repaired. Finding the piece sitting in the office, my fellow assistant answered, “I’m not sure why we haven’t gotten it back yet.”
Just a little white lie, right? Well, a few days later the repair department called the customer with a question about the luggage they had just received. You can imagine how angry the customer became. Admitting you made a mistake is much less damaging to a customer relationship than being caught in a lie.
Sales fibs: The salesperson says, “This is the last one in stock” even though there are more in the backroom. I’ll never forget when I saw a salesperson say that and the customer pointed to a huge stack of the product on the floor and said, “Looks like you just got some in.”
Instead of learning enough about the customer to create purchase intent, the salesperson uses scarcity to create intent. Sales fibs are a lazy way to sell and retailers condone dishonesty if they allow their associates to sell that way.
Speaking ill of others: Sometimes it’s just a snide remark about what a pain the customer is, or what a colleague did. It’s harmless, right? While these words might be spoken in jest, when we accept them we’re allowing small degrees of disrespectful behavior. On the other end of the scale is gossip that can hurt others. Neither one is healthy for teamwork and collaboration among the staff, nor for delivering the best possible experiences.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are white lies and other light transgressions just a part of the selling process or should they be scrupulously banned? How would you handle these situations if you were managing a store sales staff?