Customer Service Done Wrong, Then Right

As amazing as it is to me and to my wife,
Jane, our little girl Abigail started college this year. In preparation for the
big event we did what many parents do – we took her out to buy a new laptop.
Despite my love for Apple products Abigail didn’t want a MacBook so we headed
to Best Buy in search of the right machine for her.
With the help of a friend of Abigail’s who
worked at Best Buy, we found the right laptop and the whole buying experience
was a good one. Unfortunately things changed just over a month later.
One night I asked Abigail how her laptop was
working she said it was slow and ads kept popping up. I ran the antivirus
software and it seemed to do the job except after rebooting, the laptop froze.
Despite all of my attempts and research online I could not get the laptop
working again so we decided to head back to Best Buy the next day to see if
they could help.
The same young man who sold us the machine was
working so I explained the issue. He tried several times to reboot the laptop
but to no avail. He said we probably needed a new laptop but he’d have to talk
to his manager first.
He came back and said because we were out for
the 30-day warranty period (it was 42 days) the manager was willing to give us
a new laptop if we would buy the one-year Geek Squad protection package. I had
declined that option when we bought the original laptop because generally warranties
like that never get used and are extremely overpriced.
The offered bothered me for several reasons.
First, it was the most expensive laptop in the store so 30-day warranty or not,
it shouldn’t stop working after just 40 days. Second, and more importantly, was
the fact that I’ve shopped at that particular Best Buy for more than a dozen
years buying televisions, PCs, laptops and other electronic items. With that in
mind here was my reply:
“So what you’re telling me is I have to pay
$200 for the new laptop. Tell your manager I’m willing to do it but here’s the
deal; I’ll never shop here again. Let him know I’ve bought several televisions,
PCs, laptops and other things over the years but I will never buy another thing
from Best Buy again. So if that’s acceptable then we have a deal.”
In case you didn’t realize it, I was using the
of scarcity
by letting them know what they stood to lose if they didn’t
remove the $200 Geek Squad stipulation. I wanted them to think about the
lifetime value of a customer like me.
Soon after I met the manager and he said he’d
looked at my purchase history and saw I’d bought televisions, PCs and much more
at the store. He said I was a platinum customer and they usually extend
warranties to 45 days for customers like me. It was BS.
I don’t blame the salesperson because they
have rules that define what they can and cannot do in certain situations. I do
think stores should empower front line salespeople for just such situations and
provide training so they’re confident those employees are making good decisions
for the customer and store.
In this case I think the manager did a poor
job because he ended up giving me some better antivirus software, which was a $50
value. Think about this for a moment; in then end the store paid me $50 to get
the new laptop and I still wasn’t happy. If they’d have handled the situation
differently they could have made it a very pleasant experience and had me
singing their praises. Here’s what they should have done:
First, review my purchase history. Once they
saw my history they should have assumed I would probably continue buying more
items because my disposable income is increasing as I get older.
Next, the manager should have said, “Mr.
Ahearn, I see you’ve shopped with us for more than a dozen years and purchased
several televisions, PCs and other electronic items. Normally we’re pretty firm
about the 30-day warranty but because of your loyalty we’re happy to make an exception
for you in this case.”
Last, to seal the deal he could have delighted
me in an unexpected way. “Mr. Ahearn, I’d like to do something extra for you so
there’s no chance of you experiencing this issue again. I’m going to give you a
year of antivirus protection, a $50 value, for free. How does that sound?”
Had he done what I suggested, he’d have used
several principles of influence and made me happy about the whole experience.
Doing something for me that’s not normally done for every customer – extending
the warranty to 45 days – would have been an application of scarcity which
would have made me value the deal even more. Throwing in the antivirus software
would have engaged reciprocity,
making me want to shop there more. Reciprocity would have been strengthened
because giving me the antivirus software was meaningful ($50 value), customized
(specific to the issue we ran into) and unexpected (we’d have been happy with
just getting a new laptop).
If you’re in sales here are a few takeaways.
  • Research your customer’s buying history before
    making any offers.
  • Consider the lifetime value of a customer.
  • When you’re making an exception, let the
    customer know it so they feel like they’re getting special treatment.
  • If you want to sweeten the deal, do so in a
    way that highlights why your extra step is good for the customer.
  • Lastly, consider the most effective ways to
    use the principles of influence when interacting with customers.


Follow these simple steps and you’ll delight
customers rather than make them feel they have to battle with you in order to
get you to do the right thing.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


1 reply
  1. Skip Prichard
    Skip Prichard says:

    Isn't it amazing how a little interaction can stick with you? The fact is that the short-term thinking of a public company can get in the way of the long-term results. And the negative PR is even worse. That said, I feel for the retailers who are struggling and trying to find the way. But, if I may, I have a better suggestion than yours – the store manager should hire you to give them a seminar on delivering customer excellence! Thanks for the post, Brian.


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