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Do your employees unwittingly make customers feel uncomfortable with their choice of product or service?

I had two experiences today that reminded me of the value of listening to customer needs and preferences and how much employees impact customer feelings and emotions.

In both experiences, the employees made me feel bad about the choices I made.
In fact, in the first instance, it felt like I nearly wasn’t allowed to make the choice that was right for me and in the second experience, I was prevented from buying what would have been the product best tied to my needs and preferences. Two dispiriting experiences—here’s how they went down.

Story 1: Experience with Service Provider
I called the service provider today and wanted to buy “service A” and schedule an appointment. It was clear they had preferences about what services I should buy together (service A and B) and when I should buy them. So I asked for clarification about whether they required me to buy both at the same time.

I mentioned that if that was the case, I’d like to know now so I could find another provider. Once I made that point, they were happy to explain they only make recommendations but ultimately I can decide what to buy and when. During this relatively brief exchange, it felt like they were in charge and I had no power in what services to buy and when. I didn’t feel good at the end of the conversation.

Story 2: Experience with Product Provider
The second example today was at a retailer that I expected would have a product I wanted. What I found was an employee who wanted me to buy what she recommended vs. what I truly wanted. I told the salesperson what my need and preferences were and she did not offer what I asked for, but rather an alternate option. When I restated my preferences, it became clear I couldn’t get what I drove 25 miles to buy. I left without making a purchase.

To be honest, I felt like I was bullied by the sales persons in both experiences. They had no interest in listening to what I wanted. It made me wish my shopping experience was as easy as going on Amazon where no one questions my selections.

Don’t get me wrong, recommendations from knowledgeable salespeople can be super helpful. If you know customer preferences and needs, please make a recommendation—you know your services and products best. But don’t make the customer feel uncomfortable if they make a decision you wouldn’t make. In most cases, the customer will feel better about the exchange if they make the decision and that means more potential to earn their business again in the future.

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