Most consumers have a preconceived view about of extended service plans as protection they don’t need. How you train your sales team to present your plan to the consumer can make a huge difference in your success rate and in customer satisfaction levels. Here are just a few tips for successfully selling ESPs:
Unfortunately, retail has experienced some struggles in the last five years, and many companies have stopped training employees to sell extended service plans. Instead, some stores put plans in plastic packaging near the checkout with other impulse purchase items. They hope the customer will take the initiative to read about, understand, and buy the ESP on their own.
This kind of impulse buy may work for gum, but not for an ESP, which requires an explanation of benefits. Customers need help understanding the value of this investment. Depending solely on a point of purchase display to sell the plan is not impossible but more than likely won’t succeed.
As the prices of electronics and appliances continue to fall, it’s critical that you train your team on how to effectively position your extended service plan with the benefits that will provide the best value for the price to your customer.
Extended service plans (ESPs) and accessories are helping many retailers make up the loss of margin they’re experiencing as a result of lower prices on everything from computers to washing machines. While it’s true ESPs provide the much needed margin, more importantly, they provide additional value by helping to improve customer loyalty and reducing product returns.
Most companies face two challenges that prevent them from maximizing ESP sales. One, they don’t know how to balance the benefits of the plan with the price. And two, they don’t know how to train and manage their organization to sell them. Here are a few ways to address both of these challenges.
How much of a priority is selling extended services plans to your managers and employees? We’ve found that some companies offer ESPs to their customers begrudgingly. They’ll offer them because they are told they have to or because their competitors do, but they never fully embrace the concept or the benefits. This is a costly mistake. The benefits to your company, your associates, and your customers, far outweigh the time and resources you invest in working with manufacturers, negotiating with insurance companies, and training your team how to properly present ESPs to your customers.
The return on investment of selling extended service plans includes four major benefits...
Extended Service Plans (ESPs) are an important part of a retailer’s success, profitability, and a customer loyalty builder. A successful extended service plan ultimately depends on strategy, program offering, reporting, execution, and processes. These core components dictate whether a retailer achieves optimal financial results and increased customer loyalty -- or -- marginal performance and disappointed customers. If you want to identify the missed opportunities for your organization in maximizing profit and increasing customer loyalty through extended service plans … then read on! Doubling or tripling your current sales of extended service plans is a realistic expectation, when you challenge your organization to think differently.
Originally published in Twice Magazine
You approach the service counter of a typical retailer, any retailer, armed only with a defective product and the extended service you purchased on it. You recall back one year ago when you purchased the product. The sales associate spun a glowing tale of being able to take care of you and your product for an additional three years beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. You were skeptical as it was explained to you about all the time, money and headaches that you would avoid if you bought their service contract. By the time they were done you were sold. You wanted the plan, you needed that plan. It was pricey, but the peace of mind it provided was well worth the investment. Besides, the sales associate was just so darn sincere.
Fast-forward one year. As you make the long walk to the customer service counter, it starts to resemble a scene right out of a Clint Eastwood western. You receive a steely look from the person working behind the customer service counter. You imagine yourself in the center of town on a lonely, empty street while tumbleweeds roll by.
Originally published in Twice Magazine
I find it amusing how some retailers talk about their extended warranty program. It seems to me that they think of it as this "thing", that generates a lot of money, but no one should talk in the open about. If you have a good program, that truly takes care of the customer, then why the apprehension? Good extended warranty sales should translate to greater customer loyalty. The more satisfied the customer is, the more likely it is they will be back to shop in your store.
The next logical question is, "What makes for a good extended warranty program?" Here are some of my ideas for an extended warranty program that can achieve profitability for the retailer while offering superior service for the customer.
Are you offering the customer a comprehensive plan?
What does your plan cover? Usually a salesperson will tell me it "covers full parts and labor." I ask them what that means. They usually tell me it means "we cover parts and labor...fully." If however I say we cover normal wear & tear, dust, or power surges, I have just offered the customer something tangible. If your coverage does not include these benefits and others like them, it should. It's an easier sell when I can explain, in detail, what the plan is going to cover on the product, instead of using vague terminology. The cost may increase to add this type of coverage, if you currently do not offer it, but the additional sales would make it worth it.
How often do you train?
Increase extended warranty sales by teaching new hires the program before they get on the floor. When a new hire receives proper training on what an extended warranty is and how to sell it, they almost always succeed. Training should occur during the orientation of your new hires. It could be a worksheet, CD ROM, or training video. When interviewing a potential sales person, you should let them know they are expected to offer these plans to the customer with an expected success rate. One manager told me that during the interview he had the person attempt to sell him a plan. He is not looking not for the ideal presentation, but eye contact and their ability to communicate.
Offer a Replacement Plan on less expensive items:
A replacement plan is a great way to increase revenue. Many retailers either do not offer extra coverage on smaller, less expensive electronics, or put little emphasis on this type of program. The plan is a great way to improve customer service and remember, today's small electronics customer is tomorrow's big screen and Appliance customer. The customer could replace it in the store, (getting them back in) or you could have them mail it to the administrator to process the claim (less work for the stores). Either way the customer is thrilled because they are getting a new product. A replacement plan does not guarantee huge profits by itself. Proper price ranges must be developed based upon product mix and customer acceptance. If you can make the price attractive, simplify the procedure, and offer superior customer service, the customer will buy it.
Are your plans priced properly:
Do you price solely on margin rate and/or rate of sale? A combination is best. If you price your plans as a value to the customer, you will make your margin goal by more units being sold. Once again, the more plans you get in the customer's hands, the more likely they are to repeat the purchase or renew their plan. Pricing must be reviewed by product line. Example: For every ten VCRs you are selling 6 plans. That's obvious to me the customer sees the value. Camcorders however, you discover for every ten sold, you are only selling two extended warranties. Are you properly priced both short term and long term when you consider renewals? If you drop the price can you increase sales enough to generate incremental margin? Is it worth it?
Become a partner with your third party administrator:
TPAs are becoming a commodity in the industry. How you interact with them can make a difference in the running of your program. Constantly challenge your TPA to develop new ideas to improve your business. You will not always use their recommendations but it should keep your program on the cutting edge. Set up regularly scheduled meetings with your administrator. Have them give you status reports. Communication between the retailer and the TPA is crucial to the success of an extended warranty program.
Selling extended warranties has become integral to the success of retailers in the marketplace today. What kind of program do you have? The best program offers your customers both value andthe outstanding customer service they have come to expect from your store. The best program that builds customer loyalty, reduces returns and keeps them coming back. To me this is what having long range success is all about. A well run, successful extended warranty program is something to be proud of.
Take an objective look at your existing program. Identify the strengths and weaknesses and discover solutions to improve it. This self-analysis will help you develop a profitable program that offers your customers superior customer service.