Jim Gaffigan, Bacon, and Increasing your Ability to Influence

baconRecently I was having a conversation with a client of mine who had reduced their pricing in order to increase sales.  When they didn’t see the expected bump in results, they came to me for help (and I was thankful they did).  While creating a solution turned out to be more nuanced than a quick fix (when crossing advertising copy, social media, call centre, and face-to-face sales scenarios, there is always complexity), there was one part of their puzzle that not only made a big difference, but was simple enough that I’d like to share it with you.  Making this simple change, and rolling it out across a variety of their customer touch-points, directly contributed to a significant increase in sales.  It’s also a technique that is fundamental to human conversation, and one I would suggest you mastered by the time you were 4 years old, but potentially have forgotten (as my client had).

My niece hasn’t forgotten though.  She’s 5.  Here’s what a recent conversation went like:  “Guess what?” She says.  “What?” I ask.  “You’ll never believe me if I tell you,” She says.  “What?  Tell me!” I say, now on the edge of my seat.  Only then did she tell me her news (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you her news at the end of this piece).

Turns out that by applying this simple technique my niece used so expertly, my client was able to realize their bump in sales that had eluded them months before.  Here’s what it is:

Building Curiosity

Rather than simply stating what you want your customers to know, the trick is to build so much curiosity in your audience that they absolutely need to know what the change is and demand that you tell them.  This requires a little self-control, because the rule is that if they don’t ask, you don’t get to tell.  And if they never ask, you know you need to revise your approach of building curiosity.  The challenge is placing that need to know in your customer’s mind.

Back in the heyday of door-to-door sales, this technique was called “sizzling.”  To illustrate, let’s think about what sizzles.  Bacon for example.  Sure, you may not want bacon right now.  But if you hear it, sizzling noisily on the pan, smoke wafting into the air, carrying with it delicious bacon-y aromas, you suddenly want bacon (I even bet you kinda want bacon now!).    It’s the same with your important piece of news.  Turn it onto bacon and sizzle it.

Putting It Into Action

There are literally hundreds of ways to do this.  One example I hear on occasion goes something like, “I was talking to someone just the other day who was able to solve that problem and they were amazed at how easy it was.”  (You’ll find the approach that works for you.)  Then wait for them to ask.  Sometimes the waiting can feel like an eternity, but just like bacon, it may take a few moments for your message to cook.  You’ll find it’s worth it.

Here’s a recent poster from Westjet (part of a series), that uses the sizzle technique to create curiosity about their fares to London.  Notice what they don’t tell you:

Westjet uses the "sizzle" technique to create curiosity about their airfares.

My Niece’s Big News

As promised, here’s my niece’s news.  Her Pokemon had evolved from Weedle to Kakuna.  Did learning it change my life?  Nope.  But because she sizzled the news as hard as she did, I knew it was a big deal for her and I replied enthusiastically.  Your customers may do the same (just don’t make it about Pokemon).

If This Was Helpful…

If this was helpful, just think what a live conversation would do.  We help select companies of all sizes (from 1 employee to thousands) fine tune their messaging to ensure it delivers the intended results.

Pat Perdue Customer Experience Evangelist

Pat Perdue is CEO of Socialicity Media.  You can reach Pat by email at Pat@socialicity.ca



Don’t Bury Amazing Customer Experience Under a Mountain of Customer Effort



Back when I was a kid, we used to get prizes inside cereal boxes, and getting to those prizes was a bit of a ritual.  Arriving home after the Friday night round of weekly grocery shopping, my brother, sister, and I would open the box of Shreddies we brought home and spend the next fifteen minutes or hard at work.  Our first step was to peer inside the box hoping the glint of plastic would catch our eye.  If that didn’t yield results, we’d reach in and see if we could find the prize through touch (touching every, single Shreddie in the process).  If that didn’t work, we’d dump the entire box into a big bowl and sift through it until we got the prize.  Looking back, I see how much effort we invested to get them.

I share that with you because of my recent experience with the company that makes my blender.  They buried their prize, which was a stellar call centre experience, beneath a mountain of effort to get there.  A closer examination of my experience provides an excellent case study on how great recruiting (the customer service agent I finally spoke with was superlative), training, and an obvious customer-first culture was buried beneath heaps of inattentive social media, a poor IVR, and a website that made finding their toll-free number more difficult than it needed to be.  So, let’s get to it.  I broke my blender, and here’s what happened next:

Step 1:  Twitter

Upon discovering my blender had become non-functional, I hit their website on my phone and found that they’re on Twitter.  Awesome.  A look at their Twitter handle showed some customer service related engagement (the standard, “Sorry to hear that.  Please DM us your details and we’ll get back to you.”).  I Tweeted my issue and expected a reply.  After 24 hours, nothing.  I Tweeted again: More silence.  The result of this was a sense that my blender company had little concern for customer satisfaction.  Turns out that perception was far from accurate, but I wouldn’t have known that from my experience with them on Twitter.

Step 2:  Phone Call Attempt #1

Going back to their website, I managed to find the “contact us” button at the bottom of their site in very small text.  Clicking on that, I scanned the page, found their toll-free number, and dialed.  After listening to their automated greeting and being given 4 options (none were for what I was calling about), I hit “0,” was greeted in French (not sure why), told the call would be recorded, and then after a moment the recording advised me that the office was currently closed.  Argh.

Step 3:  Phone Call Attempt #2

The next day I called,  hit “0,” got French, pressed “1” for my language preference (English), seemed to get more French, then an English call-recording notification, then silence.  And more silence (one usually hears music, or….something).  Unsure of whether I had been disconnected, I hung up and re-dialed.

Step 4:  Phone Call Attempt #4

I repeated Step(s) 3, but this time instead of silence I was connect to a truly fabulous customer service agent.  Alice took the time to express sympathy for my situation, carefully made sure she understood what the issue was with my blender (she even got the same model blender I had, so we could walk through my issue together), and she made careful notes.  At the end of the call, she took my address and promised a new blender would be sent within 10 days.  And voila, 4 days later, I have a new blender.

Keeping the Prize Well Hidden

What’s fascinating about this is that based on my experience with Alice I’m convinced that my blender company is 100% dedicated to their customers’ satisfaction.  Having said that, the focus of their efforts has evidently been on the contact centre touch-point, potentially at the neglect of other touch-points that come earlier in the customer journey.  The onus was on me to sift through the pile of negative experience (including the fact that the blender had broken), until I finally got to the prize, which was a brilliant customer service professional and a new blender that arrived earlier than expected.  Had I not done the equivalent of dumping the box of Shreddies into a bowl and gone sifting, all of the effort that had gone into the phone experience would have remained hidden, and I would have a new blender from a different company.

What We Can Learn

Many organizations invest significantly on training and technology designed to deliver great customer service at the contact centre level.  But if your customers need to exert unreasonable effort to experience that service, you may be investing in something that many of your customers never get to.  Indeed, they may have given up earlier in the process and taken their business elsewhere.  Providing great customer experience through the contact centre is awesome.   Be careful not to hide it under a mountain of customer effort to get there.