Successful Selling - November 2011

By Jim Dion

 

Have you ever purchased a product that you really liked, but, as soon as you arrived home, you logged onto your computer and Googled to see if you paid too much? If so, you have first-hand experience with cognitive dissonance, as well as insight into what some of your customers might be feeling after they purchase flooring from you.

Leon Festinger, a psychologist, first described cognitive dissonance in his book When Prophecy Fails, which was published in 1956. Although the concept has been around almost as long as humans have, it was not fully defined until this landmark work. The concept says that sometimes human beings will hold two conflicting (dissonant) ideas in their mind (cognitive) at the same time and will act to reduce this conflict between the opposing ideas by seeking confirmation of one of the ideas over the other. 

The effect of cognitive dissonance in retail has been known for years. We often refer to it as “buyer’s remorse,” which is the concern that someone feels, generally after a large purchase, that they may not have done the right thing. One part of their mind is feeling good about the new purchase—maybe a car, a home, a TV, a dress or new tile for the bathroom—while another part is saying “That was a mistake! I paid too much! It is too big (or too small) or the wrong color!” In some cases, price is not even the primary issue.

I know a couple that talked about a kitchen remodel for years. They planned every component, right down to the size and color of the cabinet knobs. The floor that they chose was a large ceramic tile with a large pattern. The work was completed over a seven month “remodel from hell,” and once it was complete they threw a party with some friends. 

One of the couples at the party commented that they had seen the exact same floor in a restaurant that they had eaten in a few months before and casually added that it was a “budget” place. For the next two months, the homeowners tried to identify every location that had this same style of tile and obsessed over whether the places were high end or low end. They looked for pictures of the tile installed in upscale homes, in expensive hotels or any location that would validate their decision. That one observation made by friends set them on a journey to reduce their cognitive dissonance.

Before we had the Internet, customers generally only felt cognitive dissonance after making a large purchase, such as a house or a car, and the dissonance was almost always over price: did I pay too much? The standard method for reducing the dissonance was for customers to keep a close eye on newspapers to make sure that the price or value was not discounted or lowered, and this was especially important if it was a home purchase. 

What retailers face today is a lowering of the threshold for cognitive dissonance due to the ease of getting information. In the past, customers had to actively seek out information that would confirm the correctness of their decision. They did this by scanning newspapers, talking with neighbors and friends and going out of their way to find the price information. Today, we can have cognitive dissonance over a $5 purchase because information is so easy to obtain on the Internet. We can Google an item and find that we paid too much in a matter of seconds, and, if we have a smart phone, we can even find it out as we are leaving the store. Technology is making it so easy to research price that almost every purchase today is somewhat suspect in the customer’s mind. They can and do ask themselves if they overpaid, and now have the ability to answer that question in seconds with almost no effort. Think of how much greater the motivation when it is a $10,000 bathroom upgrade or a $30,000 kitchen makeover!

This new way of shopping makes it imperative that retailers do everything that they can to reduce and eliminate cognitive dissonance before it can manifest itself. 

As a salesperson, there are a few simple ways to reduce cognitive dissonance in your customers. First, make sure that you deal with vendors that do not sell to online discount sites where your customer can find a lower price with a simple search. Look up items that you carry on a continuous basis to make sure you know that you are not being undersold. This is a good reason to use product numbers that customers cannot easily trace or find cost information on. 

Second, when you do have items that are priced higher than competitors, make sure you tell your customers why your prices “may appear to be higher” when, in fact, (because of guarantees that you offer and your convenience and service), your prices are actually lower. After all, you hopefully spent some time uncovering their unique needs before suggesting the absolute perfect product or solution (something that cannot happen online).

Third, end every customer encounter with a simple reminder that they cannot make a mistake buying from your store because you will always protect them. In other words, if there is any problem with the product, you are going to make it right for them. If you installed the product, then call the next day to ask how they feel. Often just listening and reassuring them in those early moments can stop dissonance from building and causing serious issues a week or more later. One simple call goes a long way toward diffusing cognitive dissonance before it becomes a serious complaint or, even worse, a customer that never comes back and mentions their displeasure to a few hundred friends on Twitter or Facebook! 

