I was working yesterday morning in the dairy department replenishing items like milf and eggs. I make sure I rotate the eggs by date as well as handle them carefully.

There were some eggs that were out on the shelf so I grabbed a case and then a customer approached me. She asked for a gallon of Lactaid 2% milk. As it says on their packaging, Lactaid is milk that is easy to digest that is 100% Lactose Free. It is a very popular dairy item in my store. The customer’s shopping cart was filled. If I had to guess she was a stay at home mom shopping for her family.

So I went to look in the bag for the gallon jug of milk, which costs $5.99 in my store, with no success. I informed her that we were out of it and that their is a good probability that it will be included in our truck delivery in the afternoon. She said she would come back later. She wasn’t thrilled by the response. However, she was not visually upset, but she would rather not have to make a second trip our supermarket or go to another supermarket.

But then I thought about it and put myself in customer’s shoes…

And then up with a solution. A good one. I wanted to satisfy and help this customer, and her family.

I noticed that we carried half gallon containers of the milk, which we sold for $4.29. So I grabbed two half gallon containers, total cost $8.58, and pitched to her that she can have the containers instead for the same price of the gallon jug. She said sure and happily took the deal. She saved a total of $2.29 and got the product she wanted and needed. Just doing the little things like this and going out of your way to help the customer will keep them coming back. Plus, I can almost guarantee you that she will tell someone else what happened. She got a deal and told someone else. The result is advertising for my supermarket: total advertising cost : $2.29 . She was relieved and I can assure you that she will be back again to shop at my supermarket.

To keep customers happy when something is not available that they wanted on the shelf is to offer a substitute item. The price may be higher, but the main result is that it keeps the customer happy and coming back to shop in your store. The substitution approach can be used selling other types of goods, services or ideas. For instance, you are and ad salesperson and you are selling space for a magazine, but the position they wanted is already taken. No problem. A good option would be to offer another page, maybe a premium position like a cover 2 or inside back cover (C3) for the price of a standard 4c Full Page ad. If your publisher can buy into it and you sell the ad, chances are your client will remember what you did to accommodate them. And if the ad has traction and you can measure that a profitable return on investment (ROI) for your client then I can just about assure you that your client will come back and run a standard 4C FP ad and not resist the price.

The bottom line is this: If you can use the substitution approach to selling, where you can offer an alternative option, where the business will lose some money on the ad, but the end result is that the customer appreciates and remembers going out of you way will result in two things:

  1. Free word of mouth advertising
  2. Repeat business, — lots of it.

Grocers like to sell, some like to help customers and keep them happy, especially when it helps their bonuses and share price over the long run.

If you sell, try the substitution selling approach and let me know how your customer reacted.

A customer always likes to think they are getting a deal and being felt they are treated like royalty, even if they are buying Lactaid.