Monday, December 28, 2020

Dance Seniors Away from Falls

Almost any physical activity improves the welfare of almost any exerciser. But dancing is especially helpful for older adults, according to an analysis at University of Zurich and Harvard University.
     Not all dancing. The activity in the 29 studies analyzed had the seniors move while standing, with their movements choreographed to fit a rhythm such as music or the dancer’s own breathing. This includes ballroom dancing, folk dancing, aerobic dance, and tai chi. It did not include yoga that was confined to static body postures.
     The distinctive advantage for older adults of such activities is that they were found to reduce the risk of falls by nearly 40%. The researchers note how each year, about a third of community-dwelling adults who are at least 65 years old experience a fall, and about a third of those falls result in medical attention. A serious fracture in a senior often begins a progression toward death.
     In the studies analyzed, greater benefits were achieved from programs that met at least three times per week and lasted at least twelve weeks. Because these dance activities are choreographed, they require mental attention, which helps maintain cognitive acuity in the senior brain. Because the activities are generally conducted with a group, or at least a dance partner, they ease loneliness in the older adult. Both these provide a means and motivation to go on living in the event of a fracture from a fall.
     The schedule of meetings, feelings of mental sharpness, and opportunities for socializing also help persuade participation. Fewer than 20% of older adults participate in a level of physical activity sufficient,  to protect against unnecessary disability. The World Health Organization has declared increasing that percentage to be a public health priority.
     A Ghent University study probed why seniors who are fully capable of moving around do no more than sit around instead. A total of fifteen studies about that topic were reviewed, covering seniors ranging in age from 63 years to 79 years in the United Kingdom, Canada, the U.S., and Belgium.
     The first overall finding was that seniors often fail to realize how much of their time they’re sitting around. Beyond this, many of the seniors said they’d slipped into the habit of being sedentary after having taken a spill. They feared another fall. Which brings us back, then, to tempting them with the fall-prevention advantages dancing offers.

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Poke Sedentary Seniors’ Assets

Friday, December 25, 2020

Criticize Women Strongly

Shameful! We’re lying to our women employees. The Cornell University researchers found female supervisors do it, not just the males, and the consequences stunt the professional growth of these women being lied to.
     The lies are about the quality of employee performance. In the studies, supervisors pulled punches when providing feedback to women. This happened much less often with male employees. We might think the reason is that supervisors believe women are less competent than men, so we set the standards lower. However, the research found no clear evidence of this.
     Instead, the explanation was that people believe women are less confident than men about their job performance. Supervisors want to encourage women to do well by overaccentuating the positives. Building confidence, not questioning competence.
     The problem is that the white lies deprive women employees of the constructive criticism they need in order to most quickly become superb performers. Our assumption that women have less confidence on the job than do men is probably justified on the whole.
     Gender bias and outright discrimination cause this. It also could be true that the current system feeds on itself. Since women are accustomed to punches being pulled with performance feedback, maybe they’ll have a more destructive response than will men to strongly negative reviews.
     The best remedy, though, is to be honest. Give ongoing feedback rather than save it for just an annual review. It’s easier to handle negatives and leverage positives when they come in small doses.
     The way you reference the positives and negatives also makes a difference. Here’s the formula I recommend for feedback to all employees: 
  • Situation. In what situation did the good or deficient behavior occur? Placing it in context makes your review more credible and digestible. 
  • Behavior. What did the employee do or fail to do? Avoid talk of attitudes or intentions. Stick to the observable behavior. 
  • Consequences. In what ways was this behavior in this situation of benefit or detriment to the organizational mission? This part is too often overlooked by supervisors, who assume the employee knows why you’re pointing out this behavior. 
  • Your emotional reaction. This is the optional part. Research indicates women are more likely to respond to “That thrills me” or “That concerns me” than are men. 
  • Facilitators & constraints. Acknowledge that circumstances in the particular situation may have challenged or assisted the employee. This helps them plan for excellent performance.

