I sent him away

Post originally appeared in The Observant Customer 4/20/2017

He was timid, reserved and soft-spoken.  We have all run across this type of customer before.  It’s challenging to get them to warm up to you, they can be slow to offer information and they can even be hard to hear.

I greeted him and asked him what brought him into the store today.  A rather defensive “I just came in to look” was his response.  So I told him to look around and that I would check back in a few minutes if he ran across any questions and then I set off to help others who had just entered the store.

As I circled back to him after a few minutes, it was clear to me that he that he truly was looking for something specific as he studied the hang tags and pulled garments off racks to look at. It seems that he had needed some time to decompress and check things out on his own terms when he first entered our store.  I re-approached him.

“Looks like you have run across some questions, how can I help?”

Well actually, he needed a jacket.  So I moved on to asking him some qualifying questions that all good salespeople do when assisting a customer.

The jacket needed to be lightweight.

It needed to be compact.

It needed to be insulated.

It needed to be windproof.

It needed to be water resistant but not waterproof.

The information was beginning to flow a bit better but I still did not have as much to go on as I would have liked.  Since I was standing near a popular soft-shell parka that ticked off most of his boxes, I showed him the jacket mentioning several of the benefits he was interested in and waited for his response to continue.

He liked the under-stated color (it was black).

But it did not seem insulated enough.  Probing a bit deeper, he shared the temperature range he was likely to encounter on his trip.

It needed to keep him warm in 35-50 degree weather.

It needed to fit neatly into a daypack.

It needed to work for a specific trip.

Probing further, he offered up that he was leaving on a trip in three days.

I asked him where his adventure would be taking him and he said he was heading to Scotland with a small tour group. Then he gave me quick overview of his itinerary  It sounded like a wonderful trip.  Telling him so, I mentioned that I had traveled in the same areas of Scotland a few years back.  This seemed to warm him to me a bit more as we chatted about his upcoming trip.

I suggested that perhaps a “puffy jacket” (a lightly insulated jackets that looks like a thinned-down versions of a down parka) would work for his needs and led him to the correct rack.

Explaining that the jacket that we had in stock was a premium jacket designed to be very light weight while offering him the warmth for the temperatures he would be traveling in.  I then told him the jacket was $320 looking to see if he had any price objections but he made no comment on the price.

I asked him what size jacket he preferred to get him one to try on and he said he was not sure as he proceeded to take the jacket he was wearing off to check the sizing label.

His size was large.

I grabbed a black, hooded version in size large for him to try on mentioning that the jacket was available in a variety of colors and came in a hooded and non-hooded versions. Stepping him in front of a full length mirror, I slipped the jacket over his shoulders while mentioning additional features and benefits such as hydrophobic down, compressible into the jacket pocket, two hand warmer pockets etc..

His response was, “I love the jacket but I hate the hood.”

“Hoodless it is,” I replied.

“I love it” are magic words to a salesperson so I figured the rest of the sale would go smoothly and I would be able to move on to other travel items he may need.  All I needed was to grab a jacket in his desired style, size and color for him to try on.  I headed to the rack with the jackets and quickly scanned, looking for a large.  Not finding one, I grabbed one in blue for him to try on.  As he checked out the blue one, I told him I would check the computer to see if we had his jacket in back stock.

Unfortunately, we did not have the jacket he wanted in stock.  Returning to the customer, I explained the out-of-stock issue and moved to cross sell him into a different color or style so he would have a jacket for his trip in three days.

His response was “At $320, I want to make sure I get the perfect jacket for me.”  I told him couldn’t agree more.

Now, every outdoor store in the U.S. today stocks “puffy jackets.” We, unfortunately, did not have the jacket in the size, color and style he wanted nor would we be able to get one for him in three short days.

However, I was aware that a store, less than two blocks away, had a jacket almost identical to the one he wanted and likely had it in stock.

“I want you to have your perfect jacket for your trip to Scotland.”

And then I continued, “Would it be alright if I sent you to one of our nearby competitors to get your jacket?”

He looked at me a bit befuddled, then timidly said, “Excuse me?”

“Would it be alright if I sent you to one of our nearby competitors to get your jacket?”

“Certainly, but…”, he trailed off.

“Look, I am not helping you if I don’tt get you the jacket you want for your trip. Since we can’t take care of you, I want to get you to someone who can.”

He said that would be great, so I walked him to the door and pointed out how to get to the competition.

As he took hold of the door to leave, he said, “If they don’t have the jacket I need, I will come back and get one from you.”

“I hope you find the perfect jacket. Maybe I will see you back here shortly.  But if not, have a great trip to Scotland.”

Then, I sent him away.

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