Be Rational About Your Irrationality!

You are irrational. Your friends are irrational. Your boss is irrational. Unless you happen to know a Vulcan, everyone you know is irrational.

I am irrational, too. People are irrational by nature. Irrational behavior makes some business leaders nervous; it is so unpredictable and hard to track. However, hard to track or not, emotions and the psychological responses they trigger affect our buying decisions.

In my new book, The Intuitive Customer: 7 imperatives for moving your Customer Experience to the next level, co-written with Professor Ryan Hamilton of Emory University, we explore the influence of our emotions on our behavior as customers. The first imperative addresses this irrationality we all share in our human experience:

Imperative 1: Recognize that customers decide emotionally and justify rationally

Research has proven that over 50% of the Customer Experience involves emotions, at both conscious and subconscious levels. Emotions are also a huge influence on our behavior.

Don’t believe me? I’ll prove my point. Ask yourself, would you walk down this alley?

Why not? Many of you might say you wouldn’t because it looks dangerous. But you don’t know that, do you? You are making a judgment based on the information your brain is taking in about the alley. For most of us, that information makes us feel wary or scared of getting into trouble in the alley. So we don’t walk there, even though we have no actual proof that we would get into danger in the alley.

Here’s another question: have you ever pounded your mouse on the desk, pressed the enter key extra hard, or tap-tap-tapped frantically on the “Esc” key when your technology hangs up? Me, too. We do this because we are frustrated, scared, or stressed and pounding/pressing/tap-tap-tapping feels like the thing to do, even though our logical mind knows it’s a waste of time (and likely to make the problem worse!).

So these are all great examples of irrational behavior we exhibit in a non-consumer situation, our greater human experience. But what about when we are customers? As Customer Experience Consultants, we see irrational behavior by customers all the time. For instance, have you ever

bought something at a big box department store, but reached behind the first couple on the shelf because you wanted a package without all the other shoppers’ cooties on it?

chosen a store because it had a great selection of the thing you wanted to buy, but then left without buying anything because you were overwhelmed by all the choices?

gone to the market to buy milk and then left with 12 other items you saw once you were at the store (like cookies that were on sale)?

Like I said, humans are irrational by nature especially when they are Customers! People buy emotionally (“Look! Cookies. I want cookies; they taste good!”) and then justify irrationally (“The cookies were on sale, so I bought them!”).

Organizations that understand and embrace the fact that people are irrational and buy emotionally have a much better chance of using these facts to their advantage. However, it doesn’t mean that the organization “takes advantage” of customers. What’s so great about embracing these imperatives and addressing the emotions in your Customer Experience is that it makes your experience better for everybody. By evoking the proper emotions from your irrational customers, the ones that drive value for the customer and the organization’s bottom line – everyone wins.

We are irrational. We need to recognize that as humans, our emotions have an enormous influence on what we do. They shape our thinking, influence our biases and help us make judgments about walking down dark alleys. They have us pawing through the shelves for clean packages at the store and snatching cookies up “because they were such a good deal!” In many ways, it is because of these emotions that we live long and prosper, much to the chagrin of our Vulcan friends.

What do you think? Do customers use emotions first and logic second when buying things? I’d be interested to hear what you think in the comments below.

Published On: 6th Sep 2016 - Last modified: 6th Feb 2019
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