How Have Your Customers Changed
In The Last Five Years?
By Ross Shafer
First of all, forget the tired, old adage; “The customer is always
right!” It’s just not true...or even relevant, anymore.
Replace it with, “The customer is always…Vulnerable.”
Customers feel vulnerable, helpless, out of control, and anxious.
That was the clear message we got from them when we dissected 1,000
random customer complaints we found on customer complaint web sites,
blogs, and chat rooms. We didn’t edit the complaints. We didn’t
solicit them or try to manipulate them. We just read what customers
typed into cyberspace when they had nowhere else to turn for
satisfaction. The complaints were emotionally charged and spoke to
how customers feel before, during, and after the
What’s Caused This Drama? Your customers get emotional about the
transaction because they need you for something. And, anytime
you need somebody else for something, you’re vulnerable. Somebody
else has the control. Somebody else has the knowledge. Somebody else
has the product, service, or solution you want. Abundant “need” is
the active ingredient for your customer to feel vulnerable,
helpless, and emotional. Face it, you know everything about
your business – the costs, the hidden expenses, and the time
of delivery…but your customer doesn’t. He/She needs guidance from
you. He/She needs a livable price, a quote and/or budget from you.
He/She needs you to keep your production deadlines. He/She needs to
keep his boss happy. He/She needs you to make him look smart for
hiring you…so he/she can get some sleep at night. ( I realize using
the “he/she” is annoying but let’s face it He may be a very powerful
Customers Actually Evolved? Yes! Our company has been making
human resource training films since 1994 and we’ve witnessed a huge
shift in the customer’s emotional state; especially since one
shattering event in American history; the 9-11 attack on the Twin
Towers. That morning, Americans saw more than 3,000 of our fellow
citizens vaporized before our eyes. We no longer safe felt safe in
our own country. The convenience of airline travel evaporated.
Homeland Security was established. Retail sales of Taser stun guns,
mace, personal body armor, home security systems, biological weapon
suits, home generators, and firearms instantly tripled. Books like,
Purpose Driven Life – What on Earth Am I Here For? became
overnight best sellers as Americans looked to their faith and
purpose as a way to cope with impending catastrophe. At the same
time, reality TV shows like Survivor, Dog Eat Dog, and
Fear Factor enjoyed staggering ratings as Americans tuned in,
not only for entertainment, but as a weekly lesson in disaster
America is still on high emotional alert. When the movie trailer for
Universal Pictures “Flight 93” was shown in New York, the AMC-Lowes
in Manhattan made the decision to pull it after viewers said they
found it to be too upsetting. How does this make your customers
feel five years later? The brave ones remain cautious. Some are just
plain scared. But, everyone is irritable if they sense fear or
anxiety if their money, reputation, business, or life is endangered.
There Is The Human Matter Of Self Sufficiency: Ah, don’t let me
forget to mention that the Online Purchase/Kiosk/ATM/Self Checkout
economy is doggedly detaching your customers from your most
important relationship building tool; you. While you may not
be generating and maintaining a lot of bids, business, or service
calls over the Internet today, count on it to infiltrate your
business soon. Online inquiries, bidding submissions, progress
reports, sales, and evaluations are already becoming popular. Saves
time, right? Short term, yes. But, there is an enormous lost
opportunity cost when your customer no longer needs you. Because so
many business people have learned to complete the transaction
themselves with a computer - or through an automated kiosk, it
actually results in less purchase anxiety. Question is…do you really
want your customers to stop needing you?
What’s The Fix? Find a mirror. Gaze closely. It’s You. You have
the power to capture your customer’s loyalty by putting your face in
front of theirs. Learn how to interpret your customer’s emotional
state before, during, and after the transaction. It’s not difficult. First,
assume your customers don’t have all of the answers and are feeling
vulnerable. Next, you can easily read their faces and interpret
their tone of voice by becoming familiar with the top six facial
expressions that telegraph your customer’s “hidden” emotional state.
You do it when you’re playing poker, right? Why not apply the same
study to your customers; without the gambling?
looking them in the eyes, stop talking. Ask a few non-threatening
questions and really listen to what your customers are telling you.
Avoid the urge to show them how smart you are by jumping in with
something to advance your agenda. It’s not about you, right
now. Keep it all about them. Don’t question your customer if
he’s misinformed. It makes him feel stupid. Rather, take the
position that you may have misheard – then carefully clarify again.
Keep digging deeper with more questions until you are absolutely
clear about his concerns.
Customers’ Final Moment: Customers remember how they felt
during the final moment more than at any other time during the
transaction. So make your final moment worth remembering. Naturally,
you want to leave them with a smile and a promise kept. But more
importantly, make them feel like they made the best choice
with you. Positive “final moment feelings” are what will not only
bring that customer back to you, but eliminate your need to compete
on price alone. Customers will pay a premium price to someone who
cares about them. Plus, caring about people is a differentiator that
costs you nothing - yet contributes more to your bottom line than
all other marketing efforts combined.
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