Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Keep Up On Your Promises

“Always bear in mind what the country mother said to her daughter who was coming up to town to be apprenticed to the Bond Street millinery, ‘For heaven’s sake be good; but if you can’t be good, be careful.’”
     That’s from a 1903 book titled Pitcher in Paradise. Parallel advice for milliners in year 2010—especially if the hats they’re selling are advertised as luxury overstocks—is “Keep your promises. But if you can’t keep your promises, for heaven’s sake keep up on your promises.”
     Stay aware of your customers’ understanding of what you’re promising them, and when there are changes in what you can deliver, head off any negative effects on your customers’ long-term views of your business.
     I snuck in the part about luxury overstocks after reading a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article describing how outlet mall stores like Neiman Marcus Last Call and Saks’ Off 5th Avenue may be reneging on a promise. Customers have come to expect Gucci, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana at bargain prices. But because high-end fashion retailers have trimmed back on inventory, there are fewer overstocks.
     Customers will still find lower prices than in the namesake stores. They’ll probably find luxury labels. But what’s increasingly being sold at the outlets are items made especially for those stores and to less refined standards than the originals.
     In other cases in our rugged economic environment, the promises not being kept—from the customer’s perspective, at least—have to do with services and pricing. Late delivery times. Failures to be instantly available to resolve complaints. Charges for extras that used to be free.
     Building on research findings from Arizona State University, here are tips for handling such situations to avoid negative fallout:
  • Announce changes in advance. Minimize the surprises.
  • Take personal responsibility. If you need to raise prices because supplier prices have escalated, certainly explain that to the irritated shopper. But in doing it, even your employee furthest from ownership of the business should use an abundance of “I” and “My store.”
  • Allow the customer enough time to brief you about the bother. Then respond with something that shows you understand what the customer said, For instance, you might reply, “I understand the nuisance it causes for you to have to put your project on hold because of the late delivery.”
Click below for more:
Keep Your Promises
Make Your Shoppers Feel Smart
Ease Customer Anger at Delivery Delays

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