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e’ve all been there. You’re in the market for a new car, phone or washing

machine perhaps. You’ve done lots of research, been exposed to the marketing messages, decided which is your preferred product and you set off to buy it. T en it begins. Whether you’re buying in a shop

or online, you start to experience those irritations that make you doubt wheth- er you want to buy it after all. It might be that the retailer is diffi cult to get to, they take ages to answer the phone, or have a website that’s diffi cult to use. Perhaps there is nowhere to park,

maybe you walk through the door and the sales team pounces on you immediately – or ignores you alto- gether. Or, having got yourself in front of a member of staff , they don’t off er you a hot drink while they sit there enjoying their own comforting cuppa. We all encounter moments like

these during the buying process, mo- ments that will test our commitment to the purchase, and make us reconsider or even quit the process altogether. We call these moments tripping points.

What causes tripping points?

Tripping points occur whenever our expectations and reality do not match – the brain seeks congruence and anything that is at odds with this can potentially cause a negative response. Our views of a brand or product will have been based on the messages we have been exposed to, whether from our own research, marketing campaigns or what our friends and family say about it. If our experience, when we come into direct contact with the brand or product, doesn’t fi t with what we expect then tripping points occur. Crucially, this mismatch of

expectations and reality that triggers tripping points is as true of better-than-expected experiences as it is for worse-than-expected ones (so beware the ‘surprise and delight’ approach). T e focus should always be on setting accurate customer expecta- tions and then simply matching them. T ere is a key point for the

marketing department here too – there is no point in creating a brand image that isn’t, or can never be, matched by reality. It’s also essential that those who are managing and training

customer-facing staff aim to match the customer experience with the brand promise to avoid, or at least minimise, certain tripping points. Humans must know why the unexpected occurs, it’s hardwired into us – it’s what helps us to survive. T e shift in attention triggered by tripping points activates an unavoidable cascade of physiological and neurological responses that the customer experiences as stress, and must actively overcome. Even a single tripping point causes stress, but experiencing several will have a cumula- tive eff ect and will heighten that stress. Our natural response to this is

‘fi ght or fl ight’, so at best this means an uncomfortable experience for your customer, and at worst they won’t buy from you if the stress reaches an unacceptable level. Furthermore, the actual level

of stress that a customer is willing to tolerate (either consciously or unconsciously) is dictated by how much they want and need the product or service. Put simply, you can ‘buy’ tripping point tolerance by presenting an irresistible off er. But the converse is also true:

the need for purchase inducement is reduced if the level of stress experienced by customers at each tripping point is minimised.

What are tripping points?

Tripping points may be the result of the sales process, the environment (both real and virtual), and/or the people responsible for interacting with customers. Some tripping points may be obvious, for example an overly complicated pricing structure (process), scruff y, badly maintained or inaccessible premises (environment), or sales people with limited product knowledge. Others may seem trivial – for

example, whether a sales person smiles at a customer or not. Some cut across standard practice, like having patience with browsers or being prepared to honestly explain how prices are calculated. But all tripping points matter. T ey can make a big diff erence to the customer experience and could derail the sale by making the customer feel uncomfortable. T e more tripping points a customer encounters, the more likely they are to walk away.

How can we overcome tripping points?

Some tripping points can be easily eliminated; some are an inescapable part of the process (such as mandatory fi nance documents) and need to have their impact softened; others may need to be compensated for through discounting or providing an additional service, but all should be addressed to increase the likelihood of a sale – and a more profi table one.

Tripping points occur whenever our expectations and reality do not match

Of course it would be marvellous

if staff were aware of these tripping points as they happen so they could just fi x them there and then. But the cause and impact of tripping points might not be obvious. Quite simply, customers may never know why they reacted in a certain way. Customers rarely recall what the

actual tripping points were and often drop out of the buying process without consciously understanding why. T is is why surveys and customer questionnaires don’t work – people don’t know, or don’t accurately remember, why they responded as they did, and can only provide a rationally-fi ltered response that may have little or no bearing on the actual reason.

How can we identify tripping points?

T e rapid advance of scientifi c knowledge about how humans make decisions means that we now have the ability to identify tripping points as they occur and can measure the stress they cause. We use psycho-physiological research to reveal the moments when customer expectation is at odds with reality and match this up with video and audio monitoring to identify the cause. T e result of this process generates

a Tripping Point Index – a scientifi c analysis of the customer’s experience providing objective measures of stress compared with data from customer journeys in that specifi c environment.

 | November 2016 | 17

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