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Shape Staff Behavior with Self-Queries 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Project Responsibility for Missed Discounts

Although deep price discounts can attract shoppers, the tactic sometimes generates negative longer-term results, including judgments that the quality of the sale items is flawed and that regular prices charged by the store are excessive.
     After considering the evidence for these, business experts at Texas A&M University, University of Houston, Indiana University, and University of Delaware uncovered another downside: Shoppers who realize they’ve missed the big sale sometimes become less likely to purchase the item at a lower discount offered subsequently.
     The important word here is “sometimes.” We’d like to know how to avoid the negatives. Studies at University of Miami and University of Kentucky support use of “steadily decreasing discounting.” Before returning the item to its pre-promotion regular price, offer one or more additional discounts on the same merchandise, each discount at a progressively lower percentage than the deep discount.
     This pretty much eliminates customer disgruntlement. But how do we keep shoppers interested in buying the merchandise at the lower discount?
     The answer from this more recent research is to place responsibility for having missed the sale firmly on the shoulders of the shopper. Because this is usually how the shopper sees things, steadily decreasing discounts work most of the time. But there are circumstances when shoppers are likely to assign the fault to you for the missed opportunity. They may have come into the store to make the purchase and been told you’ve sold out. They might learn about the discount from a friend and blame you for not having brought it to their attention.
     The remedy for the first one is to offer a deep discount on an alternative. For the second, try a technique proven effective when a shopper has any sort of complaint. Conduct the conversation in an area where the shopper can see themselves in a mirror. This leads to the consumer subconsciously considering what part they played in the disappointing experience.
     Now please notice the other “sometimes” in the first paragraph. How do we keep a promotional sale from injuring shopper perceptions of item quality or store price image? How do we maintain the revenue stream from repeat purchases of consumables?
     The research-based tactics here are to keep most discounts modest and to reserve deep discounts for themed storewide sales held so infrequently that shoppers are unlikely to want to wait until the next blockbuster sale to buy more of the items.

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Follow Big Discounts with Smaller Discounts 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Tell Some Complainers It Could Be Worse

In James Stevenson’s 1977 children’s book, each time little Grandson or little Granddaughter grumble, Grandpa’s reply is, “Could be worse,” which also constitutes the full title of the book. In more recent years, researchers at University of London, Cranfield University, and Neoma Business School documented how sharing a similar sentiment with a complaining customer might ease their dissatisfaction.
     This certainly seems to contradict the dogma of customer service, which dictates that we empathize, apologize, and promptly remedy the shortfall. But the study results don’t question the value of taking all those steps. In fact, they emphasize the importance. It is adding “could have been worse” phrasing in the right format which moves the customer more quickly beyond dwelling on the incident. And getting the best from the technique requires certain circumstances.
     The researchers point to earlier research which showed best results in easing anger when the customer with the complaint was likely to compare themselves to others. This would occur in purchase situations when social standing predominates, such as luxury purchases and consumption accompanied by others.
     The scenario used in these later studies involved delivery of a restaurant order that was delayed so long that the diners missed the first part of a movie they’d planned for. In the scenario, the waiter apologizes. With some of the study participants, the waiter is said to have added, “You know, things could have been even worse. The other night, I went out to eat at another restaurant in town and was not served until two hours after I arrived. I was with a friend and we also had tickets to go to the cinema after dinner, but we ended up missing the entire movie. As you can imagine, tickets are nonrefundable, so I lost all the money.” 
     Each study participant was asked to rate the degree of anger they’d feel in this situation. The additional story of the waiter’s own unpleasant experience proved successful in easing that anger. But only when accompanied by a strong apology from the waiter.
     In the study, “could be worse” took the form of a story about the frontline employee’s own disappointment. That would be expected to add to its effectiveness. In the Stevenson book, Grandson and Granddaughter are puzzled, not persuaded, by Grandpa’s curt reply. Only after he shares a tale of prevailing over his own progressively worsening adventures do the two kids feel better.

