Every July for our Summer Fun Sale we would mark down thousands of old, slow-selling, discontinued merchandise to ridiculously low prices to move out that merchandise, generate some cash, and get ready for the upcoming holiday season. With close to a million dollars in inventory, the process was quite tedious and time consuming. Every single sale price had to be manually entered into our Point-Of-Sale system.
Sometimes we missed one (or three).
The staff was instructed to carefully watch prices as they scanned items at checkout to make sure they were coming up at the sale price, and to make changes immediately whenever a mistake was found. If it didn’t ring up right the first time, it was quickly corrected and the customer sent on her happy way.
Yet every single one of us can recall a time in our own lives as customers when something didn’t ring up right and you didn’t go on your happy way.
You get to the register expecting a certain price and it rings up higher. You say something to the cashier. His first response is to tell you that he doesn’t know about the sale or that he can only go by what the computer tells him. His second response is to look you straight in the eye and tell you he doesn’t trust you by phoning for someone else to go check the display. His third response is to tell you that “they” didn’t put the right signs on the display and that the item you had didn’t qualify for that discount/coupon/special deal. Yes, blame it on the faceless “they.” His fourth response is to get a manager who goes through the first three responses all over again before deciding to either give you the discount the signs says you should get or hide behind corporate speak to not give you the discount.
Either way you walk out of the store feeling like a loser.
Do you want your customers walking out of the store feeling like a loser? Of course not. Chicken dinners for everyone!!
Here’s how you do it when you have a pricing mistake.
“Oh my gosh! I am so sorry. Let me go verify what the price is supposed to be.”
Say all that. Apologize. Go check the price (the above is a safe statement that doesn’t accuse them of lying). Then, regardless of the outcome, give that person the price they expected with another round of apologies for the confusion.
It doesn’t matter if someone did the signage wrong and that item is not supposed to be on sale. It doesn’t matter if the customer was confused because the signage wasn’t clear enough. It doesn’t matter if the customer interpreted the sign to mean something you didn’t intend it to mean. The first time a customer perceives something different than what you intended, you give them what they thought they were going to get. Then you go fix the signs and displays and prices so that there won’t be any more confusion.
Always give the first customer the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t cost you that much in the long run because you keep the customer happy. Plus, you learn quickly how others might perceive your sales or signs, and you fix the problem before anyone else gets upset.
“I’m really sorry about this. Those weren’t supposed to be included in the 25% off sale, but that’s our fault for not putting the signs up correctly. I’ll give you the 25% off on this item. Will that be okay?”
You’re going to make mistakes. Own up to them. Pay for them. Make the customer happy. Then go correct the mistake. That’s the key to winning customers’ hearts.
PS Even when the customer interpreted the sign wrong, you should still take some of the blame. Make sure your signs, sales, specials are bullet-proof by making them as clear and detailed as possible so that there is little chance of confusion.
PPS Every now and then you get the customer trying to cheat the system. They find an error like improper signage and load up their cart with everything on the shelf. That’s the exception to the above rule. You just better hope it was honest confusion about the sign, otherwise they might have a leg to stand on.
PPPS When you pay for your mistakes, not only do you make the customers happy, you build a level of trust. Your customers will be more likely to take you at your word when you take financial responsibility for your errors.