The ancient Greeks first introduced the concept that the earth was round in the 6th century BC. However, it took until the 17th century AD to convince the hold-outs. Now, we laugh a little at the idea that people ever argued the point. However, today, we have some business beliefs just as outlandish that some people carry on believing despite all evidence to the contrary.
What are these beliefs? How about:
- Customer experiences are entirely rational.
- People are logical, rational beings and make decisions in that way.
- People only buy on price.
- People don’t buy emotionally, especially in the “business-to-business” arena
- Improving your customer experience only adds cost to the business.
- Quality is the only key factor.
If you believe these concepts above, then you have a lot in common with the poor bloke in China that thought the earth was square back in the 1600s. I applaud your tenacity to continue to believe these things despite all evidence to the contrary.
To be fair, I understand. These concepts have been taught to you since childhood, and it’s only in the past couple of decades that we have proven otherwise. However, if you are open to hearing me out, you will discover the key to creating an excellent customer experience for your organisation – and it isn’t being the cheapest!
Customers are people, imperfect and irrational
The fact is, we are all people, not robots. That means we are not hyper-rational automatons. Even if we admire logic and rationality, and pride ourselves on our strengths in these areas, we are still human beings, and still imperfect and irrational.
It is important to believe this concept, or you won’t be able to shake off your old beliefs and move into the brave new world. Sure, we all like to think that we are logical and rational, saving our emotional outbursts for questionable calls on the field or when the internet goes out, but it’s not the case. Embracing your irrationality is the first step.
Understanding psychology is vital to anticipate behaviour
The way the brain works is fascinating. The more you learn about how you think, the more it becomes clear that rationality is far from the most often accessed part of your thinking. More than that, the more irrational and emotional thinking influences your rationality a lot more than you realise. As a result of these complexities, it is important to understand how people think and the psychology behind their thinking so you can better anticipate their needs.
When I was in sales, I worked at a couple of different organisations, including Mars Confectionery for five years in the late 70s, early 80s. I was in account sales, which (to keep it short and sweet) means I was supposed to sell more product. For those in sales, you know this means I asked for the order. A lot. I learned quickly, however, that how you ask for the order matters. A lot.
For example, once I had reached the point in the selling process where it was time to ask for the order, I always presented three options. Typically, it followed this format: The smallest, cheapest and least likely to succeed option was first; the largest, most expensive option was third; and the one I wanted them to pick and which would be the best for their needs (and budget) was in the middle. Many of you likely also know this trick because it works handsomely.
It works because it uses the psychology of how people choose. Most of us default to the medium option. We choose it for drinks, rental cars, photo packages, and anything else that comes in small, medium, and large. Whether the medium option is the best value (read: lowest price) rarely comes into play. We see the options and want to make a decision quickly, so we pick the one in the middle.
In other words, when you know how people think, you can anticipate what they will do. Most importantly, you can serve them better as a result.
Price is important, just not as much as you think
We make our decisions emotionally and then justify them with rationality.
Our emotions drive our actions, and we create a logical explanation for our behaviour afterward. Moreover, this behaviour shows that we value so much more than a low price.
If you don’t believe me, then answer this question: Did you buy the shoes you wear because they were the cheapest option available or because they were what you wanted to wear at a price you were willing to pay? My guess is that, for all but a very few of us, it’s the latter.
What’s true for you is also true for your customers. They also are not rational beings. They make decisions about your products and services based on all kinds of factors, which do include price and quality. It just isn’t restricted to those two criteria. Other factors come into play. It is here, in the ‘other’ criteria, that you have an opportunity to create a customer experience that appeals to people and keeps them coming back for more.
Maybe it’s by listening and demonstrating empathy when a customer is having a problem.
Maybe it’s by suggesting personalised products that meet your customer’s specific needs based on what you hear or notice about their account.
Maybe it’s by giving your customers an easy way to navigate your process that seems to anticipate their needs.
Maybe it’s all of these (hint, hint…).
These other criteria matter more than you think. They are the factors that customers remember later when they reflect on your company. They are what makes them decide to drive past three of your competitors to get to your retail location. It’s why they click on your emails, sign up for your rewards club, and sign the two-year contract.
It’s time to shake off the old ways of doing business and embrace the new ways of thinking. After all, we have all seen beyond a shadow of a doubt that the earth is round. There was a time when that idea was laughable. Now it’s laughable to imagine anything else. As it pertains to new ways of thinking in business, the question becomes how long until we all see understanding how customers’ emotions influence behaviour rounds out your customer experience?
To learn more about these fascinating and compelling concepts for business, join us for our free book launch webinar The Intuitive Customer: 7 Imperatives for moving your Customer Experience to the next level (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading customer experience consultancy & training organisations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.