Sure-Fire Ways To Turn Off Your Customers

1. Sure-fire? I won’t keep you in suspense. My #1 way to turn off your customer is to advertise anything you offer as “sure-fire.” Few phrases can set off the b.s. detectors faster than a “sure-fire” guarantee. So if you’re doing any promotional work and you’re thinking about hyping it up as sure-fire in this skeptical and oversold world, consider injecting a little humility instead. It’s a sure-fire way to get a better response.

What other subtle and often-overlooked sins might you be committing without realizing it, right now?

2. Talk down. Whether it’s a mechanic who can’t be bothered to explain your car repair well, after he’s sized you up, or a waiter who raises an eyebrow and speaks slooowly after you mispronounce Petit Syrah, those are the moments that kill the joy, guarantee that we won’t learn, and make the likelihood of referral business evaporate.

3. Refuse to commit. You may think you’re being accommodating. Is that it? It’s nice when new buyers like you, isn’t it? I don’t know, but when you use too many qualifiers, some people might think that you don’t have a point of view. Please consider committing to a point of view if you’re fond of making sales. When you ask questions that are pretty much fillers, or that you ought to know the answers to yourself, maybe some people will decide you sound inexperienced or insecure, don’t you think?

Ugh. Yes, indeed. Wishy-washy is the silent business killer, because your being overly polite means customers will in turn be too polite to tell you that you’re getting on their nerves with your apologetic words and tone.

So don’t do that. You’re the expert; admit it. (Okay?)

4. Dirt is murder. Filthy. Sloppy. Cluttered and claustrophobic, in your online or offline place of business. Maybe you don’t notice; maybe clean and streamlined just isn’t high on your list of to-dos. Customers’ reactions to your happy mess range from discomfort, to inability to focus on making a purchase, to abject horror! Believe it: Your happy mess is messing up your bottom line.

5. Perfect is scary. If dirt is murder, its opposite is pretty darned close. Ever been in a store where you felt like touching the merchandise you’re trying to buy might bring on a swarm of salespeople to save their precious goods from you? When customers feel like a bull in a china shop because of your perfectionist displays, only the most stubborn (or oblivious) will stick around to make a purchase. Leave things just a little un-done so it feels okay to look.

6. Acoustic torture. Go ahead, create a mood. Bach, Beatles, Beastie Boys, Beyoncé. Sound should be a part of defining your Experience, and attracting and keeping your Ideal Customer. Go too loud, though, and the music becomes the message—or worse, an endurance test. Loud enough to demonstrate that you’re in tune with your customers, yes. Loud enough to drive away sales—big sin.

7. Go overboard. Sexy, not pornographic. Pink, not Pepto-Bismol factory. Grunge, not condemned building. Even classy can be overdone if it comes across as snooty. Any design motif can be pushed too far, and end up turning off more customers than it pulls in. Make sure the folks you’re aiming for feel welcomed, not manipulated, by your design theme.

8. Make us guess. No way to figure our how the store (online or off) is organized? No sales help/ customer service visible? (My fave— ) No price tags? Forget what Prince said about If you have to ask you can’t afford it. For most of us, if we have to ask… Goodbye.

9. Keep us in the dark. Who turned off the lights? If we can’t see it, we can’t buy it. ‘Nuff said.

10. Waste our time. Hey, as customers we’ve all learned to put up with plenty of smaller sins from businesses we deal with. We accept that we are the beta-testers for our buggy software. We know that we have to wait for online purchases to arrive. There will be a line at the drive-though and a wait at the dentist, and we expect it. But we don’t accept endless telephone trees, unreturned emails, or waiting for your sales clerk to stop texting and ring up our purchase. We put up with a lot these days. Make buying from you the smooth and easy part of our day, and we’ll find plenty of friends to recommend you to.

Because smooth and easy is one sure-fire way to make buying from you memorable.

I’d love to hear about the sins that turn you off the most (and the ones you still need to conquer in your own workplace) in the comment section!


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson