You Are a Person, Not a Machine

This will always work the same way, but you don't have to.

A day or two ago I went to Toy Story 3.  Great movie, but that is not what this post is about.  I wanted to comment on what happened as I was buying popcorn.

I got in line behind two other people and was happily waiting.  The first person in front of me ordered a small popcorn, and the employee said “Are you sure you want a small?  You can upgrade to a medium for just fifty cents more.”  To which the customer replied that they just wanted the small.

The next person in front of me then asked for a small popcorn.  The employee then said “Are you sure you want a small?  You can upgrade to the medium for just fifty cents more.”  Because apparently I could hear him say that before, but the person even closer to him could not.  The customer smiled and said they just wanted a small.

My turn.  I actually got in line planning on ordering a medium kettle corn popcorn.  So that is what I asked for.  Can you guess what happened next?  “Are you sure you want a medium?  You can get a large for just fifty cents more.”  Medium please.

I am a marketer.  I know that if you simply ask people to go bigger or better, that a certain percentage of them that wouldn’t have done so on their own will when asked.  I know that it increases the bottom line, and honestly I am all for it online and even occasionally offline.

But doing it online is an entirely different experience than doing it in person.  Online, my shopping experience is singular.  I don’t watch other people shop, and usually no one is with me when I shop online.  I expect to get the same webpage that everyone else gets.  In person, I felt like this guy was treating me like a moron who was apparently deaf as well.  I could understand if he did it every ten customers, or even every five.  But he was doing it with every single one.  Not only does this make it so that I can’t have a conversation with him, but I feel insulted.

I assume that this is what he was told to do by his management who were told to do it by “the company.”  But this is just not the right tactic in real life.  Sure, optimize your sales process, but don’t treat your employees like they are automatons.  Give guidelines, and let them be themselves.

Another examples I can think of for this is at McDonald’s drive-through where they have a prerecorded message greet you instead of the real person they are paying to be there.  Doesn’t that sentence sound ridiculous to you?

I think that we are taking the internet a bit too seriously when we take optimizing a website (an impersonal, repetitive experience) and applying it to real life, human interactions.  The best sales people are always going to be the ones that are allowed to be themselves because in real life you can tell whether someone is genuine or not.

I would assume it also let’s the salesperson feel better about their job.  Maybe that is just me.  Do you like being a cog in a machine?