What do PSYCHICS have to do with getting you the correct type of printer ink, brake pads or vacuum cleaner bags? NOTHING! (And that’s precisely why you wouldn’t want to rely on one to get the products you seek!)
Let’s take a light-hearted look at an issue that drives consumers, retailers and service people equally nuts…We call it “Crystal Ball Syndrome,” CBS for short. It all has to do with expecting others – specifically those we do business with – to be mind readers!
With our lives as busy as they are, we all need HELP! Thus, we employ the services of a wide variety of “helpers”(i.e. repair people, hairdressers, cleaning ladies, etc.) to do things for which we don’t have the time and/or expertise. We also need stuff (i.e. food, clothing, electronics, household supplies and replacement parts.) With so much to wade through and so many variants, we often rely on salespeople to point us to the right aisle, or to select the correct product for our needs.
But have you ever gotten all the way to the store to pick up something like an ink cartridge, only to realize that you have no idea which type (of the 100 choices on the wall) that you need! Perhaps a nearby sales clerk takes pity, trying his best to jog your memory for details that can help him figure out what style your machine takes. But you can’t even offer him the brand….All you know is that “it’s blackish/grayish, square-ish, about yea big…” Both of you are frustrated. He makes no sale and you go home empty-handed.
Crystal Ball Syndrome strikes consumers and retailers alike…no one is immune. Parties on either side of the sales counter become understandably feverish over wasted money, effort and disappointing results. The good news is that this affliction can be prevented by executing two simple measures: Homework and Communication.
As a consumer, your HOMEWORK should be to always take a little time in advance to collect your thoughts about what you want, for what purpose, and why. Be confident and secure in what you seek, up-front. If you’re undecided it will be equally helpful to tell your salesperson exactly where you need clarification or tailored advice. Details are key! Here are some examples specific to our business…
Let’s say you need a replacement part for your vacuum cleaner:
- Learn the NAME of the part you need of (i.e. Drive Belt)
- Write down PART/STYLE NUMBER if you can find it (i.e. Style 4/5)
- Write down the BRAND and MODEL number of the machine in case (i.e. Dirt Devil, #M085590)
- If you’re not sure what type of info you need to bring – or don’t know where to find it – Call first to ask.
If you want to buy a new vacuum cleaner, come in having considered:
- Your budget (up front and annual)
- Size of your house and number of levels
- Types of hard flooring and types of carpeting
- Pets? Kids? Cleaning service?
- Family health issues or physical limitations like allergies or back problems
- Vacuums you’ve liked or disliked in the past and why
COMMUNICATION: This, of course, works both ways. In other words, although service/sales people are not psychics, they should of course be skilled, listen carefully, and have a strong command of their responsibilities and products. They must also be clear to you, their customer, about what info they need in order to give you the product or result you seek. However, their ability to help you to the fullest relies on your ability to clearly communicate your needs, likes, dislikes, budget, deadline, other expectations or questions. Try to use the right terminology if you can, but don’t be ashamed to ask what things are called – We can all work together better when we speak the same language!
We’ve all been victims and inflictors of CBS. So remember that “helpers” can’t read your mind (and neither can customers.) Just like your husband that can’t guess why you’re upset – your cleaning lady can’t know you are allergic to PineSol if you don’t tell her. And although you shouldn’t expect us to remember the belt style for the vacuum your Mom bought from our store in 1984 – we need to be able to help you find the model number we need to look it up and get it for you!
In spite of the mental fog and lack of patience caused by our hectic lives, we can take steps to prevent further suffering… Since it’s easier to do something right from the start, vow to be prepared: Know what you have, know what you want, and learn the right terminology to use to enable someone to help you to get what you need!