Monday, September 13, 2021

Retreat Briefly After Incivility

When your child throws a temper tantrum, the best remedy is usually a timeout. The same is true for your consumers, although instead of sending them off to a backroom, you’ll go there yourself for a short time. If you’re the supervisor of front-line employees who do this, think how the technique can improve, not interfere with, overall employee performance.
     Evidence about the value of the backroom retreat comes from researchers at University of Edinburgh, University of Sydney, and UNSW Business School and concerns a category of frontline employee especially likely to provoke temper tantrums—parking enforcement officers.
     After enduring an angry offender, the officer could immediately move on to the next enforcement situation or could take a short break. The problem with the first alternative is that the officer is likely still agitated, so the quality of professional service is impaired. Another way of looking at this is that maintaining courtesy toward consumers requires energy, and energy is depleted by handling incivility. Bad feelings also have been shown to spill over into rudeness toward coworkers.
     Briefly stepping away from the work situation was found to work better for the parking enforcement officers and then, in another study, for nurses in a children’s hospital. All the positive results were for brief breaks. The researchers point out how prolonged absences from the servicescape decrease employee performance. There are more uncompleted tasks to be made up, and irritation of other staff disrupts teamwork.
     Similar conclusions for these two quite different types of service workers indicate that the results are generalizable. The researchers’ review of past studies about a short retreat after incivility yielded tips about optimal use of the time: A snack can ease exhaustion. Chatting with colleagues about topics not related to work can restore perspective. Upon return to the servicescape, this perspective might lead to recognition of how to more effectively handle incivility, such as temper tantrums, in the future. One formula: 
  • Let customers express anger in bursts of up to about thirty seconds. This gives you time to understand their points. Beyond about thirty seconds, people often get more wound up. 
  • Avoid interrupting in the middle of a sentence. Wait for a breath. Keep your voice decisive, but calm. 
  • If the shopping experience has been responsible for the consumer’s anger, ask questions like, “What may I do to make things right?” Then say what you’ll do.

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Proceed to Protect Your Staff from Insults 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Look Out for Where They’re Gazing

To derive full effectiveness from our ads, we’d like the viewer to be mentally transported into the story portrayed by the ad. Researchers at University of Houston say that with a still image ad featuring a human model, this transportation is influenced by the direction of the model’s gaze. An ad for a product or service appealing to positive emotions works best when the model’s eyes are averted rather than looking straight at the shopper. In one of the experiments—using a Facebook ad for a woman’s sun hat—people were 30% more likely to buy when the model had an averted compared to a direct gaze.
     There’s a downside to the averted gaze, though. It lessens spokesperson credibility. When credibility is essential, such as in ads primarily designed to deliver information, use a direct gaze by the model, advise the researchers. This is also best when we want to buffer the viewer’s mental transportation into the ad because of negative emotional content. The pain from full identification with the ad content can result in the viewer resisting involvement with the message. A model’s direct instead of averted gaze eases the defensive reflex. The researchers used a domestic violence awareness campaign to illustrate how this operates.
     These rules apply for ads, which are a relatively impersonal form of interpersonal communication. Other research argues for a direct, although certainly not harsh, gaze in face-to-face sales transactions. In such transactions, learn how to proceed by noticing where and how your shoppers are looking. Your credibility counts here, as does the credibility of the consumer. Liars shift their gaze rapidly, or in an effort to control this sign, the liar will fix their gaze on something aside from your face and will resist looking elsewhere. If you say, “May I show you the item once again before you leave?,” they’ll evidence signs of trouble looking directly at it.
     Watching the ways in which your shoppers move their eyes also gives you clues toward figuring out what interests those shoppers. Researchers at University of Minnesota and Chinese University of Hong Kong find this extends to what your shoppers will be interested in later in their shopping trip. Eyeball movement patterns persist. If a consumer tends to look toward the left or look upwards early in the shopping trip, it becomes more likely they’ll be gazing in that same direction later in the trip.

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Found Influence with Founders’ Stories 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Pick an Argument, Pipsqueak

If your business’s market share is small, I’ll argue you should loudly take a stand on a controversial political issue. I anchor my argument on a set of studies at California Polytechnic State University and Georgetown University which indicates the benefits will outweigh the risks.
     You might think the major risk is that your strong stand will alienate all those in your target markets who disagree with you. Pipsqueak-size enterprises can’t afford to lose bunches of customers. They lack the revenue cushion and market momentum enjoyed by the major players. Ergo, I am willing to admit my advice fails if you plan on advocating the political equivalent of the torture of puppies.
     Instead, pick your argument topic from those where people could recognize legitimate points on both sides. Then, the research indicates, the chief benefit becomes the attention to your business your strong advocacy garners. The net effect proves to be an influx of potential customers which more than compensates for the exit of angry current customers.
     In one of their experiments, U.K. participants were asked to choose between renting a car from a company having large or small market share. Among those participants told the small-share company had taken a stand favoring the U.K. exiting from the European Union, the percentage choosing the small-share company was 16%. The share was only 5% for a matched set of study participants who were not told the company had taken a stand on Brexit. This was in spite of 72% of the overall sample having said they were against Brexit.
     The set of studies also showed how for picking an argument to pay off, it’s important that your audiences consider your advocacy as authentic. That’s easier if you genuinely believe what you’re saying. Some or all of your employees may agree with your stand and others may not. Another important element for success, then, is that you prepare them to handle the flack. Lastly, recognize that truly hot controversies may draw attention away from the main selling points of your business. Blazing heat chases people away.
     Studies at Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Pennsylvania plotted the relationship between controversy about a topic and people’s interest. As the amount of controversy increased, people wanted to talk about the topic more. However, when the degree of controversy reached a certain tipping point, interest in discussion was outweighed by discomfort even thinking about the matter.

