Social psychology experts assert that one way to get what you want is to practice reciprocity. Give, first, in a way that is personal and unexpected. Do this, they say, and you will get to ‘yes’ much more often when it comes to getting what you want in business.
This idea of reciprocity is nothing new, in fact, living by the golden rule – or doing unto others as you would have them do unto you – is a rule many have chosen to live by personally for thousands of years. The unstated implication being that if you are good to others, they are more likely to be good to you, in return.
When it comes to business, the idea of reciprocity (using positive actions to influence customers to take the positive actions you want them to take) may be one of the most under-utilized tools in your marketing arsenal.
All too often we merely meet customers expectations, and miss the chance to generate positive reviews and ratings or stimulate word of mouth referrals that even a small, inexpensive (or even free) unexpected positive act or moment during the customer experience would have produced.
Meeting a customer’s expectations might be enough to produce satisfaction, but it will not produce the loyalty, positive reviews or word of mouth customer referrals that characterize brand advocates. Brand advocates, or evangelists, as they are sometimes called, are believers. They don’t just believe in the products or services your business provides, because those are things they can get elsewhere. They are exhibiting the results of business reciprocity, giving back to businesses that gave first to them.
“You should really visit my dentist, he cleaned my teeth adequately…”
bragged no one, ever.
Brand advocates believe in you, and your staff, as the representatives of your business. They believe that you do better for your customers than your competitors. They believe that you have their interests and experience in mind, and not just your own bottom line. They believe that you want to have a relationship with them over the long term, not just a one-time exchange.
A brand only gets the kind of brand advocacy, loyalty and love that leads to customer reciprocity when it gives, first.
In our society, we often feel obligated to do something kind back to someone who has done us a kindness – and that’s the idea behind using reciprocity as a tool to influence your customers. Before asking them to buy new products or services from your business, before asking for an online review or a vote in your city’s “best of” competition, and before you ask them to refer their friends, family or colleagues to your business, do them a kindness, first.
It might be as simple as remembering a customer’s name and regular order. It might mean anticipating their arrival and setting aside their favorite table. It might mean rewarding them with an unexpected offer after their first visit. It could be as easy as delivering some treat they didn’t expect to receive or perceive that they are getting exclusively, at some time during their experience with your business.
Take a fresh look at the customer experience at your business, from beginning to end. Identify opportunities to do something positive that is outside of the customer’s expectation. Once you start living out the golden rule in your business life as well as your professional life, return is sure to follow.