How to Manage Customer Expectations in a Supply Chain Crunch

At a time of steep pricing hikes and supply chain issues, how are consumers managing? Today on the Atlanta Small Business Show, we’re pleased to welcome back Jeff Shore, sales trainer, keynote speaker, author, and founder of Shore Consulting, to discuss consumer behavior and customer satisfaction.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So, Jeff, thanks so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to join us on the show.

Jeff Shore:
I always enjoy talking to you, Jim. Let’s do this.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Cool. It seems that early in the pandemic, customers were pretty patient about delays and problems. They gave companies a break. Now, not so much. Are you seeing a decline in customer satisfaction scores across the board there?

Jeff Shore:
There’s no question about it. I was actually kind of surprised by consumer behavior early on in the pandemic and how patient they were with the delay. And yeah, it’s on the news every day, you get it, you understand. What are you going to do, right? It falls under the, “It is what it is,” category, as people like to say.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
But yeah, that patience has worn thin. That honeymoon is now over and we are seeing customer experience scores decline across the board, some of that out of frustration, and some of it probably preventable, had suppliers done a better job of letting customers know what to expect and how to manage those expectations a little more effectively.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So what changed? Why are customers increasingly impatient?

Jeff Shore:
Yeah. I think they feel like they’re victimized by what’s going on. They’re victimized by rising costs, certainly by inflation, lack of availability, long delays in… because of supply chain problems. And look, just human nature here, right? When we feel like we are a victim, then we look for a villain.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
Right. That’s human nature.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You’re right. It’s human nature.

Jeff Shore:
It’s what we do.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
Yeah. I think that customers feel a little bit victimized right now, and so they look at suppliers and they say, “Well, I’m not the bad guy. That must be you.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. I will say this, that it, unfortunately… or either way you look at this, but oftentimes the consumer takes it out on their dealer, on their retailer. And so many cases, it’s not the retailer’s fault. My wife and I purchased a sofa, and they said, “Oh, it’s going to be ready in six weeks.” So we did our planning accordingly for this sofa. As you know, a sofa, it plays a big role because you don’t have a living room without a sofa, right? We’re going to watch TV and the kids are going to come and the whole deal.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So we went in after six weeks and we said, “Hey, we’re not getting a call in delivery.” “Oh yeah, we just checked into that, and it’s going to be another six weeks.” Okay. Oh, my gosh, you got to be kidding me. But at the end of the day, it’s really not the retailer’s fault. Now, it might have been the retailer’s fault for not communicating this better to us. It shouldn’t have been up to us. But at the end of the day, it’s sitting on a boat somewhere off of California, or maybe it’s waiting on a computer chip or something. But the retailer is sitting there going, “Hey, we’re only as good as our suppliers are.” Right? And, therefore, in my case, I’m going to be prone to give that retailer a bad review, right?

Jeff Shore:
Yeah. And I think it’s based on what you’re talking about is that it’s just a lack of transparency. If you are a customer, you just want what you want, and you’re completely in the dark on all of this. And so even in the way that those expectations get set, and then the very quick definition of what the delays are and how that’s going to work. Now, here’s the thing though. I don’t know if it’s as difficult as we’ve made it out to be. I’m going to just give you a quick little anecdote on that.

Jeff Shore:
My wife and I went out to dinner. The food server comes up to us and she says, “Hey, we just got a little bit slammed all at the same time. You’re in about five minutes. I’ll be back in five minutes.” You guys good on time? Five minute, cool, cool. Now, when she comes back and she says, “Sorry about that. I’m going to take you care of you, but I just need you to know that the kitchen is a little backed up. Normally, we’d like to get the dishes out about 15 minutes. It’s probably going to get closer to 25. Are you guys okay with that? You’re all right?” And just knowing what was going on, it’s like, yeah, it’s like 25 minutes, no big deal. Guess what? The meal shows up at like 18 minutes. She has now failed to do what they normally do and yet exceeded my expectations at the same time.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Jeff Shore:
So it’s that transparency. It’s that very simple… because otherwise you’re sitting there and you’re waiting and you’re waiting.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
Paco Underhill in his book, Why We Buy, really, really interesting statistic here, that when you’ve waited at a restaurant or in a store, wherever it is, for five minutes, it feels like five minutes. But for every minute after five minutes, it sounds like two more minutes.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
So if you’ve waited for 10 minutes, you swear you’ve waited for 15 minutes.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That is so true.

Jeff Shore:
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
There’s no question about it. So in terms of what we can do is to really be more transparent, right? As soon as we know something, share that with today’s customer, right? Say, “Hey, here’s-

Jeff Shore:
Well, that’s a key phrase.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
“Here’s the deal-”

Jeff Shore:
“As soon as.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, “as soon as.”

Jeff Shore:
Right, “as soon as.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Right.

