Winning the Customer, Part IV0
By Frank J. Rich
The essential element in the exchange between buyer and seller is the person. If we accept each means to express his wants, needs, and habits, no less than to present his identity and to form common ground, then getting to know the one paves the road to an appreciation of the other. Clearly, we are more impassioned of his work after we learn that Beethoven turned deaf while growing his legacy compositions. We also learned that the impediment was less a disability than thought; music is made of vibrating sound waves, and is easily felt. A “C” just sounds different than any other chord, or music would be the repetitive drone of an airplane in flight. Few would enjoy the likeness if applied to us.
It is said that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Thus, relationship derives from knowing how to enjoy another. This, in turn, requires that we work at it. Another saying: “To have a friend requires that you be one first.” So, vulnerability becomes virtue in this context. Despite the distance and formality of passersby, we feel better when the world reaches out to touch us. Walk up to me with friendship in your eyes, smile, and gait, and I’m likely to respond in kind.
The suggestions are no less the take-away from studies to determine the effect of such vulnerability on the buyer and the seller’s stock price. Admitting mistakes, misunderstandings, learned aspects of product and service to customers, or shortcomings that once accepted can improve customer offerings, etc., were consistently viewed by customers as motivation to select those who admitted their faults over those who hid them. Surprised?
We all know that the dark wind that swept over world economies in 2007 affected business. Fair enough. So, what did the enterprising do? They marched on, investing in the idea that if they did now what the competition refused to do, they would build a future in which the competition could not. Brilliant! It’s a well-worn growth model, but a scary thought in an uncertain moment. That said, when isn’t the market an uncertain reality?
When we excuse our slim inventory, constrained returns policy, price inflexibility, and limited services, though a poor economy can impose such terms on us, we may be revealing an inability to fix the problems we face. The position is not enviable, and most customers will find another to satisfy their needs. Every shop—physical or virtual—desires one thing first: to gather customers to them. This is when the magic begins—when we get to show our special brand of products, service offerings, engagement methods, and retention services. It may be the only moment we have to convince the customer he has found the right place to satisfy his needs. Indeed, to find the identity he seeks in all that he does.
We are never so attractive as when we make it possible for another to contribute to the fullness of our lives, and for us to contribute to theirs. We need only be receptive to encourage this joining. It begins with us, and the rewards are spectacular.