Thursday, June 18, 2009

Service expectations while purchasing durables or electronics

A few years ago when we went to purchase a fridge I recall the comic confusion that the various sales persons standing at the durables store created. There were three or four salesmen standing around and when we pointed to a fridge and asked them to show us the features, first they were reluctant. Then one person reluctantly explained how the concerned salesman had gone for his tea break. While I was wondering on the absurdity of having individual salesmen for each product, another elaborated that I was enquiring about brand A while all those present were representing Brand B or C or D. Finally one person did try to at least engage us till the time that the concerned salesman returned!

I am sure most of you would have had this experience.

Later on when I was handling the marketing for a durables store, such similar experiences prompted the team to relook at the way the store staff interacted with customers and went on to become a key differentiator.

It might definitely help the durable retailers if they were cognizant of this dissonance being created by what is called company promoters as also internalize that the consumers are changing.

Typically the various brand manufacturers agree to place these salesmen or promoters as they are called. Hence, most are briefed and trained only with details of a particular brand. Of course there is a fair amount of churn within this group and it would not be uncommon to see a person be a salesman for Brand A and a few weeks or months later for Brand B. Although this and the fact that they all work together makes them all aware of the various brands, the tendency is to constantly steer the customer towards one’s brand. From a customer point of view, this is not only confusing but extremely annoying too.

Today the reality is that youngsters are emerging or rather have emerged as a significant consuming class, especially of Electronics. These consumers are well informed and usually have done some homework with regards to the products, brands, features, etc. In such a context having to face a virtual race amongst the salesmen is not the best thing that a store can do.

Secondly, there is a large group of educated consumers who are older and who typically indulge in high- end electronics and durables. Such consumers again do not appreciate pushy selling because they are looking for additional inputs, details and explanations with regards to the various features of a product.

And then you have the average consumer who is looking for functional benefits and is often technologically challenged. Yet again, not a good choice to practice hard sell. They look for some information and lots of reassurance!

So, essentially the purchasing pattern for this category of products is fast moving towards informed and knowledgeable decision making by the consumer instead of being hustled into a sale.

Most modern durables chains are aware of this shift in consumer behavior and they have the store staff to offer nonpartisan inputs and help in the purchase. However, the larger universe of small operators still relies on the company promoter route, simply because it helps defray the man power costs. What they seem to be missing out is that if the customers dry up, there would be no store and no costs left to defray!


shashwat said...

It is true when it comes to small time retailers. Some of them still are far from the concept of customer satisfaction. Being profit oriented only, they tend to over look the fact that cost cutting on such crucial areas might make them loose a customer and also the negative publicity through 'word of mouth'.

I believe the competition at the hands of the organised retailers will make them look the other way and they might mend their ways.

The question is how long will it take them to realise the situation? It could be well late by then

puresunshine said...

I have often faced such a situation and since I love shopping (especially during sales), there is often a sales guy who is not there and the customer heads elsewhere. Training staff is most important. I was in fact surprised when I went to a Big Bazaar store and found the staff there so well informed about digi-cams when i made an enquiry. It was the opposite at pantaloons. It definitely makes an impact to engage a customer in conversation if he/she is serious and also share the knowledge with him/her.

Cognizance said...

To some extend this is true,but this scenario is changing a lot,and i could feel this.Yes,we are in the ages of "Prosumers" and this word essentially explains that customers are no more only customers,they are information providers/sharers.So,i feel the fear to explain things to customers are slowly vanishing. Companies are taking immense steps so that,they want consumers to be prosumers, this technique helps them to create more market share and business (eg. LG, Godrej, Maruthi...etc)

Thanks for posting this wonderful article!!!

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