Friday, July 18, 2008

Batteries ARE Customer Service

This arrived in my email from the Weakest Link:

Whenever I buy something that says "batteries sold separately." I calmly dream that this will be the store redeeming my basic faith in a company’s ability to seize the most self-evident opportunity for customer service.

(I’m starting to think I am a hopeless idealist.)

1. If you are selling an item. TEST it before you let the customer walk out with it. Take out a pair of batteries. Put them in and make sure everything works.

It really doesn’t matter that the item is made by Widget Industries in Upper Mongolia. YOU sold it, and the customer will be angry with YOU when it doesn’t work.

2 . (This is where companies make fools of themselves) Turn off the object and put it back in the box before closing the sale. But LEAVE THE BATTERIES.

Yes, I said it! Save your key rings, forget about the complimentary Frisbee. Take the unusually smart step of actually making sure that the item will work when they get home without the customer needing to buy batteries.

In fact, if I come home with an object without batteries, but a complimentary branding Frisbee, I’m probably going to be even more fuming than if I didn’t get the Frisbee at all. At that second I am going to wonder what moron came up with that idea instead of just giving me a pair of bloody AA’s! Now I’m both angry that I have to go back out and get batteries, and convinced that your establishment is owned and operated by a cretin. Not the customer experience you should be shooting for.

Giving It Away Increase Sales

The amazing thing is that your sale of batteries has a great chance of increasing too. Why? Because if you don’t have a policy of testing each item, your sales clerks are going to forget to remind the customer they will need batteries x amount of times out of a hundred.

If clerks test everything as a policy, they won’t forget as often and that will improve sales of batteries as well. And here is the kicker, the customer probably has other things that need batteries, so even though you just gave them batteries for the item they purchased, they will often end up buying them for other items.

It All Goes In the Plus Column

If the item you are selling is $2.49 with a profit margin of 30 cents. This is admittedly not a great idea. But if you are holding a profit margin anywhere over $3 per item, you can’t really lose by doing this.

AA batteries are about 7 cents if you buy in bulk. You are paying more for those fancy brochures used to staple the receipt to in case the product doesn’t work. Now you will have to deal with less customer returns as well, which also saves you money and bad will. (See the math here?)

If you have a profit margin that is high, Say $70. You will have to convert 1 sale in every 250 to a returning customer or a referral for it to break even.

I guarantee you will be head and shoulders above the competition that are still standing there like misers, taking them back out of the gadget before asking you if you would like to buy batteries. To me, that is not just a missed opportunity of customer service. It’s downright counterproductive and borderline rude.

I can also promise you that the statement "I’m going to leave these in here, if you would like to buy extra batteries, this item takes Double A’s" will do more for your customer satisfaction than a Frisbee ever will.

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