The Reluctant Customer: A true story about building confidence, trust and a great customer experience

You’ve been there. You greet a customer, either in person or on the phone. You’re warm, you’re friendly; everything about your words, tone and manner says “I’m here to help.” Nonetheless, you immediately pick up on the fact that, for whatever reason, the customer doesn’t want to be there. That was me. I was that customer. I wasn’t rude, demanding or obnoxious. I just wasn’t into the whole ordeal of buying a new phone. From a sales perspective, I was a reluctant consumer, feeling forced into making a change that I’d rather avoid.

But, what unfolded in the following three-plus hours (yes, that long) was incredible because my salesperson, Nicole, got it. Because she got me!

Get My Point, Get Me

We know that reading the customer is about listening to their words, and noticing how they are delivered: the tone, the volume, even the pace of their delivery. In a face-to-face communication, there is so much more to take in: facial expressions, body language, posture and movement. It’s a whole package of message and of meaning.

  • “Hi, I’m Nicole. May I help you with anything specific, or do you just want to look around?” 
  • “Oh, yeah, I just want to look around.” 
  • “Great, I’ll be here if you need anything or have any questions.” 

I immediately think: Nice read on her part … she must have noticed that I wasn’t seeking her out or attempting to make eye contact. My body language was saying “give me some space.” I didn’t want to be “sold;” I was in think mode, zoned in on considering my options and making the next “right” choice. But the options were dizzying and I was becoming overloaded.

  • “There are so many choices; I know it can be hard to choose. Would it help if I went over some of the features with you?” 

And with that, I trusted that Nicole “got” me. She had read me perfectly.

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Part

Nicole “read” my message and got my meaning:

  • She understood that I was a reluctant customer … and wasn’t put off or defensive 
  • She empathized with the pressure to choose, to make the right choice … and didn’t act in a superior way 
  • She offered to help … and didn’t push me toward her preference or attempt to steer me toward the store’s promotion 

As a result, she connected with me. Now I was ready to work with her.

Trust Precedes Task

Nicole and I explored numerous options, all vying for my attention and my dollar. I made—and unmade—countless decisions in those three hours. My ambivalence was matched by Nicole’s spot-on patience.

“This one. No, maybe I should go with that one. But I like the … what did you call it?” I am certain that I was nothing short of tiresome. Yet Nicole adapted to me. She maintained a sincere and helpful attitude throughout.

And at the end of the day—and it was the end of the day, I bought the least expensive phone. But you wouldn’t know it by Nicole’s response when she said “Call me any time you have any questions. Anything at all.” I liked that.

A “Custom” Customer Experience

Creating a MAGIC® experience for a savvy customer or, in my case, a reluctant one, can be nuanced. And at the same time, structure matters. The following Five MAGIC Steps provide a combination of supportive, relationship skills, and directive task skills that allow you to create a great customer experience. But it’s about how and when you use them.

My experience in the store and my specific interaction with Nicole was artful and nuanced. For me in that store, it was:

  • Reading me … and not coming on too strong
  • Respecting my timing … and my readiness to engage
  • Checking in with me … and offering to he
  • Backing off … and giving me some space
  • Sitting with me … and reinforcing the sense of relationship

It was a brilliant customer experience.. And it’s the heart and soul of a custom customer experience.

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