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I N T H E T RENCHE S

WHEN By Allen McBroom

Being in music retail is a little like an advanced course in human interaction. Every sort of person comes through our doors. Some are seeking information (“How do I hook this up?”), some are seeking an education (“I think we need a PA for our church, but I don’t know where to start”) and some are looking to enjoy themselves outside their usual world (“I’m just looking, but can you tell me about all the guitars you have?”) All of these folks need someone to counsel them, educate them or just help them out. If they aren’t sure what sort of help they need, or if they’re wrong about the sort of help they need, it’s up to us to ask questions, figure out what they really need and then explain to them the best path to take. Yes, I did say “if they’re wrong about the sort of help they need.” Contrary to generally accepted wisdom, the customer isn’t always right, but the customer is always the customer. If they’re wrong, it takes a lot of skill in human interaction to gently lead them away from their wrongness and help them down the path of enlightenment, which, if successful, results in them listening to you and handing over their money in exchange 40

for the products their enlightened minds now desire. This involves a lot of listening, and questions, and answers, and, well, interaction. You can call it communication skills, or the ability to develop an interpersonal relationship at some appropriate level. Good sales folks do this all day long, and really good sales folks enjoy these exchanges. However, there are times when less customer interaction is a better idea. The world is full of folks buying on the internet, and you’ve probably noticed that they are a lot like the folks who come through your store’s entry portal every day. Some know exactly what they want, some need help and ask for help (bless ‘em), some are just buying “shotgun style” and hoping for the best. (Shotgun style means they are confused by the wide assortment of choices on the internet, so they just point and click “buy,” without knowing exactly what they’re needing or getting. If it doesn’t work out, they’ll just send it back. Thank you for popularizing that notion, Mr. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.) The shotgun buyers and the enlightenment-challenged buyers are the ones most likely to follow up their online purchase with a scathing email or review, expressing poorly concealed rage that the thing they bought did not include the optional widget cable, or that the item’s color isn’t exactly the same as the color they saw on the computer monitor they bought five years ago for $10 at a yard sale. These are some of the folks who really, really need the wisdom you possess, but they are also the ones with whom you do not need to share that wisdom. When dealing with indignant and/or furious online buyers or emails, the best thing you can do (unless there is some compelling evidence to the contrary) is usually to have short, polite, concise interactions. “I’m sorry the 1966 Fender Deluxe Reverb you bought wouldn’t float in water as you’d hoped. What would you like me to do?” may not be what you want to say in your email, but in the long run, it will have a much better outcome than what you really want to say, which is probably more along the lines of “Seriously? What kind of moron thinks a vintage tube amp will sound better on an inner tube in a swimming pool?” Likewise, keeping your interactions brief and replying succinctly to the main points is a better idea than replying point-by-point to every objection they enumerate. Years ago, I got some less-than-happy Amazon feedback from a customer MARCH 2020

Profile for Music & Sound Retailer

Music & Sound Retailer March 2020, Vol 37 No 3