Understanding Irrational Customers

 


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I know a marketer who thinks his offer is bulletproof.

He proposes to save executives many hours a month by improving their performance in using the software programs upon which they rely, every day. Not only this, but he’s willing to guarantee that their productivity will improve. If they don’t get sharper after receiving his training, they don’t have to pay.

It’s a nice offer.

But, many, many people simply haven’t taken him up on it, and this chagrins him. He wonders, “How can they say no? Are they crazy!”

Today, I received a sales call promoting a free, 30-day trial on a wireless telephone headset with a range as long as a football field. I declined, twice, actually.

The caller seemed flummoxed. “Why?” she challenged.

How can I lose? If I don’t like it, I can return it. What’s wrong with me? I must be a nut, right?

It’s easy to call customers crazy, but are we?

There is logic in customer decision-making, but it isn’t always obvious, we don’t always like it, and it doesn’t always follow the laws of economics or even what we consider to be common sense. Yet if we hope to fulfill the promise of CRM, or to simply improve our sales, marketing, and customer service efforts, we should map the underlying reasoning that informs what we commonly dismiss as irrationality.

For instance, what could be preventing the consultant’s prospects from seizing his offer?

Ten obstacles come to mind

(1) Inertia (i. e. laziness)
(2) Credibility
(3) Adopter habits
(4) Conflicts of interest
(5) Ego & Competitiveness
(6) Bad timing
(7) Poor Past Experience With A Competitor
(8) Paid For, or Free Alternatives
(9) A Lousy Mood, Acid Reflux, Hangover, Hunger, & Other Maladies
(10) Fear

Let’s examine these invisible reasons customers say no.

(1) Inertia (i. e. laziness)

The customer who fails to buy could be saying, “Heck, we’ve gotten along without it so far, so why change now?” This sentiment goes by many names, including apathy, no fire in the belly, no pain, no motivation.

(2) Credibility

Some prospects balk because they just don’t believe us. Perhaps we have signaled insecurity or ineffectiveness or a lack of trustworthiness. Possibly, our offer of a guarantee is backfiring, making the buyer believe we must be desperate to need such a hook.

(3) Adopter Habits

If what you’re offering is truly new, there are many folks who simply don’t want to be on the leading edge, and avoid trying it until it has been proven. Statistically, in any marketing population, you’ll find a trendy few, who love novelty and spend freely, some who lag way behind everyone else, and are tightfisted. Most folks are smack in the middle, mainstreamers, who will buy after they feel it is safe to do so, or after seeing others jump onto the bandwagon.

(4) Conflicts of Interest

Once I was doing a marketing survey and I asked a corporate manager what the impact would be if I could help her firm to slash telemarketing turnover, which was rampant and costing a small fortune.

Unexpectedly, she replied somewhat sheepishly, “I guess I’d be out of a job. I do the training here, and turnover is what’s keeping me busy!”

Clearly, she would not support bringing me in as a consultant if it meant she’d be facing unemployment, right?

(5) Ego & Interpersonal Competitiveness

Some people just don’t want anybody else’s help. They want to bake the cake all by themselves, and accept the applause. Pity.

(6) Bad Timing

Once I called a fellow who literally shouted back, “Never call me again!” By mistake, the next day I called again. And he was a totally different species. He bought from me, without any shrieking. Amazing, but I guess I just called at the wrong time, the day before.

(7) Poor Past Experience With A Competitor

I knew I had a lot to offer to one prospect, but he said he had been burned before and was simply unwilling to try again, Yes, yes, he knew I was a different person, with a better track record, but his memory haunted him.

(8) Paid For & Free Alternatives

It’s next to impossible to sell a book or a tape series to someone who has purchased even an unrelated title, yet still hasn’t used it. Or, if they think they can receive anything akin to your service for free, you’re doomed

(9) A Lousy Mood, Acid Reflux, a Hangover, Hunger, & Other Maladies & Distractions

What’s there to say? A lot of people are distracted when they should be dispassionately evaluating our propositions on their merits.

(10) Fear

Some people in business are so risk averse that they shouldn’t be in business. Any and all decisions are marked by stress and great agitation, so if they can avoid making decisions they do so, no matter how attractive they might be to other people.

So, why didn’t I bite on the headset offer?

I relish the feeling of hand-to-hand, telephone combat. It’s a little retro, but I like it.

These are just some of the non-economic factors involved in customer decision-making.

You might say they’re the “silent objections” that our prospects foster, that we probably give far too little thought to, because we’re too busy dismissing them as being “irrational. ”

Dr. Gary S. Goodman © 2005

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. Gary’s programs are offered by UCLA Extension and by numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. http://www.Customersatisfaction.com

When he isn’t consulting, Gary can usually be found in Glendale, California, where he makes his home. He can be reached by calling (818) 243-7338 or at gary@customersatisfaction.com

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