The placebo effect is the idea that your brain can convince your body a fake treatment is the real thing and thus stimulate healing. It has been around for ages, but now science has shown that under the right circumstances a placebo can be just as effective as a traditional treatment. It’s been shown to be more than just positive thinking because it’s creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together. But even with the placebo effect, the patient still needs the treatment as the placebo simply enhances it. This even works when the patient knows they are getting a placebo.

It seems that the placebo effect in medicine works because it engages feel good neurotransmitters like endorphins and dopamine which create feelings of improved mood, emotional reactions and self-awareness.

How does this relate to business?

We all produce solutions to our customers problems. But so often we produce a technical solution but don’t fully engage with the emotional response that we want our customers to have, which would help them utilise your solution to its best effect and therefore be better satisfied with your service.

A hotel example

We’ve just been away to Malta for a week. We mentioned how the hotel creates sticky customers.   There was capacity built into staffing, so that they could all spend a moment with us. That started with management and went all the way to the gardener. That created a positive emotional response to that business in us, as customers. They will be our first choice in future.

How we work and why

Here at Hixsons, we already follow this example. We have capacity built in so that we can talk to our clients about whatever is on their mind, and become their trusted advisor. We don’t just run to the timesheet, making sure that we can bill every possible moment. That may be efficient, but it’s not helping our clients. And we don’t want them to think that every time they talk to us, it costs them.

Getting accounts out on time and accurately, and completing tax returns are all hygiene factors. As a minimum it’s giving you peace of mind. You deserve more than the minimum. With time to invest with clients, we’re partnering with them, to try and increase their confidence in their business and themselves, and make them happier and more fulfilled. That may or may not mean growing their business. We’ve talked before about why growth may not be the best measure. What it does mean is that it’s driven by their objectives, with no assumptions on our part.

How to evoke the placebo effect

To evoke the placebo effect in your business, it’s about instilling confidence and taking time. It’s been proved in a medical environment that the doctor who has time to listen, empathise and show that they care will get a better medical result than if the patient feels rushed. The patient is getting the medicine and the placebo effect is enhancing its benefit.

To make this happen in your business, this needs to become a ritual, so that your customers are comfortable that you are competent, committed, and caring.

You still have to be business like, because that is demonstrating competence, but there can be an element of performance, so that it’s clear that you are empathetic and have whatever time they need to deal with their concerns. What you will be doing is giving them the confidence that they’ve made the right choice.

A warning note

Be careful that demonstrating competence and being business-like is not translated into looking the most professional you can be with expensive offices and cars, certificates littering the wall and anything else that could be construed as being more about you than about them. Ensure it’s obvious that they are more important than you. After all, they are paying your wages.

But we do this already!

Do you really? You probably look and sound business like and professional because you are. But is this embodied in a deliberate ritual, so you can be sure that your customers get the most benefit? Looking and sounding business like isn’t a short cut to evoking empathy and understanding. Sometimes, if it looks like it’s all about you, it gets in the way.

Review how you present yourself and your business, and develop a simple ritual so that you remember to stop and listen, ask questions and show empathy.

Simple rituals

It can be a short checklist that you run through in your head such as this:

Is the environment welcoming? Or is it a little stark? Can you change that?

How can I put my customer at ease?

Ask how they are. Sound as though you really want to know, not a simple “How are you” – no platitudes.

What’s concerning them about the world in general and their situation? Find points of mutual concern and agreement. Spend some time chatting. The more you know about how your customer is feeling, the better you can help them.

How can you help them? Let them explain in as many words as they like. Don’t jump in with solutions, even if they are obvious. Let them be heard. Show understanding – nodding, saying “tell me more.”

Offer a solution, or maybe 2 or 3, so your customer gets involved in the process. You want a  conversation throughout, not a Q&A session, with you, the expert. Good for your ego, but not your customer. No egos allowed.

Once a decision is reached, summarise who has to do what by when.

Thank them for coming and asking for your help.

Talk to your customers as you would talk to a friend.

The point of this checklist is to take what you already do and ensure that these are deliberate acts.

The benefits it brings

Customers will get better results from using your services or products and will therefore be more likely to recommend you to others, and to repeat buy. In other words they will become sticky customers, not because you have the most superior technical solution, but because you are the most empathetic and caring supplier. And from that they get a solution that fits their needs best.

How we can help you

We are all about helping you achieve the best life-work (not work-life) balance for you. We do what you need to keep you on the right side of the taxman, answer all your questions, and make helpful suggestions. Always recognising that your business is a tool for you, not an end in itself. We help you plan to live your best life for longer. Helping you to enjoy the journey as well as the result, and to be happy.  An initial chat won’t cost you anything, so phone on  01202 520010 or email