Every customer deserves respect.

Prejudging customers can have lasting consequences

By Rich Lindblom

One sunny summer day about ten years ago I decided to go new car shopping.

I was looking to replace my eight- to 10-year-old Chevy Impala and was considering either an Infiniti or an Acura.  So I pulled on a pair of old basketball shorts, grabbed the first t-shirt from the top of the pile and headed off to the car dealer.

The Infiniti and Acura dealers were right across the street from each other, but as dictated by the route I took, I stopped at the Infiniti dealership first. There was a parking spot right there at the front door, so I parked my car, hopped out, and walked in. 

As luck would have it, or so I thought anyways, I was the only customer in the showroom.  A couple of salesmen were chatting at a desk toward the back, and both looked up to see who had walked in. But neither bothered to acknowledge me, let alone offer greetings or assistance.  I wandered around for a few minutes looking at the cars, naturally assuming someone would offer to help me sooner or later.  Well, fast forward about five minutes and after not even getting a hello, I decided I was no longer interested in purchasing an Infiniti.

I got back in my car, drove across the street to the Acura dealership, and walked out 90 minutes later with a brand-new Acura RDX. 

Why?  Of course I liked the car, but just as important, and maybe even more so, they got my business because they treated me with the respect I deserved as a potential customer.  It didn’t matter that I was driving an older car or that I was dressed like a guy about to mow his lawn.  I was greeted in a prompt, friendly and professional manner and treated with respect throughout the entire process.  I have since purchased two more Acuras and will never consider an Infiniti, period.

The point of the story is that customers form an impression, and sometimes a lasting one, based on how you treat or mistreat them, as the case may be. And in my case, Infiniti quite simply lost a customer for life based upon the actions of two salespeople.  And this couldn’t be more important for your company than it is right now.

It doesn’t matter what you are selling; customers have an unlimited number of shopping options available to them these days, so when you get right down to it, there are only two things that you and your staff need to do to sell more merchandise:

  1. Give them a reason to buy from you instead of the guy down the street.
  2. Don’t give them a reason to buy from the guy down the street instead of you.

It was obvious to me that those two Infinity salesmen took one look at me and decided I wasn’t the typical luxury car owner, so they just ignored me.  It kind of reminded me of the scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts asks the saleswoman, “You work on commission, right?”

Now, you’re probably thinking that the moral of the story here is, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but it isn’t.

I think it could be better expressed with a different adage: “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

Ask yourself: How would you feel if you, as a shopper, went to a store with every intention of buying there and a staff member treated you poorly or worse yet, totally ignored you?  If that happened to you, I’d be willing to bet you wouldn’t do business with that company now or in the future. 

Well, guess what?  The same holds true for your customers.  Put yourself in your customers’ shoes for a moment and think about how they are being treated by you and your staff.

The bottom line is that every single customer who does you the favor (that’s right, I said favor) of walking through your door wanting to give you money deserves to be treated like the most important person in the world. Because they are.

I have three goals in mind with my columns: To motivate, educate and entertain.  If I have achieved at least one of those, then I have done my job. Don’t be shy about letting me know if you agree. Write me at egvrich@gmail.com