Why people buy & 15 tips to keep them buying...

Everywhere I turn I am inundated with information about how to 'survive' in an economic downturn.  Many of the authors focus on 'improving customer service' to 'stand out from the crowd' and 'help sustain customer retention'.  I totally concur with all this advice - however, this is how I believe all businesses should operate anyway - good times or bad.  So - let's take a little look at consumer behaviour - and get an understanding of why people buy - and what we can do to ensure they keep coming back for more... It’s rare for businesses to truly understand the customer decision making process.  Indeed, the majority of business owners would suggest that price is the largest contributing factor as to why people buy from one source instead of another.

Whilst the importance of price cannot be underestimated – (and indeed in certain industries price competitiveness is indeed the key determining factor) - there’s usually far more to it than simply price.

What do customers value?

Studies have repeatedly shown that the top 5 issues shoppers buy on are:

1. Convenience (ease of shopping) 2. Relationship with seller 3. Product / Price / Time (specifications, price or availability) 4. Perceived indifference 5. Misc

The real one to watch from the above list is – Perceived Indifference

We can all understand the importance of building relationships with our customers – and indeed we are all probably culprits of convenience shopping.  Yet Perceived Indifference is often ignored by many business owners. 

Given that studies about buying behaviour report consumers as placing as much as 5 times more importance on Perceived Indifference than they do on Price, it’s vital that all business owners focus on this key decision making element. 

To grasp an understanding of Perceived Indifference (from the customer’s perspective), think about how often you feel some of the following, having made a purchase;

1. A feeling that they don’t care about you or your individual needs - it's a numbers game! 2. They act as if they don’t want your custom (in my experience the telecoms industry smacks of this) 3. They are not prepared to differentiate themselves from the competition - (strangled by process and not empowered to make a difference) 4. The vendor is not prepared to fight for my business, to work just that bit harder to deliver the service I want (again no flexibility)

These feelings unfortunately occur all too frequently when dealing with businesses.  Frequent examples include; a blasé sales assistant who clearly can’t be bothered to put themselves out for you or being held on the phone for 50 minutes to then be cut off!  (Telecoms again...!!!)  

So before your strategy to boost more business is to 'cut prices' – think a bit more creatively about delighting your customers in ways that matter….

  • Boost sales – most businesses cut their prices (and usually their margins) with a ‘Sale’.  This can generate strong short-term benefits, such as clearing old product and building brand / market strength.  However, problems start to occur when price becomes the key deciding factor – selling on price is a very dangerous thing.  This is because there is almost always someone else willing and able to sell cheaper.  And the consumer will always remember the cut price - so it's often difficult to reverse the price cut.
  • Customers like a good deal – however, research has clearly identified that what customers really want is to feel valued throughout the whole purchasing experience.  The minute they feel that ‘perceived indifference’ is creeping in – and they and their purchase is not valued – they switch off.  And it’s very difficult to switch them back on again!

So - how can you overcome perceived indifference

Clearly, the key to overcoming the problem of perceived indifference is making the customer feel that they are important to you.  If the customer thinks that you want and value their business, they are much more likely to make both initial and repeat purchases - and share positive word of mouth with others.

Think about whether or not you instil measures within your business to ensure that your customers don’t feel the powerful punch of Perceived Indifference – and be sure to implement simple measures that show your customers you are attentive, eager and importantly, that you value their business.

Here's a quick 'anti-perceived indifference' check list:

  1. Do you answer the phone on the second ring every time?
  2. Do people have an on-hold message to listen to? (And does is provide useful upsell info?)
  3. Do you thank your customers or potential customers for calling?
  4. Do you thank your customers or potential customers for visiting your business/or website?
  5. Do you thank your customers for buying from you?
  6. Do you and your team always arrive on time for meetings with customers?
  7. Do you deliver products or services when you say you will every time?
  8. Do you always let your customers know beforehand if there’s a problem?
  9. Do you always return phone calls the same day you get the message?
  10. Does each team member take responsibility for helping customers or do they hand around customer problems from one to another or from department to department?
  11. Are team members empowered to provide compensation / service recover following a complaint?
  12. Do you stay in touch with customers regularly?
  13. Do you keep your customers informed about new things happening in your business?
  14. Do you thank your customers when they pay on time – every time?
  15. Do you have a policity to turn your mobile phone OFF/silent when in meetings with customers or potential customers?  (I have to throw this one is as it's a particular bug bear of mine which I find totally 'rude' and is a strong example of 'perceived indifference').


Again, it's not just in times of economic difficulty that businesses should be focusing on upping their service levels - it should be the ethos behind any well run business.   So stamp out Perceived Indifference - and make an effort to communicate openly and regularly with your customers.  Get your team members involved – and run a brainstorming session to pull together some ideas as to how you can ensure you rid your business of any ‘Perceived Indifference’.

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