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Show Complainers Respect, Concern, & Empathy 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Expect Less Skepticism When Sellers Buy

What adjustments should you make when selling to people who themselves have thorough experience in selling at retail? This question could come up frequently. The retail industry employs a considerable percentage of our workforce, note the researchers at University of Manitoba, University of British Columbia, and Acadia University who aimed to find an answer.
     Their studies led them to conclude that this category of shoppers is noticeably less suspicious of persuasion techniques than other shoppers are. Whenever you know or discover that your prospective customer is a retail worker, adjust your techniques to assume greater amounts of trust in you. Because it takes time to build trust, the adjustment improves your efficiency.
     This didn’t necessarily mean the retail employee shopper spent less time with the salesperson. Actually, it worked in the opposite direction overall. Compared to shoppers without retail sales experience, these people were more willing to prolong transactions, allowing the salesperson greater opportunity to close the deal or increase the basket total. Further, this type of customer felt greater friendliness toward the salesperson and higher intentions for future interactions, in comparison.
     However, the studies also identified a crucial qualifier on these beneficial effects: They depend on the salesperson behaving in a transparently trustworthy way. After all, those with experience in retailing carry great familiarity with the tricks of the trade. They’re sensitized to manipulation and poor service which are against their best interests. Their own experiences both motivate them and allow them to better understand the perspective of their salesperson, with all the rapport and insight that brings.
     Another way to understand these effects is that suspiciousness is eased when dealing with conscientious people we believe to be like us. There’s a sisterhood and brotherhood among retail employees just as there generally is among other identities we take on. Our identities shift throughout the period of even one weekday. For instance, the same consumer might view themselves as a parent in morning, a lawyer while at the office, an athlete during the evening workout, and a marriage partner at the post-shower restaurant dinner.
     Not only that, but during the time we hold each of these identities, we welcome sharing perspectives verbally and conceptually with others having that identity. The lawyer aiming to persuade the lawyer will arouse less suspiciousness if doing it when that’s the aroused identity.

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Mimic Me, My Pretty 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Stock Shock Ad Ideas

Yes, the photo in the ad was of a woman sucking a banana. But, no, the description for the ad didn’t refer to the fruit. Instead, it referred to condoms. But, no, the true objective of showing the ad to the audience wasn’t to sell them condoms. Instead, it was to evaluate the effects of shock advertising—shockvertising.
     The University of Auckland researchers note the value of shock for having an ad stand out in a saturated media environment. At the same time, they recognize how a shocking ad might gain that notice by offending the consumer, making it less likely they’d be persuaded.
     Their study consisted of showing one of eight versions of the ad to different groups of people, most of them American males between ages 25 and 34 years. All versions included a photo of the one banana arranged vertically. For some participants, the banana was shown with a woman’s mouth enclosing the top of the fruit, considered to be the shocking version of the ad, while for other participants, it was just the banana. Some participants were told the ad was for bananas, while the others were told it was for condoms. Some participants were told the ad was for a familiar brand (Dole bananas or Durex condoms), while the others were told it was for a brand less familiar to them (Nature’s Gem bananas or Duo condoms).
     After viewing the ad, each participant was asked questions to indicate how offended, if at all, they were by the ad and how comfortable, if at all, they’d be in purchasing the advertised item.
     Having looked at the issue from all these angles, the results were that the shock made a difference only when the ad was for the familiar brand of bananas. People were more offended and less interested in buying with the version of the ad showing the woman. A follow-up study indicated that the reasons included incongruity and disgust. Your audiences expect more dignity from a better-known brand.
     Still, for those marketing circumstances in which shock would be acceptable, have in stock some ideas for using it, or using surprise, which is a cousin to shock. Studies at Bangor University, Glyndwr University, and Loughborough University provide insight as to why shock works. These images and descriptions trigger storytelling in the mind of the consumer. They spend more time thinking about what the ad’s selling.

