You have heard the oft-quoted statement that customers can choose two of three options when they make a purchase: price, quality or service.
The majority of buyers will pick price and quality. The least chosen combination is quality and service. Given the three options, I would always choose quality and service. Sure, I am interested in price, but at the end of the day, if you pay too little for something, it is probably incapable of doing what you purchased it to do. Then, the money you spent, even though you may have purchased the item for an incredibly low price, may be totally wasted.
Purchasing a product for the lowest price on the planet has no value if the product is not available when you need it. I have seen people pay ten times what a product was worth just to have it available when needed. If you pay too little, you might be better off not purchasing at all. The product quality may not meet your expectations, or it may not be available when you need it. As a salesperson, you have a solemn responsibility to diagnose and understand what the customer truly needs. I can promise you this, “If the customer isn’t happy, there is no way in the world you will be happy.”
John Ruskin, the British essayist and social thinker said this about focusing too much on purchasing for the lowest price:
“There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey. It’s unwise to pay too little.
When you pay too much, you lose a little money…that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.
The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot…it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run.
And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.”
When all is said and done, your customer will have a far greater memory and emotional attachment based on the service you provided than either quality or price. Again, the customer may tell you that price is the most important of the three elements of a purchase, but service is what they really want and expect. Let me share a couple of personal examples with you.
We drove to Phoenix to visit our grandchildren and I also conducted some business. The cruise control on my Audi was not working and by the time I arrived in Phoenix, my leg was somewhat stiff. The next day I drove over to the Audi dealer in Chandler, just a mile or so from our daughter’s home. As I approached the dealership I could see the new car showroom, but not the service department. I parked my car and went inside to ask directions to the service department. When I asked one of the salespeople directions to the service department, he said to follow him and he would take me there. He could have given me directions, but he jumped in a golf cart and led me there; that is what I call service.
When I arrived at the service department, there was a technician waiting for me to get out of the car to take care of my needs. After explaining the situation, he suggested it would be well for a mechanic to test drive my car. In less than one minute the mechanic and I were on the freeway testing the cruise control. He told me he was almost positive the clutch sensor for the cruise control was bad and within fifteen minutes he had the new part installed and I was on my way. This dealership and service department could write the book on excellent customer service.
My second example of extraordinary customer service involves Discount Tire. I’ve been buying my tires from them since 1992. I purchased new tires before my Phoenix road trip. The tires are not a common size and were shipped from the distributor in Dallas. The day after returning from Phoenix, I noticed the tire pressure sensor flashing on my dashboard. I was near the Discount Tire Store, so I immediately headed in that direction. I no sooner pulled up in front of the store, my engine still running, and one of their sales people greeted me and asked what he could help me with. I explained the situation and he instantly checked the pressure in all of my tires to determine if I had low air pressure or a faulty sensor. He found the tire that was leaking air and within just a few minutes had the tire off my car for repair.
After about ten minutes, the technician came into the waiting room carrying my tire (not a good sign). He said he had good news and bad news. The good news was that I had free replacement coverage on the tire and the bad news was the six-inch long half inch diameter piece of steel protruding through my tire had damaged it beyond repair. He told me he had already done a search to find a replacement tire (I’m thinking Dallas and four days). The technician jumped in his truck, picked up the tire at the local Michelin distributor and within twenty-minutes I was on my way.
Service is the only thing salespeople offer that is purely emotional. We sell the product, but we provide the service. Memory is deeply rooted in emotional experiences, so when we provide great service, we are creating strong emotions and memories in the minds of our customers. It is those emotions that generate repeat sales, referrals, and letters of recommendation. You can offer quality, price, or service. Even the best company and salesperson can only provide two of the three. Trust me on this; the very best combination is quality and service.