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Use or Sidestep Political Polarization 

Friday, September 3, 2021

Steepen Flat-Rate Bids in B2B

Experienced purchasing professionals have a flat rate bias. They prefer purchase terms in which a fixed amount is paid for a period of consumption of an item or service over purchase terms in which there’s a separate charge for each usage. This tends to be true even when the flat rate fee is likely to be more expensive than that for a per-usage agreement.
     The study findings from Sweden’s Link√∂ping University and Finland’s Centre for Relationship Marketing and Service Management documenting this bias indicate administrative savings as an explanation. Managers with experience in purchasing for their organizations might easily perceive that it’s easier to administer a fixed rate agreement. This could be especially true for organizations anticipating high fluctuation in demand for what they’re buying. The flat rate serves as insurance.
     That’s logical. Still, the study also supports explanations which suggest experienced purchasing managers are not wholly rational about this. For instance, in choosing between the two arrangements, disproportionate weight was given to the maximum past usage figure. This favored the flat rate.
     There are also factors that may or may not be rational. The study findings indicate a flat-rate bias is more likely when there’s been a long-term relationship between the provider and the business customer. This could be quite logical in the sense that a new user of an item benefits from monitoring per-usage costs in order to determine the value of the fixed fee price. But it’s not logical if the user has already had experience with another supplier or if the emotional nature of the business relationship makes a difference.
     Business-to-business customers often expect a person-to-person relationship. According to research at University of Geneva, there are two dimensions to that expectation: 
  • Secure business attachment. Your B2B customer may want to rely on you for quick answers to questions about purchases made from your business and for quick solutions to problems with purchases. 
  • Close business attachment. Your B2B customer may want to develop personal bonds with you or your outside sales agent, exchanging information about family and friends, for instance.
     A flat rate may benefit the marketer because revenues are more predictable than with per-usage plans. If this is true for you, steepen your use of flat-rate bids in B2B negotiations. Detect which of the rationales for a flat rate would be compelling for the prospect and maintain the type of business attachment the prospect prefers.

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Stay Aware of B2B Distinctions 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Swish Aside Wish List Problems

Asking customers to maintain wish lists seems like a good way to keep them interested in purchasing from you. And it is. But for best results, sweep away two problems for the retailer when using wish lists—problems shown in a pair of Kent State University studies.
     The first problem arises because placing an item on a wish list gives a bit of the satisfaction from actually possessing the item. With some consumers in some circumstances, satisfaction like this can sharpen purchase desire. But with wish lists, it can dull it. The benefits of actual ownership have been partially achieved.
     The second problem with wish lists comes about because of the delay between adding an item and buying it. Again, this could operate in the direction of increasing desire as the consumer discovers and thinks more about the item. But the passage of time often cools off passions and leads to questioning prior decisions—in this case, a decision to put the item onto the wish list. Also, in a continuing search over time for the best terms on the wish-listed item, the shopper might end up buying it from someone other than you.
     The researchers recommend that retailers develop ways for their customers to regularly interact with their wish lists. Basic purchase reminders aren’t enough. Perhaps continuing to send bits of information about the products and the latest customer reviews would serve this objective.
     Also decrease the time until purchase. Don’t let the wish list get moldy. One meaning of “swish” is “fashionable.” Let’s swish away wish list purchase delays in order to keep wish list items swish.
     When the wish list takes the form of a gift registry, there’s yet another possible problem. Researchers at Emory University and University of Texas-Austin found that people feeling closest to the intended gift recipient are quite likely to pick items different from what the celebrant has placed on the list. The reason is that close friends and family members want to personalize the gift by selecting something to signal the nature of the relationship.
     In the study, 25% of gift selections were from outside the gift registry among distant friends, while corresponding choice share among close friends was 64%. To improve the match between what the gift registrant lists they want and what the people buying the gift end up selecting, coach gift registrants to include items which carry relational messages.

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Dream Consumption Visions of the Past 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Stumble Upon Serendipity as a Sales Tool

While searching for one desired thing, you unexpectedly spot something else even more appealing. Or you weren’t looking for anything in particular and cross paths with a highly appealing experience The pleasure in the discovery is greater because you avoided the expenditures of time, money, or effort specifically seeking the item and because you feel special for having been in the right place at the right time. That’s a Serendipity Effect.
     A set of studies at University of Sydney, University of Florida, University of Basel, and Rutgers University gives suggestions for mobilizing serendipity to improve the customer experience so that customers will want more. In an example analyzed by the researchers, participants were users of a subscription service such as Birchbox, Stitch Fix, or The Tie Bar. With these services an item arrives at expected intervals. The subscriber can choose products themselves or have products selected for them. The researchers found that those participants who had received products selected for them reported higher satisfaction with and feeling of meaningfulness in the purchase, greater willingness to recommend the company, and more interest in extending the subscription.
     Using serendipity to good effect requires a balancing. We’ll want to know enough about the consumer’s characteristics to select items they’ll like. But the items must be different enough from what they expect for them to feel surprised. In order for the consumer to notice us, we’ll need to let them know exactly where and when they can expect our offerings. But there must be enough uncertainty to bestow a feeling of luck when coming upon the serendipitous discovery.
     The researchers suggest you lead the consumer to believe a recommendation will be from among a large number of possibilities and that you avoid phrasing like, “We’ve made this selection carefully for you after examining your preferences.” When it seems like the person has been surveilled, the pleasant experience no longer feels fortuitous.
     Promotional discounts gain effectiveness when they have the elements of surprise and luck associated with serendipity. In a study at University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and University of Pennsylvania, people were asked to assume they had to buy an essential item at a store and they also could buy other items while there. A surprise discount resulted in about an 8% increase in the quantities purchased of other items, more than making up for the store revenues lost from the discount.

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