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Surprise & De...De...Dismay? The Path To Dirty Revenue

· transparency sale,Transparency,client success,Sales Messaging,customer retention

"Surprise and Delight" marketing. All the rage a few years ago, to the point where you would think you would be experiencing it all time. Instead, "surprise and dismay" seems to be much more prevalent. 

  • I ordered a book of 40 paper checks for my business. $49+ for the checks...crazy, but I’ll survive. However, right at “Confirm Payment”, there’s $14.99 added for “Shipping & Handling”. Surprise!
  • I renewed my drivers’ license online. Easy. Right at “Confirm Payment”, I find that they've added a “Convenience Fee”. A convenience fee?  Surprise!
  • My wife bought an air purifier for our home. The included recommendation is to replace the filter every 4-6 weeks. Now 4 weeks out, we visited their website to order the filter replacements. The replacement filters are $30 each (plus S&H). Surprise!
  • A year ago, I subscribed to a “LinkedIn Analytics” platform. At the time, I was really trying to figure LinkedIn reach out, and the tool was valuable. However, I hadn’t logged in for a couple of months. Yesterday I received the receipt for my renewal. $96. No warning - apparently I just renewed. Surprise!

Why do these companies prefer "Surprise & Dismay"? It's a surprise...but not the good kind of surprise!

Do they do it on purpose? 

Are they just afraid the truth won't sell it?

The result is "dirty" revenue. Dirty...meaning, the revenue looks green to the seller. The cash register rings. The bank account increases. They're celebrating the sale.

But to the customer, it looks red. 

It's an "angry" red...in the form of dismay during the customer’s confirmation and payment execution. 😡

And then eventually that red fades to a filthy brown, in the form of those customers never buying again, and never advocating on your behalf. 💩

It’s dirty revenue - because, while you are celebrating the transaction, chest-bumping to your peers about how great sales are, you’re punishing the rest of your organization, who you will probably blame when renewals, upsells & cross-sells fall short and inbound lead volume declines. 

Buying something is supposed to feel good. We’re supposed to feel a little shot of dopamine when we purchase something - a positive, anticipatory reward for finishing a transaction.

Instead, you’re hit with a stressful feeling. You’re surprised, and instead of delighted, you’re dismayed.

  • Could I have backed out of my business-check purchase and found an alternative? Probably - but I’ll make a note to do that next time.
  • Could I have backed out of my online drivers’ license renewal and sent a check, even though it's more work for me...and ironically, them? Maybe - next time.
  • Could we complain to the air purifier company and try to return the thing - having used it for over a month already? Meh...probably not.  
  • Could I have raised a fight with the LinkedIn analytics tool and try to get out of the renewal? Sure - but maybe it's my fault. Maybe I agreed to something a year ago approving auto-renew, and just forgot? 

For these business, it might be that these prices and charges are necessary in their business, and that's understandable. Maybe you have to cover certain costs in order to be an ongoing business. That’s cool, too. 

However, surprises are meant for fun - wonderment and amazement!

Forget surprises. Instead, set expectations...quickly.

When we set accurate expectations and consistently meet them, customers buy, stay, buy more and are more likely to advocate - even when those expectations aren’t great!!!

◼️ Your favorite restaurant says, “expect a wait on Friday & Saturday night”. You get there, there’s a wait, and you’re happy to do it - because you expect it.  

◼️ You'll pay $11 for a beer at a baseball game that you can get the same beer at the grocery store for $2 - because we expect it. It's on the menu board or the aisle vendor's cart. You want it, that's how much it is.

◼️ When you call a company's customer support it says, "Wait time to talk to an agent right now is approximately 6 minutes", you make a decision, then often decide to wait it out. However, when the support doesn't provide an estimated wait time, you're probably aggravated already by the 3rd minute, right?

Set accurate expectations up front. Explain the “why?” The positives, and especially the negatives.

Would my walk-away feeling be different if the check-printing company displayed a message like this before I decided on a purchase: “There are additional costs associated with business check printing, as well as the shipping and handling of those checks given the security, theft, and fraud prevention requirements.” - It probably wouldn’t feel so awful if this message greeted you upfront, right? Expectations set...and met. 

Empathize. How do you feel when you get punched in the face with an extra charge right at the goal line? Are you doing that with your clients? Auto renewals with no warning? Extra charges? Surprising implementation fees?

Uncertainty in life is inevitable - but when it is a certainty not shared, it’s irritating, and negatively impacting your business downstream. Burying the bad news to the end, in hopes you’ve built up enough good,...in hopes you’ve built up enough “perceived value” to not ruin it may still get you the sale, but it won’t get you the growth, and it’s less likely to get you the advocacy or great review. 

Use those “surprises” to set those accurate expectations - and remove the “surprise.” While it may sound counterintuitive, that unexpected honesty builds trust upfront - versus eroding it at the goal-line! 

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