Buyer’s remorse: an anxious state of mind that we’ve all experienced at some point, usually after we’ve purchased something expensive.
Perhaps you just bought a new car, a computer, or a house (I’ve experienced buyer’s remorse after investing in less pricey items too, like a new winter coat or a pair of strappy sandals).
You did your research and you shopped around, looking for the best price. So when it came time to swipe your credit card or to sign the papers, you felt confident that you were getting the best deal and that making the purchase was the right call.
Flash forward a few days (or maybe even just a few hours; the onset of buyer’s remorse can occur quite quickly), and a nagging voice creeps in, spreading doubt throughout your mind, asking questions like…
“Could I have found a better price?”
“Did I really need this [name of item purchased]?”
“Should I have done more research? Read more reviews?”
“What if I find something I like better?”
Anxiety riddled thoughts like these “stem from cognitive dissonance and the paradox of choice,” says business development coach Bob Musial. And if too much of this doubt permeates your brain, you’ll develop a full-fledged case of buyer’s remorse.
Understanding What Leads To Buyer’s Remorse
What Is Cognitive Dissonance?
Cognitive dissonance is “a state of psychological discomfort when at least two elements of cognition are in opposition, and which motivates the person to appease it by changing how they think about the situation.”
Buyer’s remorse, which is also known as post-decision dissonance, arises after a person makes a challenging decision between similarly appealing offers and is then more fully able to experience the negative effects of that decision. This leads to stress, causing the person to seek ways to decrease his or her discomfort, resulting from a behavior (making a purchase) that doesn’t align with the person’s attitude (the expectation for whatever was purchased).
Post-decision dissonance is more likely to occur when the following three factors are present:
- Effort – This refers to the resources that customers invest when making a purchase, which can include time, money, and emotions.
- Responsibility – This refers to whether or not the purchase was made based on a customer’s own free will; if a person is not in charge of the buying decision, then he or she is less likely to feel responsible for the outcome of that buying decision.
- Commitment – This refers to the degree of continuation a purchase holds—for example, computers are expected to last multiple years, so purchasing a new computer can lead to dissonance because the buyer knows the purchase involves a high degree of commitment.
What Is The Paradox Of Choice?
The paradox of choice claims that “after a certain threshold is reached, an increase in the number of choices will cause a significant amount of psychological distress.” And one of the ways that distress can manifest itself is through buyer’s remorse. According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, “Buyer’s remorse is created through increasing opportunity costs associated with increased choices. Opportunity costs associated with alternate choices compound and create strong feelings of dissonance and remorse.”
So the more choices a person has, the easier it becomes to imagine what making a different decision might look like and how it could potentially be better. Making these types of comparisons to your expectations produces feelings of regret, causing you to second guess the decisions that you make.
I frequently experience the paradox of choice when shopping for beauty products at CVS or Walgreens. When faced with rows of products that are more or less the same—some claim to reduce fine lines and unclog pores, baiting you with their status as a top choice among dermatologists, while others swear they can reduce fine lines in just one week using a hot-shot celebrity endorsement, and others still that cost a little bit more but promise to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots, plus give you baby soft skin—which product do you choose?
Now, deciding which day cream to buy certainly is a far cry from a life or death decision. But for more involved and expensive purchases, which yield greater levels of disappointment when expectations aren’t met, the psychological consequences of a regrettable decision can be significant.
How To Eliminate Buyer’s Remorse
Get A Jump On Your Customers’ Questions
Before your customers can even form a question in their minds or find something that’s unclear or that they want to know more about, head them off at the pass by providing the answers they seek in a FAQ page or through a series of tutorials or how-to articles.
Andy Paul of Salesforce: “Just as important as being responsive in answering questions, is asking the questions that will help your prospects better understand their requirements.
What are the three big questions you can ask that will help shape what the buyer envisions to be the optimal solution to their needs?”
When you answer your customers’ questions before they can ask them, you establish a sense of trust and security in your products or services before your customers even have a chance to doubt you or what you have to offer.
Give Your Customers A Reason To Brag
Let your customers know a cool, fun fact about your product or service, toting one of its many benefits about how it can improve your customers’ lives or provide them with a great experience. Doing so helps plant the seeds of satisfaction and approval in your customers’ minds, giving bloom to the perception of a positive purchase experience and overshadowing any incoming doubt.
Kathryn Siegel of LRP Publications: “When you go and buy fries, the McDonald’s packaging informs you that the potatoes that make up the fries have been very carefully selected.
You can also learn a lot from Zappos’ marketing strategy. When you order a pair of shoes, [Zappos] sends you a flier stating how the minimalist shoes help you prevent a common runner’s problem.
These details have a ‘wow’ factor and provide an additional reinforcement as to why the decision to buy was a good one.”
Cement The Sale (And The Benefits) Through Reassurance & Support
From his book No Thanks, I’m Just Looking Harry J. Friedman shares an example of how you can solidify a sale by restating the benefits of a product or service and reminding customers of why making the purchase was the right call.
Harry J. Friedman: “Suppose Mr. and Mrs. Wilson have just purchased a gold locket for their daughter in honor of her graduation from college. She’s never worn a locket before, and neither Mr. nor Mrs. Wilson is sure their daughter will like this one. A confirmation of this particular sale could go like this:
Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, I think you’ve made an excellent choice for your daughter’s graduation present. Not only will its value appreciate over the years, but it will serve to remind your daughter of one of the proudest achievements in her life.
