As a customer, how many times have you run into "Can't"? As in "Sorry, we can't do that." It's a disastrous business paradigm, it happens all the time, but it is really easy to fix, and it creates sales instead of shutting them down. It creates happy, loyal customers. Here's the pep talk.
I contacted a new potential vendor the other day with what I thought was a pretty simple request. Of course I was making some assumptions about their service based on their website lists. However, after a pretty short discussion, the salesman just shut me down with "We can't do that." Basically, he closed the door on a potential sale.
The reasons for 'Why' were not apparent to me, so after turning to leave, I decided to ask a few more questions. I turned around, and asked again.
After some prodding and encouragement, it turns out that the words I was using were not exactly the words that they use to describe what I need. I didn't know the jargon. Turns out they "Can" do it, just a little different than what I was originally thinking.
The "Can't" Phenomenon
The above story is just one typical scenario of the familiar "Can't" phenomenon. How many sales does your company turn away because your people are stuck in a mental "box"?
This is the story of a basic principle of business. Just get rid of the word "Can't" from your company vocabulary. It will work miracles in the way your company functions, and in the way your company is perceived by your customers.
Here is the pep talk I give in business consulting —
Don’t tell the customer what you Can’t do, find a way to "Yes".
Help the customer understand what you CAN do, then let them decide if that will work for them.
Often this is accomplished by simply asking clarifying questions. Or, heaven forbid, thinking of possible Solutions! It's not hard.
We're talking about good 'ol customer service. There are so many examples of poor customer service, but it's so easy to make the experience positive instead.
Another Example for the Pep Talk
The other day I noticed one tire on my truck was quite low. I filled it, then stopped by Discount Tire for a repair. Of course the nail causing the leak was in an area near the sidewall, so the first thing they said was "Sorry, we can't fix that."
I stifled my immediate impulse, and decided to see what he would say. I stood there several seconds waiting for what he would say next. He did not offer a solution, and acted quite awkward with the silence. What do you think was going through his head? I could tell he needed a pep talk.
Finally, I asked, "OK, what can you do?"
He looked at me in a blank way as if I were crazy, then repeated, "I'm sorry, we can't fix that."
I know full well the issues of tires and sidewall repairs. Sure, I know the policies, and I know that it's drilled into the employees. Yet, the policy does not change the nail.
I smiled, waited a few seconds in hopes the wheels were turning, then asked for the store manager.
In a few minutes the manager came out and gave a long explanation about why they can't fix it. I listened, then asked again, "OK, what can you do?"
Again, the pause. I could tell he was a little frustrated that I did not understand that they can't fix it. So, I explained. I understand what you are saying, but it does not change the fact that I have a flat tire. I assume this is a tire shop, so is there anything you CAN do so that I can drive away with tire that won't leak?
The light went on. "Oh, yes, we can sell you a new tire."
Thinking of Solutions
My response, "Great, that is a start. However, the tires on the vehicle are half worn down, so one new tire is probably not a good solution. Do you have any used tires of this size?"
And my second suggestion. "I know you normally like to use a plug for this kind of repair, and that's part of why there are restrictions, but can we put a patch on the inside instead?"
Seriously, it does not take much to find a few solutions. In the end, I bought a used tire of the same size, and drove away with 4 full tires.
This example is not to call them out, but to illustrate how the "box" confines thinking and makes customers resent the company. If I was not assertive, I would have driven away frustrated, without a fix. What if I did not ask them for a solution?
So often, we don't realize how easy it is to turn a customer off. Or, how easy it is to help someone and have them leave feeling positive about the company. We spend thousands of dollars in advertising, then turn away customers that come to buy. Why?
Unfortunately, this type of interaction is all too common. Perhaps more unfortunate, this thinking comes from the top. Maybe the store owner, maybe corporate, maybe ???. Overall, so many of my experiences show that employees are very good at following the example of their superiors. So, model it, and teach it, make it a frequent pep talk, and you'll have more happy and loyal customers.
Remove "Can't" from your vocabulary, and replace it with solutions. It might not be exactly what the customer was thinking when they came in, but give solutions. Give choices. Help customers understand what you CAN do, then let them decide if it works. That is always powerful.
Instead of saying "We can't do that." Ask a few clarifying questions to better understand, or Say "Here are a couple things we can do that might meet your needs." Or, "Can I offer you this _____ <other solution>?" Or, if it's truly outside of your business services, say "I know a company that might be able to do that for you." Or, "Would you like me to do a quick Google search for a company that can do that?"
The difference in how the customer feels is night and day. Think about how you feel when you ask for help and get a "Sorry we Can't do that."
Make it positive!
There's an old saying that I have found quite true. It's a pep talk in itself. (I don't know the source, but it's been around in many forms.) "Help others get what they want, and you will always get what you need." And the similar one "What comes around, goes around." Server up smiles with solutions, and you'll find smiles and loyalty comes back around.
Ah, but do it because spreading happiness is the right thing!
Food for thought.