Turn Customer Anxiety into Excitement.

On a balmy summer Friday in July, the CEO of Setmore Joshua Iwata and two other Setmore employees prepared to jump out of a plane. Engine fumes streamed into the back of the cabin and the pilot was playing Pokémon Go while steering the craft to the appropriate altitude – tandem skydivers will jump twenty times a day, so this was business as usual for them. But for Josh and the rest of the Setmore crew, they were crossing an item off their bucket list.

Joshua, Vishal, and Parthepan on the ground immediately after skydiving.

Vishal, Parthepan and Joshua showing they have the right stuff.

Sixty seconds of freefall, followed by five minutes of parachute gliding. That’s what Joshua paid for, but in truth the experience started the night before, when he was setting his reservation. It would continue through the next morning as his anticipation built up, to the very moment he was strapped into the parachute harness.

No customer enters your business with a blank emotional slate. There’s always a preliminary phase filled with anticipation: your customers saved up to have this experience with you and they’ve marked it on their calendars, or maybe it’s unexpected car trouble and an urgently-needed repair. Being aware of and catering to these emotional states can make all the difference between delivering an amazing service that keeps ‘em coming back for more, and a typical (read: forgettable) or even negative one.

Anxiety as a raw resource

What’s the first thing that happens after you get checked in at a salon or a service center? Nine times out of ten, the receptionist offers you a beverage, but they don’t do this because they think you’re thirsty. The purpose is to make you feel welcome, to help ease any worry you might have about going into a new situation.

When new customers come to you, they’re entrusting you with something as personal as their hair, their car, or in Josh’s case, literally their life. They enter into this transaction with a baseline of anxiety, asking themselves, “Will this work out the way I want it to?” Anxiety is a raw resource, it’s the crude oil that’s bubbling just beneath the surface. You have to know it’s there if you want to get some use out of it.

We all know the physical response of anxiety: high stress levels, which can be attributed to a rise in cortisol, a faster heartbeat, sweaty palms, and so on. Studies have shown that you experience the same conditions when you’re excited, the difference is that anxiety is a negative emotion while excitement is a positive one. It turns out, there’s a few techniques you can employ to get your customers from running negative to running positive.

Visual priming

Some salons offer to take “before and after” photos of your haircut, but this isn’t just to populate an Instagram feed. The hidden benefit is that it’s an implicit guarantee you’re going to like the end product. It’s as if they’re telling your subconscious, the “after” shot will be better. The skydiving business that Joshua went to did pretty much the same thing, which is how we got the photo featured at the top of this article. These visuals are almost always displayed publicly, either on the business’s website or somewhere in the lobby, to prime future customers as well.

This practice can be emulated by any business, regardless of industry. For something like an auto service center, there’s other ways to tap into your customer’s visual receptors. A complimentary car wash, for example, helps reassure customers that special care was taken with the vehicle and reinforces the idea that the car leaves in better condition than it came in. A recently washed car, all bright and shiny and spotless, is a visual cue.

Verbal priming

Before boarding a plane that he wasn’t planning to land in, Joshua was surprised by the preparation process involved in skydiving. “It was basically just some guy stuffing a parachute into a backpack. It was so analog. Luckily the owner was there and he took some time to go over the equipment. He showed us the pin, the cord that goes with the pin, the backup chute, and the failsafe chip that triggers at 2000 feet in case something happens to the diver.” First-time skydivers are required by law to jump with a tandem diver; that is, harnessed to a licensed expert in what’s basically an adult-sized babybjorn. “It was just the idea of educating your customers that helped lower some of my pre-jump anxiety.”

Here’s another way of looking at it: anxiety is an impediment to reaching excitement. When you as a provider explain your methodology as you go through the motions, it helps remove some your customer’s anxiety. “It makes me feel like they’re more knowledgeable and they really are an expert at what they do,” Josh said, “That leads to me feeling more comfortable, I trust them more, and it’s overall a better experience for me.” No matter who you are or what kind of service you’re getting, you want to know you’re in good hands.

Taking the leap

You pour everything you have into your business and that means wearing multiple hats and plenty of late nights. To a new customer, however, it’s anything but “business as usual” and they’re bringing a fair amount of nervous energy when they walk in the door. Treat not just the customer but also their emotional state. Do what it takes to transform anxiety into excitement by making them feel welcome and explaining your process while your work. This is how you start to build truly amazing experiences worth talking about.

“Would you want to do it again?” I asked Joshua. “I want to go back every year,” he said.


-The Setmore Team

What’s harder – skydiving or making your customers happy? Let us know in a comment below!

by Cassandra @ Setmore

Writer, editor and scheduling product expert at Setmore Appointments.

young lady smiling

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