The Key to Reducing Customer Anxiety: Answering the ‘Why?’

April 22, 2020 By 0 Comments
Credit: Getty images by JGI/Jamie Grill

When I was but a wee lad tramping along the boggy peat (er, make that meadow lands) of the Garden State – I stuck a screwdriver in an electric socket. Judge me now, sure.

But here’s why I did it – my mom told me not to.

More specifically, my mom told me not to, but she didn’t tell me why I shouldn’t. So, I discovered the why for myself (word to the wise, no matter how bored you are under stay-at-home orders, you do not want to try this yourself).

‘Because I Said So’ Is Killing Your Conversion Rates

“Because I said so” might be an effective parenting style, but it is a lousy marketing approach. The marketer has to counter buyer anxiety in the purchase funnel. This is always true, but especially more pressing in the age of coronavirus.

One way to help reduce customer anxiety is to explain the “why?” behind certain anxiety-inducing elements of your purchasing and lead generation funnels. Many times, there are perfectly logical reasons within a company, but when those reasons are not communicated to the customer, you only increase their anxiety and ultimately lose that conversion.

Here are three examples.

Customer Anxiety Example No. 1: Error Messages

A few months ago, we conducted in-person team conversion marketing training of the MECLABS Institute Value Proposition Development course to a group of 200 at a major company. I flew to Toronto (remember when that was a thing people did?) for the training.

There is a small airport right in the heart of Toronto – Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport – that was right by the training, so my colleague and I wanted to fly in there (it ended up being so close that we were able to walk to our hotel and back, talk about low-carbon transportation.)

Here was the challenge: It was served by Porter Airlines, a small Canadian airline we had never heard of. Porter doesn’t serve Jacksonville, Fla. So I did a little online sleuthing, and it turned out the airline was code share partners with JetBlue, so we bought our tickets through JetBlue.

I give you the backstory because this purchase process caused a little customer anxiety in me: JetBlue isn’t like the major airlines when it comes to code share partners. I didn’t even know they had code share partners. And I’d never even heard of Porter Airlines.

Fast forward to the day before departure. Both my colleague and I try to check-in online to get our boarding passes (we were flying on the same itinerary), and we get the following message:


Sorry, we were unable to complete your transaction. Please see a representative at the airport for further assistance.

That error message did not provide any reason why we were unable to check in.

I did realize this error may be because this was an international flight, and I had to show my passport before getting a boarding pass.

However, because of the slightly non-traditional way we booked, what if that wasn’t the case? What if they didn’t have our itinerary? I wouldn’t know until I was at the airport and ready to leave. And then I would miss the corporate conversion marketing training with almost 200 attendees. Customer service wasn’t able to provide any additional info.

Ack! Anxiety.

JetBlue could have alleviated this customer anxiety with a clearer error message. I assume its system knows why I couldn’t check in. If it clearly communicated that I had to show my passport in-person at the airport (which turned out to be the case), that would have seriously alleviated my anxiety.

Go through the same processes your customers go through with your company. Make mistakes on purpose to see what happens. Or even better, have a total neophyte you know go through the process. Is this error messaging clear? Does it exacerbate or mitigate anxiety? Is it clear enough to help the customer complete the process, get more information, make the purchase, etc.?

Customer Anxiety Example No. 2: Customer-Supplied Information

Remember when Radio Shack used to ask for your phone number when you bought batteries?

Some people would simply hand over their digits without questioning. But others were more cautious — wait a minute, why do you need my phone number?

Fast forward a few years, and customer anxiety around privacy and personal information has hugely increased.

What information are you asking for in your forms? Throughout your funnel? In the purchase process?

Two different forms with five fields will not convert at the exact same rate. Some fields have a much higher mental cost than other form fields. For example, people will much more easily hand over their first name than their phone number. Just exactly why do you want my phone number? Will I get endless calls?

Go through your forms and your entire funnel. What high-anxiety information are you asking for? The best way to decrease anxiety is to simply remove that ask.

However, if asking for certain sensitive information is critical to the business — Social Security Number, income, etc. — clearly communicate what the benefit is to the customer.

Let me reiterate that last point: You have to take a strong customer-first approach to help customers overcome this anxiety. Don’t tell your customers why your business needs or wants this information, tell them what their benefit is for providing it.

Customer Anxiety Example No. 3: Calls to Action

You can’t see what’s on the other side of a great leap. And that causes anxiety.

Proposing marriage. Changing careers. Sticking a screwdriver in an electric socket (for the large audience of five-year-olds that reads Target Marketing, I want to reiterate – do not do this).

But there is some anxiety in taking micro leaps as well, like following through on a call to action.

You can help relieve that customer anxiety with clearer copy.

Here’s an example from an experiment conducted with a MECLABS conversion marketing services client. The client was trying to get professors to order sample textbooks. If they ended up choosing the textbooks for their classes, that resulted in a lot of textbook orders. The copy on the call-to-action button was changed in the different treatments:

  • Treatment 2: REQUEST A FREE COPY

Treatment 2 generated 132% higher clickthrough rate. This is only a difference of a few words, but there are many lessons to be learned from why Treatment 2 performed better.

One reason is because Treatment 2 reduced the anxiety for the customer, the anxiety of what was on the other side of the micro leap taken when they click on that button. “Order” implies making a purchase more so than “request” does.

You order at a restaurant or bar, order a part, order tickets to the Jacksonville Jaguars game, or order from a catalog. All things that cost money.

However, you request information, request a song from a DJ, or request a favor from a friend. All things that don’t tend to cost money.

Order implies payment is necessary, when in fact, there was no payment needed in the next step of this process.

And then, of course, “free copy” reiterates that no money is going to be requested on the next step, as opposed to “sample” which can sometimes require a cost.

So think about how you can provide the “why?” for prospects and customers in an effort to help reduce anxiety. It’s an effort that will go a long way.

Looking for other ways to improve your CTAs? Here are six quick call-to-action checklists to help you improve your conversion rate. We ask for your email address in this form so we can email you free content to help improve your marketing.