Does Your Customer Feel Like a Commodity?

Once your product becomes a commodity, you’re hosed. Even your once loyal customers start looking around for where they can get your offering cheaper, faster, or with less hassle. Most companies get this and take deliberate steps to differentiate their products.

Sadly, as companies work to scale, one of the biggest mistakes I see is that they begin to de-personalize the customer experience in the name of efficiency. 

The Biggest Reasons Your Customer Feels Like a Commodity

No customer wants to feel like a commodity. If you’re not sure if you wandering into dangerous territory, watch for these symptoms of commodity-feeling behaviors.

You’re Force Feeding Processes for Your Convenience

Have you ever said, “We just have to train our customers to do it this way. They’ll get used to it?”

If how you’re “training” them is really in their best interest, they might see the value in changing the way you work together. But if your new process is clearly all about your own efficiency or to make things easier internally, customers will wonder why they’re the ones who have to do things your way.

I see this all the time when start-ups work to scale. They begin informing their loyal customers who’ve been with them from the start the new rules of the game. It’s quite possible they took a chance on you from the beginning, because you were creative, flexible, and involved them in the process. If they start to smell bureaucracy and overhead, they’re likely to start looking around to regain that “I’m special” feeling.

I’ve left several of the suppliers I used early in building my business for this very reason, and I know I’m not alone.

You’re Reading From a Script

If you can’t trust your employees to have a real conversation, then you’re hiring the wrong people or not training them well. Nothing says “You’re just not that important to us” more than a script.

They Know More About Your Product or Policies than the Person Who Answers Your Phone

By the time a customer picks up the phone, they’re looking for an expert. Be sure the person they reach is both confident and competent.

You Under-Appreciate Their Tenure

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard employees quibbling over five bucks with a customer who has spent thousands over their tenure because some “policy” told them to.

You Make an Exception, But Offer a Lecture

I was at the hairdresser the other day when a woman came in to buy some shampoo with an expired gift certificate. The owner cited that their policy was quite clear to the person who had bought it. When the customer asked if there was anything that could be done, she cited the policy twice more and then gave in. After the owner honored it, she then gave the customer a lecture about expiration dates and how it’s really just better to give people Visa gift cards.

That customer bolted for the door as soon as she had her shampoo in hand. The owner lost twice. She was out the cost of the bottle of shampoo, and she had a detractor poised to tell the world about how she was made to feel.

No customer wants to feel like a commodity. Be sure you keep people feeling special as your business grows. 

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

3 Comments

  1. Nothing turns off a customer quicker than a rote, memorized approach to the sales pitch. Each customer needs to feel unique and special, and as you point out, a one-size-fits-all approach turns people away.

    Great advice!

  2. Ugh! Can’t stand being the customer that is on the receiving end of a script, an employee that can’t or won’t listen, or an environment that trains their people not to think.

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