Remember, deal sites, web merchants and big box stores have almost no opportunity to build a relationship with the customer—only you have that ability (if you choose to use it). Therefore, they have much less opportunity to reduce cognitive dissonance than you do. Use your ability to reduce dissonance every chance you get with every customer you have. 


Copyright 2011 Floor Focus 



Other Archived Articles

Factory Orders Rise More Than Expected   Full Article
Washington, DC, April 2, 2014 -- Factory orders rose 1.6 % in February, the U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday

Jobs Growth Picks Up in March   Full Article
Roseland, NJ, April 2, 2014 -- Private firms grew their payrolls in March by the most in three months, according to the ADP Employment Report.

Mortgage Application Volume Declines   Full Article
Washington, DC, April 2, 2014 -- Mortgage application volume fell last week on lower refinancing demand, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Analyst Lowering Mohawk Estimates Due to Weather   Full Article
New York, NY, April 2, 2014 -- Flooring industry analyst Stifel Nicolaus said it is lowering its first quarter estimates for Mohawk due to weather issues but is maintaining a "buy" rating on the stock.

Mohawk a Finalist for Atlanta Environmental Award   Full Article
Calhoun, GA, April 2, 2014 -- Mohawk said it is a finalist in the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s E3 environmental awards for Atlanta area businesses.

Haines Vice President of Operations Dies   Full Article
Glen Burnie, MD, April 1, 2014 -- Distributor Haines said its vice president of operations, Mark Blakely, died March 27 from health complications.

Manufacturing Keeps Expanding in March   Full Article
Washington, DC, April 1, 2014 -- U.S. manufacturing continued to expand in March at a higher pace than in February, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

Construction Spending Edges Up in February   Full Article
Washington, DC, April 1, 2014 -- Construction spending ticked up in February, according to the Commerce Department.

Perfect Timing for New Chocolate Flooring   Full Article
Vancouver, BC, April 1, 2014 -- For a limited time, BuildDirect is offering real chocolate plank flooring.

Del Conca Opens U.S. Manufacturing Facility   Full Article
Loudon, TN, April 1, 2014 -- Del Conca USA held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new manufacturing facility in Loudon.

Vinyl Institute Names Vice President of Marketing   Full Article
Alexandria, VA, April 1, 2014 -– The Vinyl Institute has named Susan Wade vice president of marketing and communications.

Tandus Centiva Offering Green Innovation Grant   Full Article
Dalton, GA, March 31, 2014 -- Tandus Centiva said it will award $3,000 in Green Innovation grant funds to a K-12 school.

SelecTech Signs Agreement with Spartan   Full Article
Avon, MA, March 31, 2014 -- SelecTech, a manufacturer of flooring products from recycled materials, has signed an agreement with Spartan Surfaces to represent Selectech in the Midwest.

Chicago Manufacturing Expands at Slower Pace   Full Article
Chicago, IL, March 31, 2014 -- Manufacturing activity in the Chicago area grew at a slower rate in March.

Fuse Alliance Adds Four New Members   Full Article
Aurora, CO, March 31, 2014 -- Fuse Alliance said it has added four new commercial flooring contractors and 20 new locations to the network.

J+J Sponsoring Education Facilities Workshop   Full Article
Dalton, GA, March 31, 2014 -- J+J Flooring Group has recently joined with APPA, the world-wide professional association of education facility managers, to present an APPA Facilities Drive-In workshop.

Consumer Spending, Incomes Rise in February   Full Article
Washington, DC, March 28, 2014 -- Consumer spending rose 0.3% in February after a 0.2% rise in January, the Commerce Department said.

Tuftex Wins California Recycled Water Award   Full Article
Santa Fe Springs, CA, March 28, 2014 -- Shaw's Tuftex division received the Recycled Water Customer of the Year Award from the WateReuse Association's California Section.

NWFA Expands Scholarship Program   Full Article
St. Louis, MO, March 28, 2014 -- The National Wood Flooring Association said it will significantly expand its scholarship program under its new Education & Research Foundation.

Consumer Sentiment Falls in March   Full Article
Ann Arbor, MI, March 28, 2014 -- Consumer sentiment declined to a final March reading of 80 from 81.6 in February, according to the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters survey.