Better Customers – How to Find Gold Mines & Avoid Land Mines

How to ask customers for feedback to build better relationships and drive sales

Too often businesses adopt pessimistic mindsets when using customer surveys, with the surveys being focused on problems and what has gone wrong – your “land mines”. This is so the business can identify what has gone wrong, focus on what can be improved (or avoided), and allow customers to vent. However, this does not help businesses to build a long-term, positive relationship with customers as it focuses on the negative.

Rather, think about using your customer surveys as opportunities to not only listen to your customers, but to subtly influence your customers’ perceptions.  So how can you do this?

Instead of asking people what has gone wrong, ask them what has gone right – your “gold mines”. For example, asking a compliment question such as “What went well during your visit?” or “What did you enjoy about the purchase experience?” creates tangible benefits for the business. Research has shown that when businesses do this several things happen:

  1. Customers who are surveyed using a compliment question are more likely to spend more in the following year than customers who are surveyed without a compliment question.
  2. Satisfaction measures are increased.
  3. Being asked to give positive feedback boosted spending even among customers who reported having had poor experiences.

Why is this?

There are two key reasons. Firstly, memory is malleable, so asking customers to recount positive experiences may make the memories of those experiences more salient and accessible in the future, enhancing customers’ overall perceptions.  Secondly, people tend to compliment what they like and to like what they compliment – so if a customer answers positively they will also be likely to act in a way that reflects this so that they are self-consistent in how they think and act.

This is not to say that you should use this to try to manipulate people. You can only affect how they perceive things in the short-run, but you cannot change the reality. However, this approach helps you to just focus on your “land mines” (your weaknesses), but to focus on your “gold mines” (your strengths). What customer questions will you use and how will you use them with your customers?

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Make It Easier to Retain & Attract Customers

How to make it easier to retain and attract customers

In the world of accelerating change and increasing competition, how can you keep existing customers, and attract new ones?

Clearly, your value proposition needs to be relevant and superior compared to those of your competitors or potential substitute offerings. However, just because your value proposition has attracted customers, it does not mean it will continue to do so in a changing world.

You need to help your customers to continue to choose you over anyone or anything else. To do this you want to make it easy for them to have to choose between your offering and that of someone else. And this is where the cumulative advantage comes into play.

Competitive Advantage

When businesses create and use competitive advantage they pick a position, target a set of consumers, and configure activities to serve them better. The goal is to make customers repeat their purchases by matching the value proposition to their needs. By doing this the business is uniquely different and suitable for its target customers, allowing it to see off competitors and achieve sustainable competitive advantage.

But in a changing world, this is difficult to maintain as customer needs, competition and potential substitutes change quickly. With people having to make so many decisions and to distinguish between so many competing choices, it is important to make it easy for your customers to choose you.  This is where the cumulative advantage comes to effect.

Cumulative Advantage 

Cumulative advantage is the layer that a company builds on its initial competitive advantage by making its product or service an ever more instinctively comfortable choice for the customer.

Cumulative advantage is about creating process fluency – this term used by psychologists refers to how we make decisions, often filling in the gaps on the basis of our past experience – think of the thoughts, opinions, and preferences that come to mind quickly and without reflection but are strong enough to act on.

Our brains like to work automatically and find it easier to work with that which is familiar (just think of the times you have driven to work but have no or little recall of the drive itself). So once you have bought something you have experience on which to draw and which, automatically, your brain can draw on and fill in the gaps. The more you repeat this, the greater the experience, the easier the purchase decision and the greater the willingness to act on it. It is a bit like walking from your home across a field to get to a stile on the other side.  As you do this again and again, so the path becomes more well-established and broader making it easier to take each time.  This reflects what happens in our brains and in the neural pathways, we create and strengthen every time we make the same decision.

So what we need to do is to convert our offering and value proposition from a decision into a habit. In doing this here are four rules you can use:

  1. Become popular early – gain market share early. This requires more people to buy your offering and to do on a repetitive basis.  This creates a relevant experience which people can draw on which makes it easier to make future decisions to buy again. Also, with many people buying you’re offering your create social legitimacy – people perceive your offering as less risky and more acceptable if others are also using it.
  2. Design for habit – design your offering so that it is easy for others to choose it.  Facebook is a good example of this where people continually check for updates on their Facebook account, this is also compounded by the huge network effects that Facebook enjoys. At the same time, this also creates a strong barrier to stop people switching from Facebook.
  3. Innovate inside the brand – this allows you to continue to leverage the brand equity you have built up; at the same time you need to introduce changes in technology or other features that allow the new version of a product or service to retain the cumulative advantage of the old.
  4. Keep communication simple – the mind is lazy. It doesn’t want to ramp up attention to absorb a complex message. This helps to make decisions and choices easier.

