It seems simple, but many fail to grasp that actions are more important than words. Similarly, our customers and acquaintances often believe or say one thing while acting completely different. Often, I am alone when discussing these ideas with colleagues and I want to share those stories with you.

The Tale of Good Reviews

A salesperson once related to me how he regretted not receiving the President’s Award at his store. For technicalities, regardless of their extremely high customer satisfaction scores, they have gone years without receiving the award. The salesperson believed that showing off this award and sharing their customer satisfaction scores would help drive sales. I disagreed, because I don’t believe people care so much about what you say as what you do. Good ratings might get a seat at the table, but it doesn’t necessarily affect a customer’s decision to do business. Ultimately, this conversation devolved into which came first, the good review or taking care of the customer.

My response was: it doesn’t matter. High satisfaction ratings are a result from the past – but each customer will judge you on their individual interaction. A customer that loves you today, may not love you tomorrow. Similarly, if your store undergoes significant changes to ownership or staff – those good reviews may not matter. Once a customer realizes they aren’t receiving excellent customer service, the reviews cease to be important. Similarly, managers often want to satisfy customer survey answers rather than customer behavior patterns.

What Customers Really Want

Reading any automotive customer survey or study, it’s easy to surmise that customers want an easy, no-haggle purchase experience. This realization caused many automotive dealers to price their cars aggressively but without room to negotiate. In many cases, those stores lost innumerable sales and quickly switched back to the negotiation model of selling cars. Had they looked at customers’ behavior when they had already received great pricing, they may have never made this decision.

For example, TrueCar.com and CarGurus.com are great sites to help car shoppers find great deals. Ultimately, those customers will visit the showroom only to ask for additional discounts. Why do customers say one thing yet act differently?

I’m currently reading the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D. Regardless of what we consciously think to be true, there are often unconscious behavioral tendencies that guide our actions. In particular, the book references a negotiation study which found a surprising fact. Starting negotiations from a high price, and slowly working down, was better than starting low and sticking to that price. Clearly, our behaviors as humans relate very little to our conscious thinking about what we want when negotiating.

Words, Actions, Fatherhood

The idea that actions speak louder than words is a good lesson for parent and child alike. As a parent, we ought to avoid hypocrisy in front of our kids. I think we also need to teach our kids that their actions matter more than their words. Family and friendship is built on trust. Trust is built on living up to that trust. No amount of words can fix actions that break that trust. These are important lessons in life and I hope to impart them upon my children so they may grow up to be great people.