Monday, 8 December 2008

Is that what you really want?

My dad is a semi-retired pharmacist.

One of his favourite stories is of customers who used to come into Boots in [a city somewhere in Yorkshire] and say "I want to buy a bottle of cough mixture to cure my cold please".

Much to his supervisor's disgust, Dad would refuse to sell the customer anything unless they really insisted.

Instead, he would say, "Go home, take a spoonful of honey to soothe your sore throat, inhale steam to clear your tubes, but don't waste your money on cough mixture. It won't cure your cold."

And if they asked why the mixture wouldn't cure their cold, he would say, "Because a cold is a virus and antibiotics and medicines can't cure it. You've just got to let it run its course."

This is a classic case of what the customer thinks they want not equating to what they really want.

What they thought they wanted was a bottle of cough mixture.

What they actually wanted was a cure for the common cold.

But, as Dad used to say, if he knew a cure for the common cold, he'd hardly be working on the shop floor in Boots. He'd be off shooting in Scotland.

So this is a classic case of what Dr Paddi Lund is talking about when he stresses the importance of educating customers.

Sometimes you need to modify your product to suit the customer. But sometimes that's just not possible and you need to explain clearly to the customer why not - and make sure it's a really cast iron reason, like "there is no cure for the common cold". If Dad had said "The bottles are all in the stockroom at the back, come back tomorrow" then he would have sounded just plain lazy.

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