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When CX negatives become a selling point

360 Magazine 
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When CX negatives become a selling point

Sure, never say “never,” except in this case: I will never – ever – get a tattoo.

I have nothing against those who have had ink sewn into their skin. It’s just that I know, based on my low tolerance for needles, general squeamishness and knowledge of how the human body ages, that I could never go through the process. It wouldn’t really matter what kind of customer experience (CX) a tattoo artist offered.

For some reason, however, my eyes were drawn to the sandwich board outside a tattoo parlour in downtown Toronto recently. I didn’t take note of the company’s name, but its motto was unforgettable:

“Making You Cry Since 1994.”

This was immediately interesting to me, because at first glance it seemed so at odds with what we typically think of as a welcoming start to a customer journey.

The conventional wisdom is that a brand would introduce itself to prospective customers by focusing on the fun elements, the ease of getting what you want or the long-term value of participating in the experience.

Why would a tattoo parlour emphasize a negative – the pain – instead?

The answer’s easy, of course. You just have to talk to anyone who’s gotten a tattoo or step into the persona of one.

For many, going through the excruciating discomfort is offset by embedding an image or symbol that serves as a silent but often highly personal form of self-expression.

Tattoos are also a long-term commitment, which makes them also a sort of fixed badge of honor. It takes guts both to get and to live with a tattoo potentially for the rest of your days. No wonder so many tattoo parlours celebrate this as part of their CX by having the procedure done in a storefront window, in full view of passers-by.

Making you cry,” in other words, suggests being one of the tattoo parlour’s customers puts them in an elite category of brave individuals.

Crying makes you one of the special ones.

This reminded me, in a way, of the cough syrup brand Buckley’s, which years ago decided to lean into its reputation for having a gag-inducing flavor. “It tastes awful,” the ads said, “and it works.”

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It’s not always possible to turn CX negatives into positives, of course.

A grocery store with long lineups is just irritating.

Overpriced retailers can extol the superior quality of their products, but we all know there are huge markups, and that sometimes you’re really just paying for a logo.

The negatives only become a marketing tool when they are just one preliminary step in achieving an outcome that is really worth it to customers.

You need to confront the mountain you’re making customers climb while hinting at the kind of victory they’ll enjoy once they’ve reached the summit.

Make customers cry if you must – but on some level they should be happy tears.

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