Do Your Customers Feel Ignored?


Guest post by Jane Bromley

IgnoreNo business intentionally ignores its customers. In fact, most managers think they do a reasonably good job of listening. But, if a customer feels ignored, big trouble lies ahead.

<3>The pain of being ignored
Naomi Eisenberger undertook a neuroscience research project to explore what goes on in people’s brains when they feel rejected.

Subjects participated in a computer game where they believed they were playing against other people. After a while, the other “players” (actually the computer) continued to play but the subjects were left out of the game.

Even when the subjects were told the other “players” were not real, they still felt excluded, disliked, judged, and angry. This result might surprise some readers – after all, who would be offended by a computer program? The most remarkable part of the finding was that this virtual shunning lit up areas of the brain associated with physical pain.

In fact, as we often read here, real people are driven by emotions and apparently irrational impulses. Even purchase decisions are often made based on subconscious feelings and emotions. Logical reasoning is used only at the end of the process to justify the decision they want to make.

Feeling Ignored: Retail

Retail environments are prime locations for the “feeling ignored” reaction to kick in. Shoppers don’t usually like to be interrupted by sales staff, but want people to be available when they need it.

We surveyed customers from a department store to determine why sales were below expectations. One of the stories we heard was “The staff were so busy talking to each other that I had to interrupt them to ask for help. Then, as soon as they answered my question, they immediately went back to their conversation.”
How likely is it that the shopper wants to stay in the store now, let alone buy anything?

While that’s an bad example of rude staff behavior, even more benign situations can be interpreted as being ignored. If a clerk is restocking misplaced items, or performing other important tasks, a shopper expecting immediate attention may still feel ignored.

This real-world situation is very similar to the simulation in Eisenberger’s research. Even if the customer would not admit it, he would almost certainly feel hurt and rejected.

This is just one example. This sort of experience is all too common. In 2012, Forrester found that only 37% of firms provided a good or “excellent” service , and Parature estimated $83 billion was lost in sales just in the US because of customer defections and abandoned purchases!

There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement, and this gap presents an opportunity to gain a real competitive advantage.

10 steps to attracting customers who love you

I love the insight in this simple quote: “In a few months people won’t remember what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

So, if it would transform your sales results, would you decide to show customers how much you appreciated and valued them?

We are tracking companies that are growing at 15% or more year after year profitably – even in tough industries. Without exception they all make their customers feel special. When you do the same they will buy more, and their enthusiasm will attract their friends- in droves.

What is more, it is not so hard. It is a mindset change:

  1. Consider the sales experiences you are involved in as a customer over the next few days.
    a. Ask yourself, “Do I feel appreciated? Rejected? Irrelevant?”
    b. What could the firms have done (or did they do) to make you feel appreciated and valued?
  2. If you can, actually try to repeat this with a test purchase or two in your own business.
  3. Now, work with key people across your business who are involved in sales, marketing and customer service. Share your thinking, experiences, and what you wish to achieve.
  4. Ask them to do the same thing you did in step 1. Remember that changing their mindset is the key to making this work.
  5. Compare your personal findings to any data you have from your own customers: comment cards, surveys, etc.
  6. Now, working with your team, create a list of all the different interactions you have with customers, e.g. coming into the store to buy, buying by phone, buying over the web, calling about a problem (list some of the most common problems).
  7. Using the experiences you have all had from steps 1 and 3, create a plan of action to ensure your customers feel valued and appreciated.
  8. In order for your employees to treat customers in a way that they feel valued, they need to feel valued, too. How will you and your team make that happen?
  9. Jointly agree on the metrics you will track to ensure your plans are working.
  10. Enjoy implementing your plans, and watch your results improve!

This kind of process isn’t a one-time project. The most successful businesses (think, for example) are constantly monitoring customer behavior, evaluating feedback, and making changes to business processes.

And remember, it isn’t whether you are really ignoring your customers that counts – it’s whether they feel ignored. You may think a 24 hour email response is perfectly acceptable, but that may seem like a lengthy wait to a customer with a problem.

Frequent and friendly communication will go a long way toward making your customers feel like they are still “in the game!”

  1. Gemma Holloway says

    I’m glad you referenced Amazon within this post as they were playing on my mind the entire way through this post. Their processes of personalisation, I believe, are exactly why they have proven to be so successful in the online marketing world.

    I imagine this feeling is experienced on social media platforms frequently by users. These platforms are designed for two way interaction but sometimes I don’t think enough time is invested to respond to users posts as thoroughly and attentively as needed. This research just goes to show the extent to which companies could be harming their success by not paying their customers the attention they deserve.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Interesting point, Gemma, since Amazon rarely interacts on a human-to-human basis. But, the personalization of content, product recommendations, and overall usability definitely makes it feel like the site is “paying attention.” And, humans are easy to reach on those rare occasions when you need one!


      1. Gemma Holloway says

        Exactly Roger – Pippa mentions it later in the comments, perception is everything. This is exactly what Amazon do, they give the perception of paying attention even if it’s not on a human to human basis.

  2. Jane Bromley says

    Good point Gemma. Initially I was surprised by how sensitive the subjects proved to be in the research yet, when you think it through, it makes sense. With all the channels now available it means companies need to think their approach through very carefully.

  3. Pippa Collett says

    I think point 8 is particularly pertinent, as per the story of the sales assistants being too busy chatting to help. Employing people with a real service culture already embedded, and then motivating them, is critical to delivering a great customer experience.

    One that stands out for me in B2B is Hiscox Insurance – their telephone team are articulate, polite, friendly and always appear (perception is everything) to have my best interests at heart. If you can’t recruit enough of the right sort of employee, consider investing in smart automation to fill in the gaps.

  4. Jane Bromley says

    Absolutely Pippa. I couldn’t agree more.

  5. Steve mills says

    Great blog post. So many businesses are content with satisfied customers. I love Ken Blanchards book (Raving Fans). I like the idea of creating Raving Fans instead of satisfied customers.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      I agree, Steve. I like the term “passionista,” too! See Better Branding: Hire Passionate People.


  6. Jane Bromley says

    Ah Yes. Raving fans. That adds a nice context.

  7. Joe McFadden says

    You always have to be putting yourself in the shoes of your customer. Would you ever call into your own customer service center? Would you want to shop in your store? It’s easy to miss the holes in your customer experience when you live and work in it every day.

    1. Jane Bromley says

      You are so right Joe. I think that keeping a totally customer perspective when you live it day after day is one of the hardest things to do.

  8. Juju says

    What’s passing for customer service nowadays is just ludicrous. a prime examples the walmart associate. They don’t even give you a greeting they have these cold icy looks on their faces. They act as if they’re doing you a favor to check out your groceries and put them in your bag.

  9. Tony Nguyen says

    I really think that your post points out a very serious issue which I am, as a customer feel like I have been ignored, more or less for hundred times. And there are times that I consider prices and ignore the issue but for things like dining or fashion, it is more important that I receive a good customer service. Thanks for your articles, I think they are just right on the point.

    1. Jane Bromley says

      I’m so pleased that you “get” the point here so well Tony.
      There is a massive opportunity out there for the few marketers who do.

  10. Sani says

    I completely agree with this post. There have been so many times I have left a store without buying something because I just could not find an employee to help me. I also don’t like when they ask you every 2 minutes if they can help you find something but it would be nice if they were there when you actually need them.

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