I’ve never agreed with the retail definition of “customer,” and I’d love to share why, using a short story from my experience as an customer at the often imitated Apple kiosk in Best Buy.
When someone is wandering aimlessly through a retail store like Best Buy, they are not a customer just because they are under the roof.
Shopper? Yes. | Customer? No.
When a ‘shopper’ is keeping me from getting the attention I need, in order to actually buy something like an Apple product, they’re more destructive to Best Buy than the price-match policies of Walmart or Amazon. A customer is someone who buys from you. If you have an established relationship like I do with the Apple associate stationed in a nearby Best Buy store, they KNOW that YOU are not wasting their time. They will greet another “shopper,” while focusing on you.
Here’s my example from mid-2009:
I was chatting with my first Apple guru (Ray, who was stationed at Best Buy) about a 13″ vs. 15″ MacBook Pro and learned to my surprise that all of them shared exactly the same keyboards. I was concerned about typing, not ‘seeing’ so the screen size wasn’t the driving feature, so I was pointed in the direction of the lower priced 13″ laptop. Next I was asked, “What do you want to do with your new Mac?” When I mentioned the desire to work with video, I was advised to consider the higher-end model (still less money than the 15″ version I originally contemplated) because of the extra processing power. Sold. Done. Conversation over. “I’ll take it.”
This may seem like a simple transaction, but the future value of this experience cannot be overstated:
I have continued to return to the same store, buying an iMac, MacBook Air, Apple TV, Airport Extreme router, iPad mini, and even a 17″ MacBook Pro (for my mom)…from Ray – and his successor, Alex. When this relationship is built, do you really expect the salesperson to stop talking to me when you ask them where the 30 pin connectors are? I am a customer – you are a ‘Suspect’ customer, ‘Prospective’ customer, or maybe even just a price checker. There’s a huge difference. Huge! When I’m looking for a 30 pin connector and Alex is demonstrating MacBooks to someone, he greets me and I tell him I’m not in a hurry; but if I were it wouldn’t matter, because he needs to sell MacBooks to keep my connectors in the store and keep the lights on. Customers understand that business is partnership. You don’t get to be a customer just by being “in the market” for a new thingy.
The prequel – the secret sauce: “I’m going to buy…”
What can you do to assist the relationship from the first step? It’s really easy, and it’s what I did when I first met Ray – it’s the prequel to this story. I walked up and introduced myself; “Hi, I’m Lee, I’ve decided to buy an Apple laptop, but I have some questions.” That’s it. Customize this anyway you see fit.
A former employer of mine once called five Ford dealers with a simple notice, “I’m going to buy a truck on Friday and I need your best offer.” He did buy one on that Friday, but one of the dealers didn’t seem to understand plain English, and called back with a sales pitch a few weeks later. That proves my method may not be 100% effective, but that feedback shows you where to not-buy next time too. Try it, and you’ll win over time. “Hello, I’m here to buy…”