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Shock Consumers, But Morally 

Monday, December 7, 2020

Screen Your Service Face

Including on a store’s website photos of the store owner and of the bricks-and-mortar interior reduce feelings of psychological distance and increase interest in shopping through the store’s online channel. But much greater gains could come from featuring photos on the website of the people in your organization who solve post-purchase problems.
     Studies at KEDGE Business School in France, Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany, University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and Babson College in the U.S. show that photos of the customer service staff improve perceptions of service quality among shoppers who haven’t yet made a purchase and also among customers who are assessing from memory how good the service quality was. Seeing the photo of who provided you service makes you feel better about what the person in that photo did for you. Ratings of the employee’s competence and commitment also improve. It actually changes the memories.
     The researchers say this simple step of including the photos will provide a distinctive business advantage because it’s done so infrequently. They report that fewer than 15% of service firms in the S&P 500 listing use the technique.
     One mechanism of action is the humanization of the transaction. Providing information about the customer service representative might also do this. Another mechanism of action is accountability. Knowing their photo is on the website could lead to the service representative being more conscientious, and so delivering objectively better service. The customer might acknowledge this in their mind only when later being cued by looking at the photo.
     A third mechanism of action has to do with the presence of a photo in itself. Even when the theme of a photo is objectively irrelevant to the thrust of a message, influence builds. Researchers at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand presented study participants with declarative statements like, “Giraffes are the only mammals that cannot jump,” and, “Turtles are deaf.” These statements were chosen because most people are unsure of their truth. The purchase decision in the study was not for merchandise, but instead for a belief.
     Those participants shown a photo of a giraffe along with the statement were more likely to say it was true than were the participants shown only the statement. Similarly, a photo of a turtle injected credibility into the “Turtles are deaf” statement.
     In all these cases, photos probably work better than drawings because of the additional realism.

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Show Online What’s in Store 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Tiptoe Around Pandemic Atypicality

Businesses at points along the production, marketing, and selling pipeline have varying time horizons when predicting consumer preferences. Changes in buying behavior attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic led to the general question, What are the long-term consequences of widespread fear of disease on how shoppers make choices?
     To answer, researchers at University of Iowa, Northwestern University, and Stanford University began with finding that such fear results in consumers selecting less adventurous products over more adventurous ones. In the studies, preferences shifted toward Campbell canned soup and away from house brands. Toward traditional OREOs and away from newer OREO variations. The reason is that fear of disease brings uncertainty, so a desire for the stability of the traditional develops.
     There’s a notable limitation. If the less adventurous alternative is associated with purchase by lots of people, this results in a reversal of the effect. Studies at Ohio State University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology attributed it to fear of contamination from being around crowds. Because this fear can be subconscious, it might influence even an individual’s online shopping.
     Fear of disease also increases the quantity of purchasing. The explanation here goes beyond buying extra stocks of commodities because of concerns remaining from how stores ran out of items early in the Covid-19 spread. The explanation also has to do with the comfort buying brings when faced with thoughts of mortality.
     These research findings suggest that in the long-term, the atypical avoidance of atypical items will lessen. Consumers seek the stimulation of novelty after release from restrictions. We might even expect an overreaction, paralleling how people crowded into parks as soon as shelter-in-place was lifted.
     Purchasing extra items for extended storage may also fade as consumers see less frequent out-of-stocks. Also depressing excessive purchasing will be another effect of pandemics—the individual’s budget shrinks as the general economy does so. Researchers at Texas Christian University, The Pennsylvania State University, and College of William and Mary find that as this happens, consumers refine their purchase priorities based on personal values. The results here are likely to have consequences which last far longer than the disease danger. The researchers urge marketers during disease fear to prove how their offerings support the shopper’s values.
     Among those is the value of safe shopping. A pandemic legacy is that being around a sneezing fit while shopping has taken on a more sinister meaning.

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Use Terror Management Theory for Status Items