The Quiet Consumer

Ruthanne Terrero with the team in Las Vegas at Virtuoso Travel Week where St. Regis and Luxury Travel Advisor hosted a cocktail gathering for those Virtuoso advisors who have appeared on our cover over the years. Left to right: Chris Coon, Ruthanne Terrero, Jill Birkett, John McMahon and Kimberly Newbury.


A shop across the street from our New York office sells coffee, salad, paninis, yogurt and soup, whatever you need to get through the 9-to-5 routine. Four out of five times they get my order wrong. Instead of coffee with half-and-half and no sugar, it’ll be coffee with skim milk and Sweet-and-Low. A bran muffin will be a blueberry muffin. And for that once-a-year splurge on scrambled eggs and bacon on a buttered roll (yes, I just said that), I’ll get scrambled eggs, but not the bacon.

These consistent blunders are a serious problem if you’re running a food establishment. Why do I go back? Geography. If I’m at the corner and the light turns red and I have 30 seconds to kill, I’ll optimize my time by ducking in to this place for breakfast rather than wait aimlessly for the green light.

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My odd behavior helped me realize why other consumers purchase the way they do. They want to get an act done and over with even if there is a slight risk involved. Easy and stress-free access plays a big part in this.

Geography can be physical or virtual. A website called ZocDoc enables you to search for physicians using a matrix based on a location of your choice, your health insurance company and the doctor’s specialty. You can confirm your appointment online and supply notes for your visit. That’s a welcome switch from making that stressful phone call to an impatient attendant who repeatedly asks you to spell your last name as you try to explain that your right eye won’t stop twitching or that you stepped on a huge piece of glass five days ago but haven’t had time to deal with it and now it’s kind of an emergency.

Imagine the traveler who needs to get away because they just can’t stand the city anymore. The thing is, they’re embarrassed that they want to book just three days out so they don’t want to bother a travel agent who might be annoyed with that request. Plus, explaining the nuances of your family’s travel preferences to a human being, who might not get you or who is impatient, is completely anxiety-provoking and who needs that? And so the traveler goes online and gambles by booking the entire trip themselves.

This scenario is likely to happen more often than ever. People don’t want to inquire about a service by speaking to live people anymore if they don’t have to because they can’t control the outcome. It can even be a dramatic experience for some. Many now prefer having their needs met via e-mail or websites or apps. They can get immediate gratification on Instagram when strangers all over the world instantly like the photo they posted of what they’re having for breakfast or are wearing to work. This makes them happy. Speaking to a person who may be curt or not tuned in makes them feel sad and disconnected.

Consider this current dynamic if you’re seeking new clients. It’s more challenging than ever for people to cross the threshold of a new service provider if an online alternative is available. If you’re responding to a prospective client’s query, be sure your tone is friendly and immediately demonstrates that you don’t find simple questions annoying. Also, be sure to illustrate the number of wonderful options that are available to them if they work through you, a fellow human. By combining easy and graceful access to your services you’ll get them through your door. The next step will be to retain their services by remaining accessible, and by getting their requests correct, 100 percent of the time.

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