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Customers want to be in control and it has to be their idea. Telling someone they are empowered still leaves you in control. Now, let’s create an environment that empowers the customer.
How does this work?
One of my newest employees, Rose, recently confessed that when she is out shopping, she intentionally goes to large stores so she does not have to deal with the sales pressure of a smaller, more intimate boutique despite its excellent, personalized customer service. She wants to be able to find help if she needs it, but as she said: “I’m 27 years old. I know what I like, I know my budget and I know how to dress myself. When I need your help, I’ll ask for it.”
On the rare occasion when Rose does go into a small shop because she saw something in the window and wants a closer look, she fakes a phone call (usually in Spanish) the entire time so she doesn’t have to hurt someone’s feelings by leaving without buying something.
Nobody enjoys feeling backed into a corner. When people feel backed into a corner, they are afraid to be honest and tell you why they are uncomfortable. Like Rose, they don’t want to create a conflict or hurt someone’s feelings, so they come in with a sack full of excuses and cop-outs, ready to flee at the first signs of discomfort.
They associate your business with discomfort and they take their business elsewhere. They continue to do so until they encounter a place where they feel comfortable. And that is the key to repeat business. If I feel good with your company, I’m coming back.
The thing is, your customers already know you’re there to help or, at the very least, they know you are there to take their money. Your customers are quite familiar with the concept of how a sale works.
I recently watched the Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges film “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” In my favorite scene, Bridges escapes trouble and walks to a used car dealership. He scopes out a sweet little Firebird and the used car salesman strolls out, ready to make the sale. Obviously, Bridges has no intention of buying a car by any means other than the five-fingered discount and, obviously, the salesman has no motive other than selling the car.
After the salesman schmoozes him a bit, Bridges steals the car right out from under the salesman’s hand. Now, that’s a bad day.
Did Bridges need the salesman to know the car was for sale and that the salesman would sell it to him? Of course not. He went to an establishment that exclusively exists to sell cars. But when backed into a corner (in this case, both by sales pressure and by outside circumstances), customers sometimes take matters into their own hands, often willing to stick it to the business and anyone in their path in the process.
Like Bridges, our customers are always carrying their own circumstances with them; we can’t always see those circumstances. But if we put sales pressure on top of it, bam! They’re gone.
Who’s in charge?
How do our customers become empowered? By letting them be in charge. You can never be the one in charge of trying to sell them something. As Rose put it, sometimes she likes to browse and to know she can say “no” to everything she sees. Because when you have the power to say “no,” you have the ability to say “yes.” Her power comes from within and, for her, it’s a good feeling. So, don’t get in her way.
The truth is, the businesses that have return customers have created an environment that lets customers subconsciously recognize they are in control. Take online shopping, for example. Customers are empowered to browse for hours, compare prices, read reviews from others — and they get to do it all in their underwear without ever leaving home. The best news? Even after putting hundreds of dollars’ worth of products into their carts, they can still click the red X and be done with it.
The relaxed environment encourages customers to return over and over, not only when they are browsing, but also when they are ready to make a purchase. It’s the same with menus, which is the foundation for our menu pricing at The New Flat Rate. When customers are given a menu and empowered to choose and repeat, they return again and again because they like it.
When it comes to reliability and trust, the new power goes to customer reviews. After all, people buy what they like and from whom they trust, right? But guess what? Now people buy what other customers like and trust; it’s a comfort zone thing and they feel good in it. So, when repeat business is what you want, give them a soft seat.
They go because they are comfortable and because they know what to expect. They go because they enjoy the ambiance. They go because they appreciate the extensive selection and having options. They go because they have taken ownership of it and have made it theirs.
We are the captains of our souls. We want to be in charge of ourselves and of our lives, and we enjoy frequenting businesses that put us in charge. We all feel more comfortable controlling a vehicle versus riding in the car with someone else. We “know” we can do it better. Let’s face it; we like to have our egos stroked and we will go where we feel as if that is happening.
Make that happen and they come back.