Why customers hate the 'we can order it for you' phrase

Publish Date: 
May 23, 2012
By Eric Anderson

SOME KID AT MY LOCAL shop recently told me, “We can order it for you,” when I needed a new rim for my KTM950 SuperEnduro. My standard reply to this horribly agonizing statement by Parts and Accessory staff is always the same: “Well, I can order it for me. How about I give you my money now, and you figure out a way to deliver it to my house? Save me the trip back, please.”

Am I feeling a tad testy today? Damned right I am. I’m just like everyone else who doesn’t have enough money, gasoline or time to waste going around aimlessly. Unfortunately, most Parts and Accessory managers are befuddled by my attempt to save the extra trip back to their store for a wasteful pickup task. Do the employees really think it’s convenient for me to drive to their store twice? Well, it’s not; cheap gas and personal time are really hard to come by these days. Make UPS do the driving instead.

I’ve calmed down. Now, though, that I have your attention — chill! Because here’s the good part: Customers, even ones like me, really do want to buy from you, especially after we made the trip all the way to your store. You hopefully educated us a bit on what it was that we needed or wanted, so don’t let us escape into the Internet simply to save ourselves from a retrieval trip to your counter.

If you think our real objection is related to shopping for a better price at BigBobsBlowout.com, think again, for you would be wrong at least 75 percent of the time. Shopping and surfing the ‘Net takes time — involving logons, passwords, spec comparisons, pop-ups, freight chargers, endless data fields and cryptic verifications. Plus, we may not be aware of the latest product options or fitments like you are, Mr. Dealer. Online, we generally see the old crap on closeout.

How about putting a sign in the Parts and Accessory department that states, “IF WE DON’T HAVE IT IN STOCK, WE WILL GET IT SHIPPED TO YOUR DOOR.” Walt Schmidt of Malcolm Smith Motorsports in Riverside, Calif., suggested this initiative to me when I needed a specialized rear sprocket. His reply mimicked the headline of this article with one key addition: “…and we can have it on your doorstep Thursday.” Zounds! Although this sounds like mail-order talk, it really is a smart brick-and-mortar dealer telling me I don’t need to waste time shopping online or making the milk run back to his store.

So here are a few things to consider for increasing customer satisfaction and capturing more parts and accessory sales at the same time.

Save them the trouble by capturing their order. Order it for them as a service — it guarantees fitment and saves them a return trip. “Let me save you the trouble of ordering it online.” It may sound like a sales pitch to you, but it actually is great customer service. You are a destination store, and customers take the time to drive out of their way to come and see you for a reason. They’re lying if they say, “Just looking.”

Focus on service first, and logistics second. Figure out what they really came in for, and then just make their life simpler. If it’s not convenient to buy from your store, customers will go elsewhere (there are lots of choices nowadays). Satisfy them on the spot because, after all, you have the living, breathing customer inside your store and not at the end of an inanimate computer mouse. Interact. Engage. Make it so.

Get into the shipping business. Everyone else has. It’s called cross-docking — you receive the package in the morning, re-label it, and ship it out in the afternoon. You may be used to seeing UPS bring your products in the back and customers walk out with them in the front. But it’s time to change your thinking. You can ship out the back, too, as long as you have a credit card number.

Show how you know a customer’s needs better and work a keyboard faster. You order hundreds of products a day, while your customers might order twice a week from their computer. When it comes to online ordering, you’re a laser-focused sniper-shopper, while I’m just a frenetically distracted, blunderbuss hunter hoping to bump into a shiny bauble or… squiiirrrrrellll!

Offer free tech advice, guaranteed satisfaction, proper fitment, and returns. You can be competitive!

Avoid customers tapping you for the information and leaving to buy it elsewhere. Remind us of the obvious. Post another sign, perhaps? I can guarantee all of your customers have experienced “mail order disappointment” from ordering the wrong part. Ignorance costs time and money; we know this, but we need it continuously pushed back into our faces.

Thanks for turning me around, Walt. I was certain I was going to have to begin the cyberspacial quest for satisfaction until you showed me the light and made my life simple once again. Now I am officially spoiled, and expect every out-of-stock dealer in the nation to begin substituting the phrase “order for you” with “ship to you.”

This story recently appeared in the Dealernews June 2012 issue.