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The Paradox of the Familiar and the New

Customers are a fickle lot. You produce what your research tells you will sell, and you end up with a lemon, or it fails to produce the results you seek. Why is this?

If customers are going to buy a new offering it has to appeal to them, not just in terms of the needs it satisfies, but in how it gets over the initial barrier of being attractive to them.

Customers are torn between a curiosity about new things and a fear of anything too new. So people tend to be attracted to offerings that are bold, but instantly comprehensible. Raymond Loewy, the industrial designer, who came up with this idea called it MAYA – ““Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”. He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.

Think of Apple and the iPad.  The technology was not new – it combined different technologies in a clever way, but what made it stand out was its design and the user experience that it created for the iPad’s users.

People like what is familiar, but if they are over-exposed to it then it becomes overfamiliar and they tire of it.  How many times could you listen to your favorite song before you get tired of it, or stop listening properly to it? It is probably fewer than you think. Similarly, although people may like surprises if the surprise is too much then it becomes counter-productive.

To get the best of both worlds – that which is familiar to people, and that which represents a surprise – requires a balance. The power of familiarity seems to be strongest when a person isn’t expecting it; and a surprise seems to work best when it contains some element of familiarity. This has been described as having a level of “optimal newness”.

Internet companies provide a good example of this where many new ideas are promoted as a fresh spin on familiar successes..  For example, Airbnb was once called “eBay for homes.”; Uber was described as “Airbnb for cars”; and with Uber’s success may start-ups have begun describing themselves as “Uber for [anything].” In the movies, the film “Alien” eventually found the financial backing it required when it described the plot as “Jaws in space” – the film and plot of “Jaws” being very familiar, and the locating the story in space providing the surprise.

So when you look to bring new offerings to market ask yourself these three questions:

  1. How will I make it familiar?
  2. How will I make it surprising:
  3. How will I make it familiar when a person least expects it, and make it surprising yet still somewhat familiar?

Answering these questions will help you generate ideas and approaches to try with your customers and make your new offerings more successful.

What is your key takeaway from this?

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3 Reasons Why the Customer is NOT Always Right!

3 reasons why the customer is not always right

One of the oldest adages for customer experience and customer service is “The customer is always right!”.

Sorry, I don’t hold with that. Why? People assume that it is better to keep a customer rather than alienate a customer. But often this is not the best decision to make.

I want to distinguish between two types of customers – those who buy products and those who buy services.  There is a key difference between them – products are fixed and tangible; services are experiential.  In short, products are about hand-offs and hand-overs, and services are about handshakes. Be clear on what you are dealing with – the product or the service.

So when is the customer NOT right? Simply put, there are three times.

Firstly, when the customer is not a customer. Just because someone has bought from you does not mean that they are a suitable customer, or that they are someone you want to have and keep as a customer. Think of a time you had the “customer from hell” where the cost, stress and effort involved in servicing the client was not worthwhile. What did you do? Keep them and continue to suffer or let them go?

Secondly, when the customer is wrong. Yes, they are human and fallible and prone to making mistakes just as often as you and I. Just because they believe they are right does not mean that they are right. Think of a time when you believed you were right, but when you considered the situation further you found that you were wrong. Caving-in to a customer just because they think they are right does damage in two ways – the customer is kept uninformed and unaware of the risks/costs they are incurring; and you are doing the wrong thing by the customer, it may be a difficult conversation but you need to act in the customer’s best interests and educate them.

Finally, when you are right. You should be an expert and experienced in regards what you are selling to your customers – whether products or services – and you should be able to distinguish between when you are right or not. Just because a client is more vocal or aggressive in what they are saying or claiming does not diminish you or your expertise. Be assertive and calmly state the position whilst staying focused on the issue and not the individual.

So what are you going to do when the customer is not right, and how will you handle the situation? Share here the one action you will take, right now, to address this.

To find out more about how to attract the right prospects, convert them into great customers and deliver great results for you and your clients in building a sustainable business please click here.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.