The Four Aces to an A+ Rating Article by: Kostya Kimlat
A sale, like a great magic trick, occurs inside the customer’s mind. And it is there where it is replayed, remembered, and redefined continually after. The mind is the final battleground. Because magicians are masters of perception, they understand how to get into the heads of their prospects better than anyone else. That’s why the principles of magic can be so helpful in a business environment.
The following four tools and techniques are used in magic to create the perception of magical experiences. These four words begin with the letter ‘A.’ So we’ll call each of them the proverbial “Ace Up The Sleeve.” They’re not just a part of a winning hand. When executed together, they are a part of a winning strategy of customer service magic.
Here are the four aces from a magician’s tool set of perception:
- What assumptions are your customers making?
- How are you acknowledging them?
- How are you building anticipation to heighten emotions?
- And what are you doing to surprise, delight, and ultimately astonish your customers?
People are constantly making assumptions. Magicians use the assumptions that the human brain naturally makes “against” you. Assumptions are the reason why it’s so fun for magicians to fool other magicians. That’s because a prepared magician will know what methods his magician friend knows, and use those very assumptions to pull off his trick in a way his friend won’t expect, leaving him dumbfounded.
Assumptions impact every interpersonal interaction and can be helpful or hurtful. First, consider what assumptions you are making about your customers. Are you assuming they like you, your brand or your product? Or are you assuming they’re skeptical of you?
Second, think about what assumptions they are making of you. People perceive what they expect, so before you can deliver on any customer service, you need to get into the mind of your customer, client or patient, and understand what they’re assuming is going to happen when they interact with you.
Perception is a two-way street: people see you and you see them. It is therefore imperative to first become aware of the assumptions that you make about others. Then it’s equally as important to consider how others see you. This will help you have an influence over the impact of perception on your relationships.
A human interaction can only be successful if the customer’s assumptions are acknowledged. For example, the sophisticated magician who encounters a spectator oozing with negative assumptions about magic must first acknowledge those assumptions in order to move forward.
“You look skeptical,” the magician might say. “How about I show you the fastest trick I do, and if you enjoy it, I can come back later and show you more?”
Acknowledgment communicates authenticity. For businesses and brands, it can be the saving mea culpa that redeems a company from a mistake. For individuals, it is a way of clearing the air before being able to move forward in a relationship.
What are the assumptions—true or false—your prospective customers most frequently make about you or your business? What can you say or do to acknowledge each of those assumptions, in order to proceed with the relationship?
Once you’ve identified your customer’s assumptions and then acknowledged them, you’re ready to build anticipation.
Studies have shown that your mind is in a constant state of anticipation, making predictions about the future, and then rewarding or punishing you for being right or wrong. This is what makes magic so much fun to watch—your brain is constantly making predictions about how a trick might end. And when your brain guesses correctly, it’s rewarded handsomely.
There are many ways a magician might increase your anticipation levels. Sometimes, he’ll tell you exactly how the trick will end (“all of the cards will disappear in 3…2…1…”). Sometimes, he might even create anticipation through tension, by feigning an error (“I swear this worked earlier…”)—before successfully completing an effect to the delight of the audience.
Master magicians know how to raise the level of anticipation—and ultimately the astonishment that is about to come. Creating anticipation is an ultimate tool of perception, a masterful tactic that can create intrigue and heightened emotions, leading to a better payoff in the end.
Like a magician, you can raise anticipation levels in a sales interaction by painting a picture of how the customer’s future might look. What can you say to get a customer excited about a future payoff? What emails could you send to heighten this sense of anticipation? Is there a way you can create anticipation through generating tension?
Think about how you can build, build, build anticipation so that when a customer finally makes her purchase, she feels like it’s a cause for celebration!
Have you ever been amazed by a magician? Have you seen or experienced something that made you take pause? Your eyes widened, your pupils dilated, your mouth got dry. For a brief moment you couldn’t explain what just happened. This positive and pleasantly surprising moment has an eerie way of zapping your brain like nothing else does. Magicians refer to this as the moment of astonishment.
Excellent customer service comes down to how well you’re able to astonish your customer. Sure, a customer might have assumptions that you may have acknowledged, and you might even deliver on what she anticipated would happen.
But unless you go an extra step, providing something she previously thought unlikely or impossible, she will not walk away feeling astonished.
Astonishment taps into your customer’s emotional brain, and it’s in the emotional brain that brand loyalty becomes rooted and repeat business generated. Astonishment is what leads to 5-star Yelp reviews and unsolicited Facebook posts singing your glories.
Just like an astonished audience member might excitedly request that a magician “do that again,” or demand a magician share a performance — “show that to my friend!” — your customers will want to experience your business again and share it with friends if you leave them truly astonished.
So how can you add moments of astonishment to your interactions? What surprises can you plan? How can you take things a step beyond meeting their anticipated expectations and deliver something they wouldn’t have imagined possible?
Stack the deck to win the game
A competent magician will understand the assumptions his audience is making about him. A good magician will acknowledge them. A great magician will build so much anticipation that the audience creates an expectation for the successful conclusion of a trick. But an excellent magician will not just bring a trick to its successful conclusion—he will go an extra step, not only delivering on the promise, but exceeding it and surprising the audience.
Excellent magicians have all four “aces” up their sleeves. You don’t have to be a magician to use these tools, you just have to Think Like A Magician™. Teach these tactics to your employees, and they’ll be masters at delivering magical customer service.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, “Fool Us”. Kostya speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician™ to improve sales and customer service. For more information about Kostya Kimlat, please visit www.TheBusinessMagician.com.