Melbourne, Australia. My wife Poh Lan and I were on a mission to buy a gift – an iron, to be exact. We found our way to the electrical section of David Jones, a major department store. We spotted the irons on display, and started walking towards them. A young woman intercepted us and asked whether we needed any assistance. Our natural reaction was to say, “No thanks. We are just looking.” This was, of course, a polite way of saying that we don’t want a persistent salesperson following us around to get us to buy something!
We walked to the irons on display. We were confronted by a sea of irons – different brands with different price tags. Mild brain overload started to set in. After looking and comparing for a while, we narrowed it down to two different brands. We lifted them. One seemed heavier than the other. Their buttons were a bit different. But, apart from that, we had no clue on how to make a choice between them. We looked at each and agreed that we were confused.
So we decided to ask the young woman to help us.
Poh Lan asked the logical question, “What’s the difference between these two models?” The young woman explained how one iron would give a smoother ride over the clothes. She explained the different hole configurations on the base of the irons. She explained the difference in weight between the irons – and the advantages of each. This young woman knew her irons!! And in a very short period of time, she had built credibility and trust with us. She had progressed from being “just a salesperson” to our trusted adviser.
And then she pointed to two irons from the same brand and with the same price. “This iron is a little heavier, so the weight will help you iron your clothes with less effort. I would therefore recommend this one.”
As you might have guessed, we walked out of David Jones with the iron. We made the purchase because the young lady had the product knowledge to advise us. She had built a relationship of trust with us. She didn’t sell the iron to us. Rather, she helped us to buy it. As we walked away from the cash register, Poh Lan and I agreed that we had just had a very good service experience.
Good service sells. Product knowledge is a base requirement for the delivery of good customer service.
Many companies try to save money by cutting down on product training. This certainly saves costs. But, in turn, it costs a huge amount of money in lost sales.
I can think of many occasions in Kuala Lumpur where I have walked into a shop, ready to buy, but have walked out empty handed. The key reason is that the employees did not have product knowledge to help me to buy. Without product training, they can, at best, be order takers. With product training, they can become trusted advisers, just like the young lady from David Jones.
Smart companies understand that good service sells. They know that investment in product knowledge training gives employees the confidence to better serve and recommend solutions to customers. They know that this service and product training is not a cost. Rather, it is an investment in happy customers and more sales. Until next time.