Why using ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ in sales can increase customer satisfaction

As a mattress salesperson or store owner, your interactions with customers play a crucial role in their overall satisfaction and likelihood of making a purchase. One simple but effective way to improve these interactions is by using the pronoun “I” instead of “we” when speaking to customers.

According to a study by Packard, Moore and McFerran, using “I” instead of “we” can increase customer satisfaction and sales. In fact, the study found that a 10% increase in the use of “I” resulted in a 0.8% increase in sales.

Since 90% of cases where “we” was used could be changed to “I,” this represents a total increase of 7%.

Traditionally, mattress salespeople have been taught to emphasize the “store” and downplay their “self.” This is why 92% of them would engage a customer with “What are we looking to do today,” rather than “My name is X and I am happy to fit you with a sleep system.”

But the opposite approach is more effective. When interacting with customers, using “I” (e.g. “I have exactly what you’re looking for”) instead of “we” (e.g. “We have exactly what you’re looking for”) can boost both customer satisfaction and sales.

The study found that using “I” instead of “we” works across all interaction types and situations, including inquiries, complaints, emails and in-person conversations. The study analyzed 1,277 customer service email interactions and sales data from a large online retailer.

In another experiment using real emails from six different companies, people were 19% more satisfied and had 15% higher purchase intentions when salespeople used “I” instead of “we.” However, emphasizing “you” (e.g. “Happy to answer your question”) had no positive effect, as it is already clear that the salesperson is referring to the customer if they are speaking to them.

So why does using “I” instead of “we” work?

According to the study, using “I” increases the customer’s perception that the salesperson is emotionally involved in the interaction and empathizes with them. This positive feeling spills over to the store, increasing the customer’s trust and likelihood of making a purchase.

On the other hand, using “we” makes the salesperson seem distant and more a part of the company than involved in the customer’s situation.

It’s worth noting that this research was conducted in English, so it’s unclear if and how the effects would differ for other languages. However, using “we” when referring to the salesperson and customer (“We”: salesperson + customer; e.g. “We can work this out together”) rather than the company (exclusive “We”: salesperson + company) is likely beneficial.

In conclusion, if you’re in management or a store owner, consider updating your training guidelines and encouraging your salespeople to see themselves as personally involved in the customer’s needs, rather than impersonal representatives of your company. Using “I” instead of “we” may feel counterintuitive at first, but it can make a big difference in your sales and customer satisfaction.

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