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When it comes to acquiring and keeping satisfied customers, smart entrepreneurs must understand what's going on inside their customers mind's. Just as we saw how neuroeconomics can be used for smarter pricing tactics, small business owners can benefit from insightful research in behavioral psychology to increase sales and provide exceptional customer service.

Today, you're going to see some research that reveals how marketers and ecommerce entrepreneurs can use implicit egotism, social constructs, and appeals to social inclusion to create stronger brand engagement, keep customers happy, and increase their bottom line. 

Increase Customer Happiness By Slowing Down Service

Too many businesses focus on improving only a single customer service metric: speed. Recently though, numerous forms of behavioral and consumer research have shown that customers value quality time with service providers more so than "quick" service. Comprehensive studies by the Gallup group and RightNow have shown that customers look for competent, "complete" service when deciding to stick with or abandon a certain brand:
Customer perceptions of the [service provider's] courtesy and their apparent willingness to help were far more important than speed of service in generating customer engagement.

Here are two case-studies that prove in most cases, people value slow (but courteous, thoughtful, and thorough) customer service to speed and quality of service. 

Evidence 1: Doctors Malpractice


In his popular book Blink, Malcom Gladwell reveals some startling research that shows "customers" of all types take time-spent with service providers VERY seriously. Gladwell reveals some interesting data to start things off: despite how most people view malpractice lawsuits, statistically, the majority of people who suffer an injury due to a faulty medical procedure do not sue their doctors. 

Surprising in itself, but things get weirder. The #1 common factor among people who did sue their doctor was the belief that the didn't get enough time with their doctor, and that they felt their treatment was "rushed, ignored, and poorly diagnosed." 

Evidence 2: Fairness of Jail Sentence 


In similarly shocking research, the Brafman brothers analyzed feedback on how "fair" convicted felons had felt their jail sentences had been, in order to find any recurring factors. The most common factor they found wasn't all that surprising: time served (length of sentence) played the biggest role in the felons rating their punishment. 

What was surprising though, was the second most common factor. According to the data, face-to-face time with their lawyers played a pivotal role in determining how each felon viewed the "fairness" of their sentencing: the more time they spent with their lawyer, the fairer they viewed their sentence. This was true across cases with similar sentence lengths as well. The Brafman brothers noted that:
...Although the outcome might be exactly the same [in length of sentence], when we don't get to voice our concerns, we perceive the overall fairness of the experience quite differently.

How To Slow Down Your Customer Service

Spending more time with customers is critical in creating a lasting relationship with them. Rushing them out the door with "fast" service can backfire, big time. One success story of implementing the mindset of spending more time with customers can be found in how Derek Sivers ran CDBaby, before selling the company for over $20 million:
I used to request all my employees to intentionally take a little longer on customers calls. I would ask them to pull up customers albums and catalogues; have a look at their pictures and gears - to learn a bit about them. Imagine how powerful it is for a customer to know that he is listening to somebody who is a musician that gets him, than something like, 'Thank you customer 4325. How may I quickly handle your problem?
While this strategy worked for CDBaby, there are some businesses and situations where the "more time with customers" approach won't work.

Some services rely on solving problems immediately. Ecommerce merchants need to figure out when they can spend time with customers and when to act quick. If a customer is calling with a complaint about service or product, you need to gauge their disposition and act accordingly. But if a potential customer is inquiring about product features, shipping rates, or something of that nature, you have a great chance to give them their answer and also build a positive relationship with that person. Like the case study above proves, service should never be "rushed, ignored, and poorly diagnosed."

Increase Sales By Appealing To Customer's Implicit Egotism


Despite the fact that most people desire to be viewed as humble, science shows us that, in general, people love themselves. So much so that they are biased towards characteristics that relate to them. It's a construct called Implicit Egotism, and it's been used to explain a lot of oddities in the human mind in relation to personal preference, such as why we are susceptible to ownership bias

Just how far does this effect go? Absurdly far. Consider these three examples: 

  1. Academic research has revealed that people's names are likely to affect their life choices, for instance, there are more people (statistically) named Louis in the city of St. Louis, and people named Dennis or Denise are dentists more often than other names. 
  2. People who shared the same birthday with the "mad monk" Grigori Rasputin were revealed to be far more favorable of him and his acts throughout history thanks to a Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study
Here's how to apply these findings to your ecommerce marketing to better engage potential customers.

Construct Your USP Around Your Ideal Customer


Would you use Betty White to advertise your product? You should construct your unique selling position (USP) around your ideal customer. Identify which customers are right for YOUR product, and craft your brand, testimonials, and marketing efforts to play on those traits favorable to this customer. 

For example, a flashy "explainer" video on your homepage might work well for a tech startup, but it will throw people off if you're selling hearing aids. Similarly, is it any wonder why Gillette would grab celebrities like Adrien Brody & Andre 3000, while the AARP reaches out to people like Betty White?

AARP knows their demographic. They're well known to use celebrities in their 60's and up, because nobody would want to listen to a young person discussing the difficulties of preparing for retirement. 

You can also take a page from political campaigns. Have you ever noticed that no matter how rich a candidate is, they run as an average Joe? Despite having wealth and business experience, many politicians choose to showcase the traits that appeal and relate to the most amount of voters. 

As an online store owner, it's vitally important to define who your best audience is, and market to them.

Conclusion

I hope you found this article useful. More and more these days fields like Behavioral Psychology are producing research that can be used to help ecommerce store owners build a successful online business. Lets talk in the comments. 


This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti. He's the content strategist for Help Scout, the nifty invisible help desk software that makes email support a breeze for you and your customers. Get more from Greg on the Help Scout blog.