Tapping Into Your Customers' Irrational Subconscious

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Think you know what your customers want? Think again. In a new book <em>All Customers Are Irrational,</em> author William J. Cusick contends that customers are completely irrational, with 95 percent of the decision-making process occurring in the irrational subconscious. As a result, Cusick maintains that customers don't make clear-headed logical choices, which makes predicting what they do in the future impossible.

Think you know what your customers want? Think again.

In a new book All Customers Are Irrational, author William J. Cusick contends that customers are completely irrational, with 95 percent of the decision-making process occurring in the irrational subconscious. As a result, Cusick maintains that customers don't make clear-headed logical choices, which makes predicting what they do in the future impossible.I'm sure SPSS and SAS don't want you to read this book. And I'm not sure I buy into his arugment that all companies are approaching customer service the wrong way, but his theory about embracing new methods of attracting customers by appealing to their irrational side is interesting.

Cusick says that customers lie to themselves. Given that we often make decisions within the irrational part of the brain and only then notify the conscious mind, it's up to the conscious portion to rationalize why we do what we do. So we infer our feelings. In that case, if we're bad at telling ourselves the truth, we're even worse at predicting how we might act in the future.

Although he says companies can't predict the future, he offers advice on how to stay ahead of the curve:

Customers think in metaphors: Pictures and logos provide a direct conduit to a person's irrational subconscious. Therefore, is your company interacting, talking, and presenting your brand, products, and services with that in mind?

Customers apply human characteristics to inanimate objects: We recognize human characteristics within products. It's called "anthropomorphism." Are you designing products with a strong look and feel to help create an emotional connection?

Customers want products with every feature, but don't use most of them: Are companies balancing product designs to walk the line between being the next big thing and creating something that is comfortable and useful?

Customers tell themselves stories: People have a primal need to make sense of their lives, so everyone is constantly amending and editing stories within their subconscious. Is your company fitting into those stories?

Your customers are like you--irrational. Cusick says it's time to stop assuming and doing "business as usual." It's time to reevaluate how you deal with customers. "Beyond improved retention, the lower acquisition costs, and the healthier bottom line, you actually have a chance to make your customers' lives a little better," he says. "There's a lot to be said for that, isn't there?"

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