I wrote this post originally for LinkedIn’s customer experience section
As a result of so many businesses nowadays trying to battle for a place in consumers wallets, consumers are having to deal with more choices than they can handle. Because there are so many options to choose from now, consumers aren’t going to analyze and educate themselves on every single decision. Instead, they’re going to make irrational and quick judgements about your business in order to make their decision making process easier for themselves. This is why typically customers who have a terrible first experience talking with the people of your business won’t care about how great your product or service is because they will have already made the decision to want to move their business elsewhere.
“In order to survive the onslaught of choices, consumers will make snap judgements” – Seth Godin
Which is why…
The first impression matters
In the book “Blink,” Malcolm Gladwell proves that humans tend to make decisions on almost no data whatsoever, and they will stick with those decisions regardless of any information that comes up that may prove their initial decision wrong.
As humans, we naturally make these irrational and quick judgements all the time, and we’ll align our perceptions to match these initial judgments. When we go out to a new place to eat for example, we decide instantly whether or not we like the place based on the experience we have talking with the people who work there. If the person who is seating us or the person who is taking our order is being rude or sounds annoyed then we decide at that moment that we don’t like the place. It doesn’t matter afterwards if the place is nice, if the food is great, or if the location is beautiful because the consumer has already made up in their mind to hate everything and they’re going to ignore any evidence that goes against their initial judgement. It’s not surprising then that 78% of consumers have said that they have bailed out of a transaction or did not make an intended purchase as a result of a poor customer experience.
This is why the first impression that consumers have with your business are critically important to your business’s success. You can have the greatest executives and CEO in the world running a company together, but if the people in your company who are in direct contact with your customers aren’t good with people such as the cashier, the waiter, or the receptionist, then your business will fail.
Businesses rely on people like the cashier
By 2020, customer experience will be more important to consumers than both price and product. Instead of businesses competing around who makes a better product, the businesses that succeed will be those who can provide a better customer experience. Even now, Facts and figures or features and benefits will rarely ever convince consumers as to why they should do business with you. What does work however are the authentic, genuine, and personal interactions that consumers have with the people of your company. This is why businesses rely on people like the cashier who enjoy making people feel happy and therefore helping your business succeed.
When we fly JetBlue for example, we’re happy when we have a flight attendant who actually makes us feel good that we’re flying that airline, instead of some other airline.
When we enter Jersey Mike’s to buy a sub, we’re happy when the person taking our order flashes us a smile and starts a conversation between us.
When we walk into a business, we love when we get to talk to a receptionist who actually makes us feel welcome as opposed to someone who is just doing their job.
Naturally, humans will do everything they can to support their initial snap judgements about your business. They’ll embrace it and they’ll reinforce it. One way people reinforce their snap judgements is by telling other people about it. 95% of dissatisfied customers will tell other people about their bad experience. 87% will tell others about a good experience. Depending on who the people who work for you are, this can either be a terrible or a great thing.
Your business can’t afford to turn away potential lifelong customers because of a bad customer experience. It doesn’t matter if your product is amazing and if your price is great because if your people aren’t, then you’re not providing an experience that people will want to do business with. If a customer has a terrible first experience with the person behind the counter, his impulse afterwards will be to look for evidence that confirms his judgement that your business is a lousy place, not evidence that counters it. This is why the most important thing which will turn a consumer into becoming a lifelong customer are the personal interactions between personable, genuine, and caring individuals and your customer.