Angry. Depressed. Disappointed with myself. Furious with myself.
All of these unpleasant emotions erupt when a consumer feels buyer’s remorse – that is, when a purchase doesn’t live up to their expectations and they believe they’ve made a huge mistake.
Buyer’s remorse is often associated with a big-ticket item such as a home, car or electronics…and, unfortunately, kitchens and baths.
Psychologists have shown that the more money, time and mental energy invested in a purchase, the more likely a consumer will experience buyer’s remorse. Scientists have identified several key elements of buyer’s remorse that are particularly relevant to kitchens and baths: effort and commitment. Effort is the resources invested in a purchase (material, intellectual, psychological and others) and is directly related to the importance of the purchase.
Commitment is high when a purchase cannot be returned and will be lived with for a long time. If the client is dissatisfied with their kitchen or bath for whatever reason, buyer’s remorse kicks in.
Jillian Sweeney, Douglas Hausknecht and Geoffrey Soutar developed this scale identifying common symptoms of buyer’s remorse.
- I was in despair
- I resented it
- I felt disappointed with myself
- I felt scared
- I felt hollow
- I felt angry
- I felt uneasy
- I felt I’d let myself down
- I felt annoyed
- I felt frustrated
- I was in pain
- I felt depressed
- I felt furious with myself
- I felt sick
- I was in agony
- Wisdom of purchase
- I wonder if I really need this product
- I wonder whether I should have bought anything at all
- I wonder if I have made the right choice
- I wonder if I have done the right thing in buying this product
- Concern over deal
- I wondered if I’d been fooled
- I wondered if they had spun me a line
- I wondered whether there was something wrong with the deal I got
The important thing to understand is this is a deeply emotional experience for your customer that can be triggered by something you view as inconsequential (cabinet doors that don’t align because the hinges have yet to be adjusted). Yet, to your customer, the misaligned cabinet doors say “I’ve been hoodwinked, this was a bad decision.” You may know you can take care of the things that upset them; they don’t.
In this era of social media, buyer’s remorse can wreak havoc with your reputation – literally overnight. As the project nears completion, it’s a very anxious time for your client and they can be quick to freak out, jump on Facebook or Yelp and complain about what they perceive as a poor job.
There are ways, however, that you can help mitigate or avoid buyer’s remorse before, during and after the sale.
Select your vendors carefully. Quiz your suppliers about customer service policies. What kind of hoops will you have to jump through to get a replacement door? Photo okay? How long does a replacement take? Does the vendor truly understand your reputation is at stake? Are they paying lip service to customer service, or do they really mean it? Run some scenarios by them and see what their procedures are.
Don’t oversell. Will the refrigerator be built-in, fully integrated or freestanding in a niche that makes it countertop depth? Be clear. Always update your drawings to reflect changes during the design process. For instance, the clients decide they want to switch to a two-tier cutlery drawer to the left of the range. You realize (but the clients don’t) that this means the drawers to the left and right of the range will no longer be the same height. Draw it out and show them. Otherwise when they see the kitchen installed, they may be unpleasantly surprised.
Be cautious about manufacturers’ photos or project photos from magazines, online and in print. What does the toe kick really look like on that built in fridge? What has been Photoshopped? Where is the vent on the refrigerator? Does it show in the picture? How realistic are the reveals depicted in the cabinetry?
Give your prospects plenty of opportunity to voice any objections during the design and sales phase. Once you’ve closed the sale, ask them why they decided to go with you and your design. Let them answer in their own words. They’ll take ownership of their decision and perhaps be more resistant to buyer’s remorse. Remember their reasons, and once the project is in, remind them once again.
After the sale and before installation can be a dangerous, long drawn-out period where the seeds of buyer’s remorse can begin to be sewn. Reinforce their decision by thanking them verbally and in writing, and reminding them that their friend Mary who referred them loves her project. Follow up with calls and emails updating them on their project. Alert them when you receive a new testimonial. “Thought you’d like to see how happy Jane is with her new bath.” Send pictures of projects you’ve recently completed. Be accessible; don’t have them feel they’ve been dropped like a hot potato.
Installation is when it can really get scary for the homeowner. Manage expectations and communicate daily before and during the process. Don’t let a contractor promise he’ll be back tomorrow, when you know it’s going to be several days. Explain that doors will not be aligned when first installed and protective film may not be removed from appliances or fixtures until you are finished with the job. Above all, manage your cash flow and don’t ask for money before the job is done. That sets off alarm bells. A friend was redoing a bath in her weekend house and was told on Wednesday the project was finished and the final payment was due. She arrived Friday night to find the bathtub had yet to be installed. She freaked out. You can believe buyer’s remorse set in and any referral went down the drain.
After installation, walk through the project and remind your client of the pain points of their old kitchen or bath, and demonstrate how the new project has alleviated them. “Now you have room for your whole family to eat at the island.” “Now you can relax in a deep soaking tub.” Review all warranties. Show them how to use new equipment so they are not frustrated by unfamiliar gizmos. Give them a written timetable for any punch list items. Listen to any concerns and address them. Don’t pooh-pooh something like a nick in a cabinet by saying “oh, that’s no big deal.” It is to them.
Finally, thank them…profusely.