Business psychology

Want customers to spend more? Get a little spiritual

- March 25, 2024 3 MIN READ
customers want meaning when they spend money


Four years ago, I would never have used the word ‘spiritual’ in an article for business owners. Then again, four years ago, Prince Harry was still a prince and Corona was a beer. The world has changed.  And we’ve known that fulfilling spiritual needs is important in customer service for centuries writes Jaquie Scammell the award-winning author of The Future of Service is 5D, Service Habits (2nd edn) and Service Mindset. 

I always think of the quote from American philosopher John Dewey: ‘The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important’.

Of course, with the saturation of consumerism and materialism, many have been led to believe that ‘to be important’ means ‘to be liked’, ‘to be successful’ or ‘to be powerful’. In fact, though, Dewey was saying that being important is about being meaningful to someone or something – one of his ideas was that humans’ mental processes are characterised by our ability to make meaning from actions. In the context of customer service, I define spiritual as ‘purposefully and unexpectantly fulfilling a need for meaning .’

Customer service is a field for making meaning – any one of the actions delivered by an ordinary customer service agent can carry meaning that pays back ten times. So, what does a meaningful exchange in service look like, and how might creating a meaningful exchange with a customer see them spending more?

Get to the deeper meaning of the product or service you’re selling.

In every customer service interaction, a deeper need, a less conscious need, lies beneath the surface. A popular business adage says, ‘No one wants a drill. What they want is a hole. People don’t want quarter-inch drill bits – they want quarter-inch holes’. What’s the deeper need for your customer beyond their initial want? Why do they need a hole? Be clear on the benefit of the hole, not the quarter-inch drill bits. This selling tactic offers a clever way of talking about the deeper meaning of a product that makes the customer feel seen, heard and important. When customers feel that they’re important to you, they’re likely to keep returning.

Science proves it: the more you love your work, the more your customers love you.

It’s a rare and extraordinary experience to be served by someone who gives off an energy that they love their work and love serving you, but when you experience their passion, you become more personally invested in the product or service. Science tells us that such shared experiences bring ‘mirror neurons’ into play – neurons that fire when observing someone else act just as they would if you yourself were doing the action. You might, for example, mirror someone’s pace and energy, or the emotion they’re displaying.

We saw the effects of mirror neurons play out during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where the Matildas showed the world how to sell women’s soccer. Fans who had never before been fans became emotionally invested in a sport (a product) that exceeded all expectations. Over the course of the Cup matches, a total of 1.7 million tickets were sold – against a stretch target set by FIFA of 1.5 million. Channel 7 called the semi-final the ‘most streamed event ever in Australia’.

When you deconstruct the Matildas’ winning formula, there are many valuable lessons for high-performing teams and customer-obsessed businesses, but one of the most obvious is that you have to believe in your product to sell it.

When customers sense your passion, commitment and deeper connection to the work you do or to the parts of the job that energise you and make you feel happy, it becomes infectious. If you believe you’re doing important work that makes a difference (even if it’s serving a coffee or helping someone pick out a product), that’s infectious too! Not only will people not want to take their eyes off you, but they’ll be coming back for more. Loyalty.

Bring more meaning, more passion and more purpose to your products and service and you will see your customers are spending ten times more with you, because they keep coming back for more. They might not suggest the reason they keep returning to your business is because the service professionals are more spiritual, but they will say that the service staff make them feel important by showing their humanity when they serve, and that is significant in today’s world.

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