Chris Moerdyk

Old farts - Advice for shop workers

2012-09-17 10:47

Chris Moerdyk 

There are a lot of cute little phrases in marketing - most of which make those of us who have been in the business for a while, want to go outside and throw up in the gladioli.

But, there are some buzzwords that have a huge amount of merit. Like "exceeding expectation".

Normally, of course, this is used in a positive sense - something you have got to try and achieve when you come into contact with a customer for the first time.

But, it can also be used when things go wrong.

Take those old farts who are just never happy no matter how good the service is that they're getting. You know the sort of people - they're the first team in South Africa's national sport of bitching just for the hell of it.

Tell me about it, I think I'm one of the reserves because when my blood sugar drops too low and I'm shopping for something I really don't feel like shopping for, like a spare lavatory cistern ball-cock,  it doesn't take me long to start looking for a fight instead of the damn ball-cock.

Now this is where exceeding expectation can come in handy.

Because just normal excellent service is just not good enough for this kind of customer. And yes, you would be morally justified in telling them to go and shop somewhere else and yes, no one needs to take that kind of unjustified and over-the-top abuse.

But why? Why send the customer and his wallet somewhere else when you could keep them all to yourself with not too much effort? Sure, an unreasonable, belligerent customer, but what would life be without its little challenges especially if you are the winner at the end of it all?

So exceed expectations. The more unreasonable the customer the more excessive the expectation. It's called fighting fire with fire.

Ok, let's start at the beginning. The normal customer will come in to your store and if you are simply prompt, polite and exude a willingness to help and assist, that customer will be quite satisfied. Not the old fart, however.

He will expect you to be prompt, polite and exude a willingness to help and if that's as far as you go it'll be like bumping into Mike Tyson, kicking him in the goonies, sticking your chin out, closing your eyes and putting a sign around your neck saying; "come on I dare you..hit me you dumb jock…"

So, use a bit of old fart psychology. It's very much the same as you use on teenagers. You know, when your daughter comes home with someone who looks less like a human male and more like a warthog that has somehow cross-pollinated with a '56 Volkswagen Beetle. You hate the guy on sight but fall over yourself telling your daughter 10 times a day what a great guy you think he is with the result that she drops him in a heartbeat.

So exceed the old fart's expectation. Ask him if he is a television personality. Lay the flattery on as thick as you can. But watch it. Don't for heaven's sake confuse the process of exceeding expectation with being patronising. You'll be dead in a second if you do.

You have got to be genuine. Your mind must be quite firmly set on the understanding that while your natural inclination is to tell the old fart to get stuffed, the challenge is to turn him into a pussycat. It takes a lot of practice and enormous self-control but at the end of the day turning and old fart into a frequent, appreciative customer is hugely rewarding for both your soul and your back pocket.

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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