How is it possible to increase business by turning customers away? That sounds like a total contradiction!
Recently, I was on the hunt for a local store that carries paper bracelets. You know, the kind that they give out at water parks, fairs, etc. to show that a person paid?
I wasn’t sure which store to call first, but I decided to start by calling a local educational store that I thought might carry the bracelets. Here is how our conversation went:
Me: “Hi, I need to buy some paper bracelets for an event that my company is sponsoring next week. Does your store carry paper bracelets?”
Store employee: “No, I’m sorry, we don’t. Have you tried the ABC Paper Store here in town? I’ll bet they carry something like what you’re looking for. Or you might try the XYZ Paper Store. They have a good selection of paper goods, too.”
When you think about it, that store clerk actually turned away my business and sent me to another store! And you know what? Her response could actually increase her business!
If the clerk had said, “No, we don’t carry that item”:
1. I would have hung up the phone and called another store.
2. I would have never given that first store another thought.
However, when the clerk suggested some other store options (other than hers):
1. I hung up the phone and called the store she suggested.
2. I made a mental note about that first shop and the clerk’s helpful suggestions.
3. I will probably shop at her store in the future, simply because of that positive customer service experience.
How does this concept apply to your small business? Here are some suggestions:
Offer an alternative to the requested item.
If a customer requests a particular item that you don’t carry (or requests a custom item that you simply can’t create), suggest another item from your shop that might be a possible alternative. If the customer won’t be satisfied with anything other than that particular item, however, take some time to do a bit of research and suggest another store that might carry the item. The customer will remember you for your efforts.
Kindness costs you nothing. Take the time to respond to the customer, thanking him/her for contacting you. Apologize that you don’t carry that particular item and offer an alternative. Helpfulness goes a long way.
Consider expanding your product line to include it.
If enough people inquire about a type of product that you don’t carry, you might be wise to add it to your product line (if it is feasible).
Good luck in your efforts!