I’m a very methodical (and slow) shopper. This is especially true for big-ticket or important items. Before I make such a purchase, I spend hours researching various products. When I have made my shortlist of suitable options, I read every available online review to check for potential shortcomings. Finally, I head in-store to evaluate the possibilities in person. Finally, I make my purchase and head home…
…where I re-research the product again.
It sounds a little nutty…but chances are you’ve probably done this too.
According to a recent article by the Marketing Science Institute, my behaviour is a classic example of the well-documented “post-purchase bias”. The bias was first discovered by Ehrlich et al. in a 1957 study. They found that new car buyers read more advertisements for the car they had just purchased than for the cars that they had considered, but not purchased. This effect has been reproduced many times and is considered to be one of the most robust findings in consumer behaviour.
Why do we do this? By re-affirming the reasons for our initial purchase, we defend the wisdom of our acquisition and are able to allay the dreaded “buyer’s remorse”.
More recently, researchers have discovered that we also distort product information to reinforce our decision after a sale. When presented with such information, we ignore the bad and inflate the good. More importantly, because this interpretation is self-driven, we are more likely to believe in these positive evaluations.
This has big implications for business. Traditionally, we think of marketing as something that occurs before the sale. However, this study suggests that marketing is just as important after the sale has already occurred.
The MSI article outlines four implications for business:
1) Managers should always find ways to follow through after a recent purchase. Good customer service practices aside – when customers are given more information about a product, they positively interpret this information to create a stronger brand preference.
2) This follow-up should take place as soon as possible after the initial purchase, while the customer still feels strongly about the product.
3) After the initial purchase, we are likely to hear from some customers again – some products may be returned, others may require repair, or the customer may need additional instructions. Every encounter offers businesses the chance to strengthen the customer’s product preference.
4) The best kind of marketing is free-marketing – specifically when customers talk to friends about their experiences. The more post-purchase follow-up, the more loyal the customer, and the more likely they are to offer positive feedback regarding the product. Most importantly, because they are passionate about the product, this feedback is inherently more believable.
Remember: Your work as a retailer doesn’t end when the customer reaches the cash register – it has only just begun.
Do you research products you’ve already purchased? How does your business market itself to existing customers?
The restaurant world is filled with various idioms. I’m sure everyone has heard them; phrases like “Can I tempt you with our hot peanut fudge quadruple scoop sundae?” delivered by the server in a rushed, robotic manner. As diners, we can almost anticipate them we hear them so often. But that may be about to change.
Last week, I read an article in The Globe and Mail newspaper that examined the latest service trend in the restaurant industry. Restaurants, the ultimate service business, are recognizing that they need to move beyond scripts to stay competitive. With so many restaurants to choose from, quality of service can be a distinguishing factor. As an Applebee’s executive so eloquently put it, “Food is easy to copy, a building is easy to copy, but it’s not easy to copy our people”.
So what are they doing instead? Teaching human observation skills. Or, in other words, asking servers to pay attention to their clientele. Some examples? “Customers who arrive early and well-dressed are likely on the way to the theatre and need fast service” and “chatty tables are more likely to respond to suggestive food and beverage selling”, among others. Similar insights could be applied to the retail industry as a whole.
As a consumer, I can attest that what I find to be “good service” is never scripted. It’s real human interaction that is timely, and relevant. It’s when I feel the salesperson is speaking to me, and not saying something because they were told to in an attempt to upsell. If scripts are not the answer, is teaching observation skills the new magic bullet?
Personally, I think that good servers already do this intuitively. And I think that’s why part of me remains skeptical about this new trend. I am fully behind the idea of investing in one’s employees, but I wonder, is good service something that can be taught at all? Sure, you can teach someone the mechanics of painting, but can you teach them to produce art? It may be a case of “you’ve got it or you don’t”. Many businesses believe they can hire any warm body and train them. What’s the result? Poor performance. High turnover. The feeling that anyone can work retail, and the resulting undervaluing of retail employees.
I propose retail businesses adopt a new approach: hire the right people – the ones with a talent for service – and invest to keep them there. The right people will do an amazing job, and if you treat them well, and pay them well, they will stay. Some level of training is always required, but starting from the right place is a smarter return on investment. So start by hiring the right people. You’d be well served.
Is truly “good service” something that can be taught? How do you invest in your employees?