Ahhh, Black Friday.  A day that historically kicks off the holiday shopping season with massive discounts and corresponding massive crowds.  For our non-US readers who might not be familiar…Black Friday is the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.  Retailers typically use the day to kick start the holiday shopping season, with many sales starting at midnight!

Historically, I don’t get caught up in Black Friday.  Back in the day there was nothing appealing to me about shopping from midnight to 2:00 am, no matter how great the deals were.  Even when shopping shifted online, there wasn’t much of an appeal.  While the purchasing felt simple, the hassle of having to return any of it was a strong enough deterrent to stay away. 

That was until two years ago when I finally caved, succumbing to a 60% banner ad dangling in front of me.  I saw this sweater I liked, but I struggled since I rarely buy clothes online.  The problem is I find they just don’t fit.  And I kept thinking what a pain it was going to be when this sweater arrives, doesn’t fit, and then I have to print the return label (I didn’t have a printer at the time), retape the box, and then go drop it off. 

So let me take you back to a simpler time… 2018.  I want to tell you a story about one retailer who made Black Friday effortless and has turned me into a convert. 

Often times customers know the problem and think they know the solution. 

Picture it…I’m at my laptop and I finally give into the 60% off temptation.  I buy the sweater.  Two days later it arrives and, of course, doesn’t fit.  Given the business we’re in, I called the retailer for my return label. 

I’m dreading the experience, but at least I’m greeted by a friendly rep (but I’ve run into plenty of friendly reps who can’t help).  I explained the situation to her and asked for a return label.  She replied saying she’d be happy to email me one, but would I mind if she asked me a few questions about my purchase?  I agreed and she asked me three or four questions:  Why’d I buy the sweater (work or fun)?  What’d I like about the sweater – the design?  The color? 

After asking me a few questions, she says, “Mr. Rothman here’s the thing…I’ve got another sweater and it looks almost identical to the one you purchased but the material is slightly different and I think it’s going to fit you better.  Do you mind if I send it to you?  If you like it, great, keep it; if you don’t like it, just return it with the first sweater, no harm no foul.”  I said sure, why not (I had nothing to lose). 

Two days later the sweater arrived and sure enough it fit and it’s in my closet today.  In that moment, this rep provided me an effortless experience and saved a sale!

Take a look at the nine Effortless Experience skills below – any thoughts as to which two this rep applied that resulted in my effortless experience?

Often times customers know the problem but don’t know what’s possible. 

I’m guessing when you read my story you thought, “wow, that’s a good experience” or “wow, that’s a good rep.  Where do I find more like her?”  I’m guessing it didn’t dawn on you that the rep was purposeful and specifically applied two low effort skills. 

The first?  Surfacing additional information.  Surfacing additional information is recognizing when a customer is willing to share more (and when they aren’t) and asking targeted and purposeful questions related to the issue at hand. 

The second?  Positioning alternatively.  Positioning alternatives is enabling our reps to act like a consultant for our customers to offer a better alternative.  It might be a lower cost alternative, or it might be a more robust and more expensive solution.  The two frequently go hand-in-hand, since the positioning piece relies on that additional information surfaced…you want the alternative to feel like a great solution for the customer in their specific context.

Often customers say, “my problem is X; I just need Y” to solve it.  And reps are more than happy to give customers exactly what they’ve asked for.  Why not?  That’s another satisfied customer and they’re onto the next call.  Unfortunately, what ultimately happens is, customers wind up realizing Y is NOT what they needed and contact us, again, for additional resolution.  High effort for them and high cost for us.

Imagine a world where reps take the time, like my sweater rep did, to ask smart, purposeful questions so they can position the best solution, the first time.  In this instance, my sweater Rep used two Effortless skills to provide me a sweater that I didn’t even know existed! I now shop that retailer, online, all because of one effortless experience.  What do you think one effortless experience would do for you company? 

Scott Rothman

Scott Rothman

Scott Rothman is a Director with Challenger’s Service practice. In his role, Scott is responsible for sharing and presenting the Effortless Experience™ research and helping companies execute on their low-effort strategies. He has facilitated and presented on these topics at numerous speaking engagements, including keynotes and industry conferences. Scott holds a BS in Commerce from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia and an MBA from The Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.