3 Ways My Coffee Shop Used Psychology to Convert Me into a Loyal Customer

convert into customer
"All things equal people will do business with, and refer business to, people they know, trust, and like." -Bob Burg

You might already know I have a love affair with coffee. 

It’s true, it’s one of my favorite parts of my morning ritual. So, please don’t tell me it isn’t good for me….

My guy and I brew our coffee at home and spent some time on the hunt for the ‘best’ beans. We finally found them at a small shop around the corner from our Manhattan apartment. We knew they were it as soon as we tasted the chocolate notes. 

This shop's bags of coffee are a little pricier, so for a while, we would go back and forth between the ‘good stuff’ and running to the grocery store for one of our other (less expensive) favs.

Then, a few things happened that converted us and turned us into loyal, over-priced-coffee fiends. 

First, the local coffee shop started giving out a free coffee of your choice every time you buy a bag of beans. Hello, cold brew.

Then, we became “regulars”. As regulars, we’ve come to know and like the people who work at the coffee shop, we’ve made relationships with them (we’ve even brought them cookies), and as a result, we get smiles, conversation, and the occasional extra free coffee.

Enough to convert us and warrant the higher price.

Back home, drinking my free cold brew while I put my ‘fancy’ beans away, it dawned on me that this coffee shop had taken us from people walking by, to people trying their coffee, to people who bought their coffee on special occasion, to loyal ‘regulars.’

Whether they realized it or not, the shop was employing the power of psychology, which turns out to be pretty dang powerful in its influence to keep us coming back time after time even despite the higher price tag.

There are three interesting psychological factors at play here that Robert Cialdini (who I was lucky enough to hear speak at The Digital Marketing Conference!) talks about in his famous book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. And, no, my psychological addiction to caffeine isn’t one of them!

1. They were (whether they realized it or not) employing the power of reciprocity. 

Cialdini explains that humans are wired to want to repay what people give us - favors, gifts, invitations, etc. When we get something of value for free (even if we don’t want it), we feel obligated to reciprocate. 

This has been shown in study after study, which is why freebies litter the internet and beauty counters.

Intentional or not, I realized my coffee habit was in part due to this psychological phenomenon. The free coffee with purchase and the additional free coffees here and there, caused me to want to “repay” the favor and come back again.

Business Takeaway for You and Me: find ways to authentically (don’t be slimy) give value for free. How can you find a way to serve and give something away?

2. The power of association.

Another factor Cialdini talks about is the psychological influence of association; “An innocent association with either bad things or good things will influence how people feel about us.”

We’re emotional beings, and we take those feelings and associate them with people, places, and things. These associations influence the decisions we make.

Every time I walk out of the coffee shop with a free coffee and friendly conversation, I have a caffeine-free buzz. This gives me an extra pep in my step that I associate with the coffee shop.

Considering about 95 percent of our buying decisions happen subconsciously, I’d bet that I subconsciously lean toward the ‘fancy’ coffee shop because I associate it with feeling good.

Business Takeaway for You and Me: Find ways to create positive associations with your business, brand, products, and services. How can you increase the positive emotions people feel when interacting with your business and brand?

3. We buy from people we like. 

We hear about the ‘know, like, and trust’ factor all the time, and my coffee shop is a prime example of the power of likeability. 

We tend to buy from people and companies we feel we know, we like, and we trust. 

“Few people would be surprised to learn that, as a rule, we most prefer to say yes to requests of someone we know and like,” says Cialdini.

The smiles, friendly banter, and connection at the coffee shop bumped their likability factor way up.

This has us going back week after week, even after we’ve found coffee of equal taste but disinterested customer service elsewhere. 

Business Takeaway for You and Me: in a non-manipulative way, how can you increase your likeability? What can you do to up your level of connection with existing and potential clients and customers?

What does this mean for you and me?

Business truly is all about relationships and connection. The power of good customer service is just as important (if not more) than the product or service itself.

It boils down to what I was taught growing up as a kid: be nice, treat others how you want to be treated, find ways to make other people feel good, and do things for other people without expecting anything in return.

Thanks for the coffee talk today!

Wishing you your version of success,

XO, Kim