Customer Support: Not Just for Customers Anymore


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A couple of months ago, I went into my local electronics shop to purchase some resistors for a hobby project. This store sells many things besides electronic components, so their employees are trained to upsell whenever possible. As I made my way to the back of the store for my resistors, I noticed that the clerk behind the counter was trying to engage me. When I passed her, she practically leapt over the cash register in her efforts to reach me. She recklessly rounded the aisle where I was, lost her balance, and almost took me down with the nearby display of merchandise.

She was still not to be deterred, however, even after that near miss. A few moments later at the cash register, with my paltry purchase of a few resistors, she asked me how my cell phone quality was. I was still reeling from the near miss in the aisle and with my project waiting for me back at home, the last thing on my mind was my cell phone. So I told her, “Everything is fine.” While skilled at taking my cash, she seemed unable to take my hint, and asked me if I needed a new cell phone battery. “No…everything is fine,” I reiterated as I collected my change and mentally rehearsed my escape from the store.

I have thought about this encounter a few times since then, and I have come to realize that there is an important lesson to be learned here. Well, two lessons actually. But the first one is pretty obvious; don’t go into these types of stores without sufficient armor to protect you from flying clerks. So let’s move onto the second and more important lesson.

This clerk was more intent upon making a larger sale than she was in providing good customer support. Now, I don’t want to demonize this person; she was just doing the job that she was trained to do. As I pointed out earlier, she definitely put everything she had into it with “flying” gusto. But in her efforts to upsell me into a new phone or phone battery, she missed the opportunity to sell me what I really needed. What if the conversation had instead gone something like this?Read the full column here.Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of The PCB Design Magazine.

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