At work this week, we got news that sounded on the surface like bad news: some of our popular customer discounts were being reduced.
When I worked at Greenlife a couple of years ago, they had recently been taken over by Whole Foods and the very popular senior discount was discontinued. I’m sure nobody ever determined how many seniors took their business elsewhere (including to my current store), but certainly some did – and some stayed but harbored resentments.
So how do you deliver potentially bad news in a positive way? The company gave us some talking points. The strategy is to not get rid of the discounts altogether, but to move towards optimally low prices applied to everybody. I feared people would respond to that one with cynicism – “Low prices, sure.” But they mostly seemed to accept it.
It will make it easier to focus on the discount of the day – new people may learn that they are qualified. I’m disturbed by how often people tell me, “I’ve been coming here for years, but I never knew there was a military discount.” Now on Thursdays we may poll more thoroughly for it.
My strategy is just to charm the daylights out of them. Really go after them. Let them know we want their business and their loyalty. If there is any part of me that genuinely loves my customers (and there is), then lean into that part now. We have a community of staff and customers at our store – and I don’t want that community ruptured.
I personally happen to think this is a positive way to go. I am influenced by the young people who complain “I’m way more broke than the average senior citizen – I think it’s unfair that they get a discount but not me.” Parents of young kids say similar things. And nurses wonder why they don’t get a discount. And firefighters and police officers. And students and teachers have wondered why their discount was just one day a week – now there is more parity there.
I had mixed success today trying to use that argument with customers. Two of them together said, “Our young adult children are way more affluent than us on social security”, while others seemed to accept the fairness argument.
I think a little apology is fine – this is a disappointment, we want to show that we understand that. But not to come across with an apologetic attitude. Stay proud of the store and of our commitment to our customers. Lean into whatever positive gambits you usually use with customers. I have been working in my stock “What’s been a highlight of your day?”
Some customers may go away mad – probably not for good (our primary competitors don’t offer these discounts any day of the week). But there is the risk of them leaving – or at least of their enthusiastic connection to the store being diminished. It’s a critical juncture here – time to pull out the stops for their loyalty. Time for me to get out of my comfort zone – really show them we want them. This could be really good for me – may transfer to other relationships where I want to pursue someone, want to show them I value them, want to come from my loving heart.
Why not? Otherwise you’re just swiping groceries.
Thursday evening p.s. Today I ran into a few people who were determined to be mad about this change, but many more who were susceptible to charm. I had some who responded to my fairness gambit by saying things like “Well that makes sense”. Most of the people I dealt with who are adversely affected are seniors. I developed a whole patter about that change: “Man, I’m disappointed. These are my peeps (I’m 68) and I’ll be missing them because I don’t work on Mondays…It will be like a seniors club in here on Mondays…We’ll play mahjong and bingo in the cafe”, etc. Lots of people who started out bothered, worried, etc. walked away seeming at least content.