The relationship between customer service and making sales is often underestimated. Have you had the experience of walking into a store when all the clerks were busy, and you stood there waiting for just eye contact? I bet you have! It's the worst to be left standing with not even a brief acknowledgement that we've entered the store.
The same thing happens virtually, too. Here's a recent experience that killed a sure sell. I like a certain brand of cross stitch patterns, which are impossible to find locally (barrier to a sell). So I went on line to the company in search of what I wanted and ended up finding 5 patterns and a kit I'd like to buy (in other words, I upsold myself, LOL!). But, there was no shopping cart on the website, which led me to believe the company didn't make direct sales to customers (another barrier to sell). So, I used the “contact us” form and sent a message, asking about what I wanted to purchase.
Three days went by (yet another barrier to sell, and forever in Internet-land) and I got a reply. The company “prefers” to send customers to local stores but “will” sell from their site. I e-mail back, giving my ZIP code and stating that I don't believe there are local stores who carry their product. The company writes back and gives me Memphis (400 miles away) and Johnson City (120 miles away). I write back and explain those are too far to go for $30.00 worth of cross stitch supplies. They write back and give me a total for what I wish to purchase, then add that they “don't do Paypal, will take a credit card by phone since they have no shopping cart, and that there is a flat shipping fee no matter if you spend one dollar or a hundred dollars.”
I'm already thinking “I can't complete this order by Internet, I'm going to have to wait until they are open (different time zone) and remember to call with a credit card number in between appointments in my busy day.” That's another barrier to a sell. But wait! In an effort to be helpful, the company's owner points out that their brand new stitching patterns will be released in only about a week, and since there is a flat fee for shipping, perhaps I would want to wait and include some of the new releases in my order. (She gets points for upselling me even more than I have already upsold myself.) I'm excited and e-mail back, saying that if she will let me know when the new releases are on the website, I'll check them out, select what I want, add it the the stuff I already want, and call them with a credit card number. We're cooking with gas now!
And then…..I hear back with a terse note, “You can only imagine how busy we are when new releases come out. You need to put a note in your own tickler file to keep checking back to the website and then contact us again.” Whooaaaaaaaa there, Nelly. That stitching company just lost a sell of existing product plus a sell of new releases. I understand she is busy, but guess what, so am I! Basically, after I've spent an entire week trying to buy something from this company I get a note telling me that HER time is more valuable than MY time. Well, that might be true but a customer doesn't want to hear that, do they? She's got the product, I've got the money. Seems to me that a sell might be worth HER putting ME in her tickler file.
Putting the “burden to purchase” back onto the consumer never works. Consumers will forget, never get around to it, or, like me, plain just get peeved at having to chase the sell. Consumers don't want to chase sells. That is YOUR responsibility as the seller. I've already wasted enough time trying to talk this company into selling to me. I'm not going to keep it up, there are a zillion stitch patterns in the world and I can certainly live without these. It never works to tell a customer “I'm too busy to keep up with you.” If dentists did that, no one would ever come in for teeth cleaning every six months like clockwork, would they? Not to mention the mammogram thing……
A great customer service department would integrate seamlessly with the marketing department. The company's website would have captured my name and e-mail address (it didn't) and send me a note saying “Hey! Our new patterns are just released, here's the link, go browse and buy!” In this case, that won't happen because both the customer service and the marketing are poor. Lost sales are a sad thing all the way around. Don't let it happen in your business.