Don’t ever assume that your customers are the exact duplicate of you. Chances are, they aren’t.
There are so many reasons why they may be different. Human beings are such complex creatures that entire disciplines like anthropology, sociology and psychology have evolved in desperate bids to understand their behaviours.
Each and every customer/visitor/audience member is different in how he or she reacts to specific enviromental stimuli, regardless of his or her demographic backgrounds. Even folks who are categorised to be psychographically similar – like environmental activists, outdoor adventurers, or culture lovers – are infinitesimally different from one another.
This is why one should never take one’s customers for granted nor assume that silence means consent. In Asian cultures like Singapore, the situation becomes even more complicated due to the preference of Asians (particularly East Asians) to keep their opinions to themselves.
How does one then cater to the multitudinous needs of one’s customers?
First, visualise how your customers would react if you were in their exact positions. Put yourselves in their exact shoes. If you have a young child, would that super spicy bowl of laksa be a problem? How about anticipating what a 70-year-old retiree would feel if an air-conditioner was blasting directly on his head?
Next, look out for their body language and gestures. Constant glances at the watch is a sheer sign that your customer is getting bored or impatient and wants out. In an interpretative attractions like a museum, science centre or an art gallery, quizzical looks by a visitor on the way to go should be met with friendly advise on the best way forward.
Similarly, a kid who fidgets incessantly on his chair is a sign that his needs aren’t taken care of – any parent would tell you that a restless kid has the potential to hijack an otherwise pleasant evening out!
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask. If somebody looks lost wandering around your shop, do enquire if you may help him or her in an unobtrusive manner. Likewise, if a visitor to your outdoor al fresco dining spot is sweating buckets under the tropical Sun, do have the presence of mind to hand him a tissue or two without him asking for it.
The art and science of catering to silent needs is never an easy task. Often, we are too busy being efficient and effective that we sometimes fail to notice how our rush to fill orders have resulted in customers feeling neglected, forlorn and unloved. By making them feel totally comfortable and at ease in your business premises, you increase the possibilities of repeat patronage, higher profitability per customer, and better yield for your marketing dollar.