Boosting your Business in a Slow Economy

Jeff Mowatt, CSP

Question: What are two words that will become increasingly important to customers over the next decade?

Answer: According to marketing guru Frank Luntz, “hassle free.”

    Customers are fed up with being forced to jump through hoops. Yet, bizarrely, even in a slow economy, companies are actually becoming more difficult for customers to do business with—before, during and after purchases.

    To see if your organization is creating these unnecessary hassles for your customers, take this mini quiz. Then consider using the accompanying tips.

1. When customers arrive early, do you force them to wait outside your store until the minute you officially open? Or worse, do you rush them out the door or bar them from entering as closing time approaches? Have you ever seen customers standing outside a business pointing at their watches to store employees, trying to ascertain whose watch is right?

    Fortunately, I got a helpful tip from Roly Morris, CEO of Krispy Kreme operations in Canada, that will help you avoid this hassle. Krispy Kreme has a practice called “10 before, 10 after.” It means that the stores are open for business (and employees are answering phones) 10 minutes before they say they are open, and they remain open (and answering phones) 10 minutes after posted closing. Of course, you have to pay employees for the staggered times, but the good will and extra revenues you’ll generate make this a worthwhile investment.

2. When making buying decisions, are your customers faced with too many choices? It’s fine to have a large selection to attract customers, but giving customers too many options creates stress and buying resistance. As products and services are becoming more complex, customers are becoming increasingly afraid of making the wrong decisions. Fortunately, your employees can reduce this customer stress while boosting your revenues, using the “Rule of 3.” Here’s how it works.

    If you offer your customers only two choices, they may simply opt for the less expensive. However, using the “Rule of 3,” your employees would consider all the products and services you offer and narrow them to the top three most suitable for that customer. Interestingly, if you offer three choices, from least to most expensive, customers will typically choose the middle option. That means that offering three choices not only helps your customer make buying decisions more easily but it also helps steer them away from choosing the cheapest item. Less hassle, more buying. Everyone wins.

3. When there’s a problem, what is your customer satisfaction policy, and how easy is it for customers to take advantage of? Do you give customers any compensation or even an apology for the inconvenience of having to return a defective product?

    Some managers appear to believe that making dissatisfied customers “run a gauntlet” discourages product returns. Actually, it discourages your customers from returning. If you plan on keeping customers over the long term, you know that sooner or later they’re likely to have a problem. That’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you are indeed different from your competitors.

    So how did you do in this quiz? For most businesses, there are at least some opportunities to reduce the “hassle factor” for customers. The good news is that these types of adjustments to customer service are simple. The goal is to reduce complexity and bureaucracy.

    My clients report that the payoff is worth it in terms of strengthened customer loyalty, increased spending per customers and enhanced team spirit. Not bad for simply making the customers’ buying experience hassle free!

This article is based on the best-selling book, Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month by customer service strategist and certified professional speaker Jeff Mowatt, CSP. To obtain a copy of this book or to inquire about engaging Mr. Mowatt for your business or organization, visit or call (800)-JMowatt (566-9288).


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