Notice in this example how the salesperson not only tells the customers what an excellent choice they made but also reminds them about one or two benefits that were presumably pointed out in the demonstration. This helps to further cement the sale by reinforcing why the customer purchased the merchandise in the first place.”
Of course, every confirmation should be tailored to the specific customer scenario, but here are three basic guidelines that you should follow in your confirmations:
- Make it personal – Use your customers’ names in your confirmations whenever you can, as this makes the process friendlier, more genuine, and less faceless.
- Include the words “I” and “You” – This makes your confirmation feel even more personalized; it’s not just your company getting in touch—it’s you, a real human—and you’re giving customers credit for making their own intelligent buying decisions.
- Reinforce why the purchase was smart – Review the benefits of your offer and how it’s going to make a difference your customers’ lives. And if you can refer to specific points your customers mentioned themselves, even better.
Under-promise And Overdeliver
Nothing will make your customers regret their buying decisions more than discovering that your offer was all hype or fluff, or that it didn’t make good on its promises in some other way. Pleasant surprises are one of the strongest deterrents of buyer’s remorse.
Therefore, keep your offers in the hype-free zone and overdeliver by offering free gifts or expedited shipping, and this will keep your customers in the happy-zone.
Some research, however, has indicated that exceeding customers’ expectations isn’t always appreciated as much as you might think. Customers absolutely expect businesses to keep any promises they make. But a study from UC San Diego suggests that when businesses go above and beyond, it doesn’t yield a significant increase in customer gratitude or appreciation, which is surprising.
So while following through on any guarantees you make is essential, you’ll need to assess the amount of brownie points your overdelivery efforts are earning and see if they’re actually worth the extra effort.
Give A Coupon To Use On A Future Purchase
One of the overdelivering techniques that has proven to be effective is providing customers with a coupon that they can use on a future purchase. This is a win-win situation for both you and your customers.
Giving out coupons makes customers more likely to return to your store or website, thus producing more repeat buyers. Plus, post-purchase coupons help customers justify their purchases, thus easing the sting of any potential buyer’s remorse.
Include An Extended Money-Back Guarantee
Keep Your Customers Happy
Customer satisfaction should be one of your business’ top priorities, especially since customers who feel happy about their purchases are probably not going to feel buyer’s remorse, nor are they going to ask for refunds or post negative reviews.
Of course, despite your most valiant efforts, not every transaction will go without a hitch and not every customer will feel 100% satisfied every single time they do business with you. And sometimes, some of those less than thrilled customers will take to social media to say some not so nice things about you and your business.
So what can you do to minimize the amount of negative feedback your company receives?
Be Accessible And Respond Quickly
As Justin mentioned, leveraging things like surveys and feedback portals, proving your customers with outlets to leave feedback or vent if they need to is beneficial, as this can prevent your customers from voicing their concerns and criticisms on more public forums, where you will have far less control over the situation.
Also, let customers know that anytime they submit a survey or feedback form to your company that someone in a position of power will see it and respond accordingly within 24-48 hours.
This allows you to keep negative commentary at bay; plus, it grants you the opportunity to offer solutions to your customers’ complaints and provide them with a better experience, which might also lead to improving your business’ processes in general.
Provide Top-Notch Customer Service
To ensure your customer service is truly stellar, you need to develop a methodology for handling customer issues and complaints. This methodology should be employed consistently, and your customer service employees should be trained to listen to customers and come up with solutions as quickly as possible, minimizing the amount of back and forth.
It should be noted, though, that while creating methodologies is essential, you also need to understand that you can’t plan for every single eventuality. And so, you need to empower your customer service employees and grant them the autonomy to think outside-the-box if a customer situation requires a unique approach.
Allowing your customers to voice their concerns and to really feel heard can work wonders at deflating sticky situations. Sometimes your customers just want to vent and providing them with a platform to do so in which they are actually listened to can turn a negative interaction into a positive one.
How To Do Customer Service Right
Customer Experience Consultant Micah Solomon weighs in with some of his top tips:
“Do you offer self-service options for your customers? Many customers want them today: unless you’re open 24/7 or at least all conceivable business hours in all time zones in which you have customers, you need such options. And even if you are open ‘round the clock, many times customers today just want to handle it, or at least be able to check up on it, themselves.”
“Do your self-service options include escape hatches? For when the self-service isn’t working or the customer isn’t in the mood–there should be an easy way out, to reach a human. Make it obvious, like hitting “O” on the phone.”
“Get rid of the fine-print. To a customer, fine-print is where a company hides something that will protect them from a dissatisfied customer. Better to fix it than hide it.”
“Define a simple service recovery process. Things will go wrong. Either objectively (whatever that means) or in the eyes of your customer. Either way, you need a plan. Consider my ARFFD approach, for example.”
“Language matters. It is extremely easy to say the right thing, but to say it wrong. Actively work on the language that is used in customer interactions.”
“Commit to continuous improvement. Ask yourself at the end of the day, “What is the thing you are going to do tomorrow to make your team better.”