Jeff Shore:
Because that’s that idea that bad news never gets better… I’m sorry. Good news never gets better, but bad news always gets worse. And so when we sit on it, when we wait and pause because we don’t want to deliver the bad news, it just means that we’re going to deliver worse news down the road. And so that’s the as soon as you know, that’s where that transparency comes into play. So if the customer is left with the idea of, hey, listen, you know what I know, that’s what the customer wants to know, that I know everything you know. When you called and you said what’s going on with the sofa? Oh, oh yeah, that’s right. We were just checking that—. Wait, you knew information that you weren’t giving me. That’s not the way you take care of customers.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s exactly right, and that’s what we were upset about because we didn’t know how to plan accordingly. In other words, if we were told a couple weeks before, hey, you’re not going to have the sofa when you said. It was going to be another six weeks. Okay, then we can go to plan B. And sometimes plan B might be to go back to that retailer and say, “Look, what sofas do you have that you can deliver in the next two weeks?” “Oh, we have a blue one instead of a brown one.” “Great, we’ll switch the order. We’ll take it.” And they still get the sale.

Jeff Shore:
Sure.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But when this happened, we were so upset over the whole transaction, we actually canceled the order. We said, “Give our money back and we’re going to go to a company that can deliver it in the next couple of days.” And that was the hot button. It wasn’t so much the manufacturer or the color, the texture. It was the service. We walked into the next retail and we said, “When’s this available?” They said, “We can deliver to you tomorrow.” Done. And the first company could’ve done that and gotten our business.

Jeff Shore:
Yeah. Well, and think about that scenario as it relates to somebody who is purchasing a car, but it’s going to take longer to get that brand new car than they thought it was going to take. In the meantime, what is their situation, like how badly do they need a car? So maybe somebody is borrowing a friend’s car because you told me that that car will be ready in three weeks. I had negotiated with a friend for three weeks. Oh, wait, now it’s going to be three months? Now what am I going to do? I’m out of a vehicle. I can’t go back to my friend and say, can I borrow your car for another few months? So just that, the honesty… I think that really is the word. I mean, it’s honesty. Are we being honest with the information that we have and then sharing it as soon as we know it?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. I know we’ve probably touched on this in one of our last conversations, but there’s a lot of sales people out there that are selling their products for sticker price plus, no deals being made, whether it be a boat or an RV or a new car, or whatever-

Jeff Shore:
Or a house.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
… whatever it might be, or a house, right. People are lining up to make offers from asking price plus, right?

Jeff Shore:
Right. Right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But in the case of companies where they’re selling these large appliances or vehicles or whatever on an ongoing basis, what’s your take on that? I mean, here you’ve trained thousands, maybe millions of salespeople through all of your videos worldwide. How do you recommend they deal with that? When customers come in and it’s like, hey, it’s sticker price plus. You should be happy to get it. And there’s not a big sales pitch either. It’s, here is is. You want it or you don’t want it. Those consumers have memories, right, for when those-

Jeff Shore:
Yeah, they do.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
… shelves fill-

Jeff Shore:
They do.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
… back up again.

Jeff Shore:
Right. Right. And so my take on that is, or my advice on that for a supplier, for a sales professional would be to cast this over… Rather than being seen as the villain by your customer, to put that villain mantle on the market and to look at it and say we can never control market factors. And one of the ways that we can look at that is to say we don’t price our own product. We do not put the price on our own product. We never have. We never will. The market sets the price. It always has, it always will. If I overprice something, it doesn’t sell.

Jeff Shore:
If I underprice, it sells too quickly. We cannot set the price. The market sets the price, and all we are doing here is responding to a market that, if we’re going to be honest about it, a little bit out of control. If we have to back that up with a little bit of an economics 101 discussion about supply and demand, so be it. Right now, the demand far outstrips the supply, and every time we see that, it means prices go up.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
But we are only responding to the market. That’s all we’re doing right now.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. And as one salesperson told me, he said, “I remind that person that’s saying, ‘oh, my gosh, you’re charging this.'” He said, “Here’s the good news.” Something you were just touching on. It’s the market. “How much more is your home worth today than it was two years ago? How much more is your boat worth today? How much more is your vehicle worth today? All of your assets, Mr. Customer or Mrs. Customer, has also gone up in price.”

Jeff Shore:
Great point.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You wouldn’t sell your house today for what you bought it for just two years ago. You’d say, “Whoa, wait a minute, I was just on Zillow-

Jeff Shore:
Because you felt bad about the buyer. Well, these are nice people. So I think I’m going to underprice my home.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s exactly right.

Jeff Shore:
It’s not the way it works. It’s never the way it works.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It ain’t happening. It ain’t happening, right?

Jeff Shore:
Yeah. No.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
They’re going to go on Zillow and go, “Wait a minute. My house just went up 300,000. I’m asking that 300,000.”

Jeff Shore:
Yeah. Right. Right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. What goes around, comes around on that.

Jeff Shore:
Yeah. There’s no— about it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Jeff Shore, sales trainer, all around great guy, keynote speaker, best selling author, founder of Shore Consulting for salespeople and companies out there that want to put their house in order in the area of sales and really get the most out of their sales department, especially as these shelves and these lots and these organizations start bringing in more product. And guess what? You’re going to turn to your salespeople and go, “Hey, what happened? We got to get this out, we got to get.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Well, the market’s going to change, we all know that, once the chips start coming back in and the boats start flowing back again. Now’s the time to put your sales house in order, and no better person to do that than with Jeff Shore. He’s been doing it for many years and teaching many salespeople the tricks of the trade, as they say, and the techniques. Technique’s a better word than tricks, right?

Jeff Shore:
That’s fine.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
We don’t want to trick anybody. Jeff Shore, thank you so much, sir, for coming into the show again. Appreciate it.

Jeff Shore:
Always good spending time with you. Thanks for having me.


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