Too many companies treat their customers like crap. It’s frustrating and inexcusable. You don’t like being treated like crap, right?
So why treat your customers that way?
Recently my family went to get photos taken at a store called Magenta. It’s a Montreal-based success story, started by an entrepreneur and built into numerous stores across the city. They do fancier, more artistic photos than you might get at a department store.
We had received a gift certificate (for $100) to the store, and my wife finally corralled the entire family into going (i.e. She booked an appointment and told me I was going.) It was supposed to be a fun, family outing. And we were all wearing matching outfits (you look better as a family that way apparently): black shirts and jeans.
It was a disaster. My older son (he’s 3) decided not to cooperate, and you can’t force a kid, kicking and screaming, to stand still, smile and let people take his picture. It just flat out doesn’t work. The staff were very easygoing about it (I’m sure this wasn’t the first time a photo shoot fell apart) and we rescheduled. No additional charge. Great! We were treated well, received good customer service, and although we were frustrated, we hoped for more success the next time.
My son did cooperate the second time. He was practically strutting for the camera. It must have had something to do with all the chocolate bribes I gave him. Woohoo! Success! We got through the photo shoot feeling pretty darn good about ourselves, and then Magenta ruined it.
From that experience, I want to share 7 things the staff did that will guarantee:
- I’ll never buy from Magenta again. Ever.
- I’ll tell everyone I know not to buy from Magenta (Hey! I’m doing that right now!)
So what happened? What are the 7 ways you can guarantee customers never buy from you again?
- Withhold information. Is “not telling” tantamount to lying? It doesn’t really matter, but suffice it to say if you withhold important information from customers about what they’re buying or the purchasing process, you’re going to piss them off. The staff at Magenta “forgot” to inform my wife (over the phone after a few conversations, and after going there in-person) that we would have to select and purchase the photos right on the spot after the photo shoot. We couldn’t take anything home, we couldn’t come back (without paying another fee), and we absolutely had to buy the photos right there. We didn’t know that. As such, we hadn’t prepared a list of what we wanted to give away as gifts.
- Use high-pressure sales tactics. The era of the slick car salesman is over. Don’t hover over me as I walk through your store. Don’t pester me with inane questions just to feel like we’re having a conversation. High-pressure sales tactics are a shitty way to close a deal. My wife must have said 10 times, “I can’t make a decision today. Can I come back?” only to have the staff member say, “It’s really better if you pick the photos RIGHT NOW.” Why? Why is it better? For who, exactly?
- Rope-a-Dope marketing. Don’t market a low price to get people in the door only to upsell them on overpriced goods when the sale is made. Offering a sale is one thing (although the way most companies do it is to say “20-70% off on some goods!” but only offer the heavy discounts on the garbage they’re trying to get rid of ASAP), but making something seem inexpensive when it’s really not, is a no-no. Magenta charges a very low fee for doing a photo shoot (app. $30-$40.) It’s a great way to rope customers in. If you knew that you’d be spending anywhere from $300-$700 after, you’d hesitate a lot more before committing.
- Overcharging. Simply out, don’t rip people off. It’s really quite simple. Magenta rips people off through their Rope-a-Dope pricing scheme. It cost my wife $99 to get a CD of our photos. A single 8×10 photo or two 5×7 photos could cost up to $60 or $70. But, you’re thinking to yourself, “I could go to the drugstore with the memory card from my digital camera and make copies for a few pennies each? Ben, that doesn’t make sense!” I know. It’s disgusting. But Magenta ropes you in with an inexpensive offer and then “gets you” after (trust me, I’d like to use stronger language!)
- Overwhelm people with options. Selling to people shouldn’t involve the shock and awe treatment. Along with high-pressure sales tactics comes the million options scheme, where a salesperson tries to reel you in by reeling off a bunch of extra things – added value items – you just have to buy. Keep your pricing and options as simple as possible. It’s the best way to get someone to commit, and to feel like they know exactly what they’re getting. I couldn’t believe the number of things the staff member at Magenta was trying to sell my wife. Some of it was pretty cool, like collages of your photos, but some of the items were over $1,000! You mean, I have to pick my photos and commit to $1,000 items right this instant? Um, no.
- Make it hard for people to buy. The best advice I can give is this: Remove all barriers to purchasing. That includes the first purchase, and every subsequent purchase. You want customers purchasing over and over. You want them having a positive experience each and every time, so they keep coming back and telling all their friends about it. Magenta did a few things to make it hard for me to buy (beyond the reasons already listed). After it was finally decided that we’d have to go back and make the purchase another time, my wife asked for a price list. The staff at Magenta refused. Methinks they don’t want their pricing getting out. They also don’t give you any way to review your photos unless you’re at the store. Why not put them online so I can take a look? Or give me proofs? And finally, they destroy your photos after 3 months, so if you want to buy more copies later on, tough.
- Assume the sale is done. There’s a difference between a “captive” audience and a CAPTIVE audience. The former is an audience that’s captivated by what you’re offering, your approach, your authenticity, friendliness and willingness to help. The latter is an audience you’ve put into a corner and thrown a cage around. At Magenta they do an excellent job of pulling on your heartstrings. I get that, and I don’t have a problem with that. It’s all about ultra-cute photos of your kids. But don’t assume the sale is done just because of that. I love my kids, but I’m not spending thousands of dollars on-the-spot for photos of them. Sorry, kids.
One can only assume that Magenta’s management knows people will spend more money when being forced to buy photos right away. I can’t believe that’s the case. I can guarantee you that if my wife and I had a chance to review everything in the comfort of our own home, at our leisure, we would have bought more than we did. We would have had more time to think about people to get gifts for, we would have looked at all the cool frames and other items Magenta sells and probably convinced ourselves to splurge. Instead, we purchased the bare minimum, and got the hell out of there.
There’s absolutely no reason to treat customers like crap. Magenta takes nice photos, but I can find other ways to get photos of my family. And I will.