Technology desperate to be liked

register, money, price, spending, til, POSRetail has never been easy, but in its 3,000-year existence it has always possessed very simple and straightforward drivers. Every day retailers roll-up the shutters and set out to sell their wares to customers who must be convinced to part with their hard earned cash for what they perceive as value.

Every transaction is another interaction, another experience that proves relevance. When I pay for the goods and services I buy, it is a vote that I like what you offer. Great retailers have always relied on the instant feedback of the cash register to tell them how they are doing – right now, today, every day.

But now – thanks to the wonders of technology – we have a new game, a new complication to the relationship between seller and buyer.

Increasingly when you buy from retailers you are being asked to give up more of your time to give the retailer ‘feedback’ on your experience. As if my money wasn’t enough indication of how I felt, we are now being asked to complete ‘small surveys’ and indications of how much we ‘like’ the retailer and their wares – often after every purchase – because the retailer “is genuinely interested in using your feedback to make improvements for your benefit” and needs to know yet again whether you like them or not on a scale of one to ten.

We’ve all had that friend who incessantly and anxiously asks whether you like them, some even ask for feedback and constant reassurance. The first time you feel sorry for them and do your best to reassure them and help them. After a time it becomes a little wearing. Then it becomes irritating and finally a bit unnerving – sometimes even stalker-ish. In the end we gravitate away from them and guiltily ostracise them.

This is the feeling that many customers are starting to feel toward a growing number of retailers who are constantly asking for ratings – many of them aggressively trying to beat you into capitulating to their demands for ‘likes’ and ratings.

And it seems the ones who show the least evidence of having listened to feedback and acted on it are the ones who are most belligerent about demanding it. Cynically, some would argue they are doing it to meet some systemised compliance regime or for social media and marketing exploitation.

The motivation is less important than the outcome this behaviour will lead to. Human beings don’t react well to desperation, bullying or bullshit. People that are genuinely held in our affection don’t ask for reassurance. They are just themselves – confident, caring and genuine. The friendship is sustained through mutually beneficial give and take.

Just like a retail relationship. My continued custom is proof of how I rate you. If my spending is in decline, so is our relationship and vice-versa. For those retailers who lack the coalface connectivity to customers through their people to be able to assess their likeability, the occasional research study goes some way toward bridging the sensitivity gap. But to ask for systemised likes and ratings after every transaction is only going to end up alienating customers.

It is very simple. If I like you I’ll show you by spending my money with you. That is the vote of confidence you need and the only explanation you should ask for.

Peter James Ryan is a retail expert and head of Red Communication. 02 9481 7215 or [email protected].

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