Customer Experience Articles

Gaining Goodwill with Grudge Purchases

4 strategies for dealing with reluctant customers

How do you think your customers would prefer to spend $1,000: a) towards a vacation of their choice or b) towards purchasing your products and services? If you hesitate because some customers might indeed opt for your company’s offerings over the vacation, then ignore the rest of this article. It means you sell fun stuff or experiences customers actually enjoy buying. Maybe you provide spa services, or sell luxury cars or upscale clothing. If on the other hand, you sell products and services that people buy because they have to; supplies for their business, winter tires, liability insurance, house repairs, braces for their kids, etc., then read on. After over 25 years of advising companies that deal primarily with reluctant customers, I’ve developed these 4 strategies for helping customers feel better about spending money on grudge purchases.

1. Focus on Task over Mood

If you sense your customers are rushed or frustrated, don’t ask them how they are. That question just reminds them that they’re not having a good experience. Instead, ask, “What can I do to make your day go a little better?” It helps keep the conversation positive while indicating you’re aware that they have other things they’d rather be doing.

Speaking of better word choices, avoid asking reluctant customers what they want or what they’d like. Frankly they don’t want to be there at all. Instead, phrase your questions along the lines of, “Would it be useful…?” “Would it make sense…?” “Would it be helpful…?” In general, we get better results with task oriented questions that focus on resolving the customer’s problem, than with questions that encourage customers to think about their mood.

2. Acknowledge Delays

A couple enjoying an appetizer at a fancy restaurant may not mind waiting if the main course is slightly delayed. On the other hand, a parent kept waiting past appointment time with a fidgety child in a crowded dental office needs an explanation. The dentist shouldn’t just ignore being late. She should start with, “Thanks for your patience today. A previous patient had a serious condition I needed to spend a little more time with. Rest assured we’ll take all the time we need to take care of you. Before I do, how’s your time – are we OK?” When customers agree to proceed they feel less taken for granted, more like they’ve regained control, and become more receptive to your service.

3. Share your Strategic Intent

Let begrudging customers know that you understand what they really want. An employee at a license plate registry office would do well to tell a customer who’s obviously running errands during lunchtime, “Let’s take care of this quickly so you can hopefully get a chance to eat.” A plumber replacing a hot water tank mentions, “At least now when you leave the house you’ll know that you won’t come home to a flood.” Customers may be focused on the immediate painful purchase. You need to remind them of the more positive strategic outcome.

4. Offer Pricing Perspective

By definition, people don’t enjoy spending money on grudge purchases. So with big ticket purchases it’s helpful to break the price down into something that sounds less daunting. So, rather than saying to a customer, “The new roof will be ten thousand dollars,” Instead say, “The new roof will be 10k.” Then compare that figure with their overall investment. “Keep in mind the new roof is protecting your seven hundred thousand dollar home investment. Whatever you invest in the roof is likely to increase the value of your home by at least that amount. Plus, of course you don’t have to worry about a hidden leak causing mold damage in your walls that can run into staggering costs and cause health issues.”

Bottom line – Too often, service providers fail to realize just how much customers don’t want to be there. That’s when employees appear to customers to be oblivious and uncaring. Meanwhile, these same employees wonder why customers are so demanding and grouchy. The good news is with a little training, employees can come across as wonderfully astute and empathetic. That makes for a more pleasant experience for everyone. Most importantly for your bottom line – customers become less resentful about sending their dollars your way.


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