The anatomy of a purchase
At the time of writing this post, I report that my 17 year old refrigerator is dying a slow death. Last night I discovered frozen was unfrozen, solid was soft and fresh was, well not so fresh.
So here’s the journey of my purchase decision. I share it publicly because it is a reflection of how technology supports our purchasing decisions. This experience also proves once again that customer service trumps all.
Late last night
“Honey, I think our fridge is broken”, said I. “Are you sure? How do you know?” replied hubby. “Well I can squish the peas, the ice blocks are now slushees, and we don’t need to heat the milk up for our coffee anymore” I shared.
Down the stairs hubby came to check, just in case I was being a little sensitive to the heat and humidity of our Australian summer.
“It looks like we need a new fridge.” he confirmed like he just discovered it for himself. I sounded like Homer Simpson in my head - “Doh”.
Where to go now? No stores are open at 11:15pm. We are in Australia.
Where else but online, the land of 24 hour personal shopping.
So off we go to Google (we don’t Bing yet in this house).
We log into the Choice consumer website (I stay a member just for these moments!) and check out all the reviews and luck out to find a fairly recent report. I not only get the report but also get the commentary from people using the report, a bonus.
To me one of the benefits of our technologically connected world is that the opinion of all matters. When buying anything – whether appliances, travel, cars, et al – there are now always people willing to share their experience to help fellow consumers.
I search more websites, more buyer reviews. I am overwhelmed. So many opinions, so many perspectives. Who do you trust? There are people who support buying one fridge, then another who says no way. In the end I have to shut down the computer and decide I will just go see someone in person.
Armed with ample data, I resolve that I will now rely on my own intuition and go personal with the shopping experience.
Now I am thinking, I could use my time better and would like to go to sleep. I really don’t want to go shopping for a fridge. Send me shopping for something else, yes, but not whitegoods.
So I think, hey maybe I can give my hubby a shopping experience to balance out who spends the money in the household (which is probably 90:10, me:hubby). No he is more than happy to let me have all the fun.
I head to our local appliance store. I last walked into this place 12 years ago renovating our previous kitchen (minus the fridge!). I immediately felt invited by the 3D real and tangible experience of a showroom. Nothing really beats seeing the appliance up close.
Before I got too lost in the showroom a friendly salesperson, Ben, asked if he could help me. Ben was not pushy nor demanding. His approach seemed genuine. Being on a mission I went against my usual approach of do it alone and said simply “I need a new fridge. Please help me!”
I realized quickly that Ben had a good job at least in terms of sales. When your fridge goes you don’t want to wait more than an hour to get another one. Waiting even a day is frustrating.
So I gave Ben my dimensions, that is those for the fridge!
The purchase then became a simple mathematical equation. Which were the largest fridges to fit in the space we had available in our kitchen. I did not even put price on the equation.
Armed with my internet research I asked Ben his opinion about one of the brands. Ben concurred.
I then asked the question that always tests a sales person’s authenticity - “If you were buying this product, which one would you choose and why?” Now if the answer comes out too smooth, or rolls off the tongue with cliches then I mark down on credibility. Yet if the tone and approach are conversational, engaging and real, well then I like to go off the advice.
A good salesperson to me at least, does not bore you with details or information irrelevant to your purchase style / need / approach. In this case I had clear requirements and criteria. I was freshly armed with data and facts from my internet search. We checked my criteria off the list, did the comparison of models and then sat down to check out the price.
At Ben's desk, Ben starts to do his price calculations. What do I do? Well what any diehard iPhone loving girl would do. I open one of my price comparison apps, search for the product, find the price and then just to be sure send an email from the site to hubby of the item. Next I call on the phone “Hi Hubby, check your hotmail, I just sent you a photo of the fridge and specs. What do you think?” Within 2 minutes hubby says he likes my choice and go ahead an buy.
Then I prepare myself to negotiate. Armed with fresh price data off the phone I am ready to challenge Ben. Yet what does Ben do? He offers me a good price – better than on the website. So I think there must be a catch (well past experiences – eg buying a car – taught me to watch out). I ask if the store charges to remove the old fridge, delivery or accessing our house which is on a 15 degree hillside? No, no and no. Wow! So not only do I get the fridge I want at the price I want I get free everything else. Ok must be one more hiccup, right? Availability? I can get the fridge on Monday. (If I had shown up at the store earlier in the day I would have made the Friday delivery.)
We finish the transaction. On the way out I pause. My shopping radar goes off as I notice the nice espresso coffee machines. “Hey, Ben, can you tell me anything about these?”, I ask eagerly. Ben not only tells me what I want to know he gives me some great ideas for researching and looking at what will suit me and my hubby. What he DOES NOT DO is try to hook me in for another sale, act desperate, try to push me to buy something or say things like “the deal won’t be on after today, so hurry.” No instead I get the live version of my internet search with the bonus of a personable approach to sharing information. Real data from a real person.
So here’s my take. How do you combine the hands on, personalised approach to shopping you only get in person with the online resource, real time data driven knowledge base of the internet? I think you have to do both. I think you have to be an informed customer AND still leverage and learn from the expertise of a passionate and knowledgeable customer friendly salesperson.
Moral to my story....real customer service does exist.
Oh and if you are in Australia and want some good resources from this story then go here...