Expert's Opinion

Educating Customers About the Product

June 7, 2011

Guy Winch on the importance of proper product use.

By Guy Winch Ph.D.

As a psychologist I often explain to parents that when setting limits with children, it is crucial to enforce new rules with 100% consistency. Children always test new limits, but if parents demonstrate they mean business (by being 100% consistent), such efforts soon cease. However, if parents’ consistency drops even slightly to 95%, their child’s efforts to test the limit will often increase.

When it comes to human communication, even small deviations in how we apply a specific technique can make a huge difference in the results we get.

Indeed, this is often just as true when it comes to the use and application of household and personal products.

For example, personal experience taught me (the hard way) that when switching from one kind of shaving technique to another (e.g., from a blade to electric), it can take a man's beards and skin two to three weeks of consistent use to get an even, smooth shave. But if during that period we switch back and forth even a little, our shave will be uneven and unsightly—mostly because of the tiny squares of toilet paper we’ll have stuck on our faces to absorb the blood from the nicks.

When customers have a complaint about a household or personal product, one of the first things the customer service or sales representative should inquire about is whether the customer used or applied the product correctly. To manage such conversations successfully, representatives need to be well informed both about the correct applications of their products and about the most common mistakes customers make when using them.

This brings up two problems:
1. Customers rarely inform companies or vendors when they are disappointed with a given product. Instead, they simply defect to a different company.

2. Customer service and sales representatives are not always given information about the most common application errors associated with a given product and their consequences. Neither are they trained to introduce such information in a manner that does not make the customer feel blamed for the failure.

Having this kind of dialogue with customers could provide a wonderful opportunity for companies to educate their customers about their products. Beyond clarifying any mistakes in use or application, representatives could also inform customers about new products or help them find a more appropriate product for their needs.

Further, because customers of household and personal products have high repurchasing potential and when satisfied, can stay with a product for many years, such educational efforts would yield a huge return on investment.

The need to educate customers is especially true for younger consumers who have not yet settled on their product of choice in a given category or acquired information about best practices in the application and uses of the product-line in question.

Perhaps instead of product packaging featuring minimal instructions and a toll-free number, both in tiny print—they should include a bold and sincere invitation to call the company and tell us how our products are working for you!

Companies would be surprised by the number of customers who responded to such invitations and welcomed the opportunity to become better educated about the products they use—whether their faces were covered in small blood spotted squares of toilet paper, or not.

About the Author
Guy Winch Ph.D. is a psychologist and author of The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem (January 2011 Walker and Company). He can be reached through is website at

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