Good service (and asking the right questions) sells

Melbourne, Australia.  My wife Poh Lan and I had just purchased an iron from the David Jones department store. We were heading to our daughter’s house for dinner and decided to buy, among other things, cheese and crackers. Sounds simple enough, right?

We headed to the cheese section. Whoa! We were confronted by, you guessed it, a huge range of cheeses.

Neither Poh Lan nor I are cheese experts. I know my cheddar and a few other common ones like camembert and brie. We looked at the cheeses, looked at each other and instantly came to the same decision – ask for help.

At that very moment, a lady behind the counter asked us whether we needed any assistance. She must have seen the confusion on our faces. I blurted out, “We want to buy some cheese!” This was a rather obvious opening statement, seeing we were in the cheese section! I continued, “And we don’t know much about cheese.”

“That’s okay,” she said. “I have been trained in cheese pairing. Do you prefer mild or stronger tasting cheese?”  I  intelligently answered, “Something in the middle.” When in doubt, go the middle ground.

“Okay,” she said, “Do you prefer hard or soft cheeses?” She went on to ask us a few more questions, and, within a few more questions, we felt comfortable that we had chosen the right cheese to bring to dinner that night. David Jones won yet another sale from us.

Customer service is about giving the customer what he or she wants. Asking the right questions is central to being able to do this. It demonstrates our interest in the customer and in solving the customer’s problems. Asking questions quickly builds credibility and trust between the customer and the service person. Asking questions creates sales.

Customer service is certainly about engaging our employees to deliver a great experience so that they feel good about dealing with us. However, it must be central to our thinking that, to keep the C-Suite happy, there must be a financial return on investments in customer service. Training people in product knowledge, and training them to ask the right questions, will certainly – definitely – reap rich returns on investment.

Just ask two visitors to the David Jones Melbourne cheese section – Poh Lan and I. We came, we were served, we were asked questions and then advised. We trusted and we bought. All because the customer service person knew the right questions to ask. Until next time.

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