A Custom Customer Experience Builds Confidence and Trust

by Jean Marie Johnson

In "matters-esthetic," I shift on a dime. It's not that I am fickle or have a compelling need to be au courant. It's just that when something resonates on the visual plane, I readily trust my gut.

In other areas, alas, I can get rather stuck. Take my phone; I loved that thing. Granted, it wasn't what you'd call, aging gracefully. I'd had to text and call the support line far too often while en route, catching a flight or otherwise under the gun. But, I'd developed a bit of a co-dependent relationship with this thing, my tempestuous cell phone. Just go to the store already, I told myself. Right.

So on a befittingly dreary day, off I went, dragging along Dean, my patient husband, and Miss Noelle, my incredibly sweet mini poodle, an emotional rescue with a story of her own. But here's the thing: I really didn't want to do this. I'd have preferred  a "magic" fix for my increasingly-tragic phone. Pity the salesperson who had to deal with me.

The Reluctant Customer  

You've been there. You greet a customer, either in person or over 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, they don't want to be there. That was me. I was that customer. I wasn't rude, demanding or obnoxious. I just wasn't into it.  It was a chore, yet another thing on the checklist. From a sales perspective, I was a reluctant consumer, feeling forced into making a change that I'd rather avoid altogether.

But, what unfolded in the ensuing three-plus hours (yes, that long!) was MAGIC because my salesperson, Nicole, got it. She got me.

Get My Catchpoint, 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."

As I reflect on that moment, 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 with anyone. My body language was saying "give me some space."  I didn't want to be convinced or "sold;" I needed to check things out for myself. I was in think mode, zoned in on considering my options and making the next "right" choice.

Larger screen? Lighter weight? Prettier? Or, more functional? Dizzy with options, I tinkered with one that seemed promising. But I was getting frustrated.

  • "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 Parts

A steady stream of people came in and out of the phone store that day. Some of them were prospects, some customers.  They were looking to upgrade, move on, add-on, or simply looking to look. It's the salesperson's challenge to help them to do any and all of those things. It's not a simple matter of asking "What are you here for?" Or, "Tell me what you need so that I can help you." Had my salesperson, Nicole adopted that approach, I would have said "No, thank you."

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. Besides, she was petting my dog.

Trust Precedes Task

Nicole and I explored the merits, ease and apps of 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.

We sat down, by the window. We played, hands-on, with my choices. The afternoon wore on as Dean was having his own custom experience at the other side of the store. On overload, I called a time out and said I was starving. Nicole served up a nearby cafe option and reassured me that she'd be there when we returned.

We did and she was. And at the end of the day—and it was the end of the day, I bought the least expensive option. But you wouldn't know it by Nicole's response when she said "Call me any time you have any questions. Anything at all."  Mmm, I like that.

A "Custom" Customer Experience

Creating a MAGIC® experience for a savvy customer or, in my case, a reluctant one, can be more nuanced than straight forward. Don't get me wrong: structure matters. The 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 help
  • Backing off ... and giving me some space
  • Sitting with me ... and reinforcing the sense of relationship  
That's not "fluff." It's brilliance. And it's at the heart and soul of a custom customer experience.

Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.
Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.