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Peter Cannella: The Professional Follow-up

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On Customer Service: The Professional Follow-up

Save yourself the embarrassment — and lost sales — of getting it wrong.

BY PETER CANNELLA

Published in the January 2014 issue.

Many years ago, when I was in the infancy of my jewelry career, I made a huge error despite my best intention to serve a customer beyond the norm.

I sold a very expensive diamond, sapphire and platinum bracelet to a walk-in client. So I could determine his needs, I asked him a number of open-ended questions just as I had been taught. He told me his anniversary was coming up in five days and he was looking for something very special with sapphires to give to his wife. Thirty minutes later, he left the store with a finely gift-wrapped $22,000 bracelet along with my thanks and congratulations.

Two days after his anniversary, I called him at the number he provided to follow-up and to congratulate him again regarding his celebration. A woman answered the phone and I asked to speak to him. I was told he wasn’t home, that the woman I was speaking with was his wife, and that she could help me. So I asked her: “How did you like the sapphire and diamond bracelet your husband gave you for your anniversary?” She responded with, “What bracelet and it’s not even close to my anniversary.”

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My first thought was to bury my head a la ostrich in the sand. I told her, “I’m sorry I ruined his surprise and I would call him at another time.” Then, I hung up the phone and tried to regain my composure.

He called later. It was then I found out the bracelet was a gift for someone else, not for his wife and he was quite upset his indiscretion had been exposed. Now, with 28 years of experience under my belt I have learned many valuable lessons. So, what’s the moral of this story? Well, there are several:

If your customer is selecting a gift for someone, if you are going to follow up, you must ask for permission first.

If their answer to the first point is yes, you must ask your client how they want you to contact them.

If you have approval and you have been given the mode of contact, you must follow-up when you promised.

When you contact your client, contact
only the client.

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Do not judge your customer. If they don’t want you to follow-up, accept the fact they have a good reason and don’t assume it’s due to something less than honorable.

If your customer tells you specifically they are buying a gift for someone other than their spouse (I have had this happen a number of times since the sapphire incident), their indiscretion should not become yours. Remain professional and don’t involve yourself in their personal life.

You are in your store to sell, providing a service regardless of a customer’s marital status, race, sexual orientation or any other factor. If you follow this advice, you will save yourself much embarrassment. You will grow your client following and be viewed by all as the jewelry professional you aspire to become.


Peter Cannella is a 27-year veteran in the jewelry industry having held positions in sales, store and district management. He is currently the fine jewelry manager at Belk’s in Atlanta, GA.

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