Tune in and Profit – Female Customers Communicate Differently Than Men

female customers

It’s been said that the most important numbers in any business can’t be known. That is. you won’t know the number of customers who stop buying from your dealership without telling you why, who don’t voice their complaints, and who never give you a chance to resolve their grievances.

You won’t even be aware when most of them decide to not come back. Neither will you know the amount of profit you would have earned from those customers in the coming years, and you can’t know number of referrals you could have received from them if they had stayed. But all those numbers do exist, and they represent significant lost profit.

The problem is, since those important numbers don’t show up on accounting statements, the opportunities we had to fix those problems and retain those lost profit streams typically go ignored.

You Don’t Need Any New Skills to Retain More Customers

We’ve all seen marketing studies that say most customers who abandon any business do so because they didn’t like the ‘soft skills’ of that business; skills they lump together into one category then label as ‘attitude.’ In the automotive industry those study results are believable, because all cars sold today have great quality, most dealerships have good locations, and the prices of parts and service don’t vary that much among dealerships.

So. it’s not product complaints that make customers go elsewhere, it’s people complaints. Let’s explore why the complaints might not really be about attitudes, but frequently center on simple miscommunications, things you can fix.

Good News in Disguise

The study results about ‘attitude’ are good news in disguise, because many times it was likely that your staff and the customers were simply not communicating on the same ’wavelength.’ Despite your employees’ best efforts, and best attitude, they won’t always connect well with some clients. So, let’s begin by agreeing that your staff’s sales skills are adequate, and maybe even exceptional.

They simply might be unaware of some key information, or if they are aware of it, might not think it’s very important. Let’s see, because a lot of money could be at stake.

Every Client Does Not Want to Be Talked to The Same Way

Over the last 30 years much has been written about communication styles, and how those styles differ between men and women. At times, we seem to be talking on two different wavelengths, despite both side’s best efforts to communicate. Let’s highlight three examples of those differences, and try to keep the discussion lighthearted as well.

In general, a common view is that men approach business with a transactional frame of mind (make a deal, close a sale, fix a problem), whereas women tend to see it more from a relationship-based point of view (cooperate, work together, the process is just as important as the end result). But general views won’t help us close any sales or keep clients longer, so let’s look at some specifics.

1 – Think Rapport Instead of Report

If we ask a man how his week is going, he will typically deliver a report of projects and goals he’s working on, along with an estimate of his progress towards them, especially if the question came from his supervisor. Men, we’re wired to talk about data, facts and figures, and to not deliver a lot of narrative on feelings.

Ask a woman that same question, though, and chances are she might see that question as an offer of help, or even as a show of concern. Her response, then, might include saying thank-you for asking, and a subjective (not objective recital of facts) narrative of how she feels the week is progressing for her.

Two different wavelengths (points of view) exist in any conversation, but the specific thing we can improve on is this. Men can be impatient in conversations, while they wait for women to give facts and information they can work with. We can transmit that impatience to women without even realizing it. So, don’t be surprised when the customer grows cold, distant, withdrawn, and you never see her again.

To wrap this point up, men talk to give a report, but women talk to build rapport. That’s the general take-away; look for that trend among your customers, and apply some extra patience as needed on a case-by-case basis.

2 – Try to Earn Trust More Than Respect

Another popular view is that men would prefer to be respected more than loved, but women would prefer to be loved more than respected. I can’t speak for the other side, but in general terms that seems to be an observable phenomenon.

To that point, for those of us in sales, a compliment from a customer that they ‘trust us’ will more frequently come from female clients. Actually, I’m not sure any of my male clients have ever said that out loud, but I probably hope they at least think it.

While every customer wants to feel that they can trust us, this factor can be a little more important to women clients. Again, men would prefer to think that that they are getting a better deal (more respect, or a transaction is going in their favor), where women also need to feel like they are being treated fairly and are being cooperated with (that ‘relationship’ word again). It is a distinction, or so I’m told, made by women.

Examples help, because this can be murky stuff, but the murky stuff is where the extra money is hidden. If we tell a male client that we’ll call him at noon with the estimate on his car repairs, and don’t call till 3:00pm, he’ll probably think we’re as busy as he is and got delayed. Break that same ‘promise’ (yes, you probably didn’t realize your statement was interpreted by your female client as a promise) to a woman and she will think she can’t trust you. Now she thinks of you just like all the previous people in business she learned to ‘not trust.’ Goodbye customer, and you will never know why.

Like we said, no new skills are needed to retain more customers, just a little more awareness of the issues at play as we talk with clients.

3 – Think Venting Instead of Complaining

For this last point, lets lead with an example. Men, at the end of the day if you ask your spouse or significant other “How was your day?” they might typically respond with one word “Fine.” Instead of that, try saying this “Tell me about your day.” Then be quiet. Chances are you will be given a detailed narrative. I suggest you don’t squash the story with impatience. And if she tells you about a problem that is going on, you already know what to avoid. Don’t try to fix it for her; she merely wants to vent how she feels about the situation.

The point is similar in business transactions: When women clients are telling you things they don’t like about the transaction, or about issues or complaints they have, it doesn’t automatically mean they intend to stop doing business with you. They might very well understand that cars sometimes don’t get fixed right the first time, parts don’t arrive on time, and the like. Chances are the very same problems occur in her job too, and she understands that things just go wrong at times.

So, don’t jump to conclusions and see her complaints as objections you have to overcome. It could be that she simply trusts you enough to allow her vent all that frustration without fear that you will become combative over it. But if you cut her story off, that could be a bigger offence to her than any problem she was trying to solve. It won’t kill us to listen.

No New Skills

When paying clients take their business elsewhere, we lose the future streams of profits we could have earned from them. What is the cost to replace those lost clients? It’s huge. Divide your total advertising budget by the number of new clients your dealership gets every month. It’s expensive to acquire new clients. Your ROI is much higher on activities that will keep the customers you now have.

It’s a good investment, too, just a little time spent to review simple things like this with your staff. Think of it as a refresher in basics, and talk about the differences in communication styles between men and women.

In close, who said we can’t know the most important numbers in our businesses, like the number of customers who leave without telling us why? Dr. Edwards Deming, the legendary productivity and quality expert, who helped transform the Japanese industry into the powerhouse it is today, said that.