All Customers are Irrational: Understanding What They Think, What They Feel, and What Keeps Them Coming Back.
By William J. Cusick
WCU Graduate Student
William J. Cusick’s “All Customers Are Irrational: Understanding What They Think, What They Feel, and What Keeps Them Coming Back” goes inside the mind of what a customer is thinking on an emotional level. He provides an in depth view on what keeps customers coming back to an existing business.
As stated in the title of his book, all customers are irrational. Since we are all customers in one sense or another, everyone is irrational, not just the occasional customer yelling at a clerk for giving them mustard instead of ketchup at a fast food restaurant. He states that 95% of the decisions people make come from the “irrational subconscious.” The decision of a customer is not based on logic, so this makes it very difficult to predict what a customer is going to do in the future.
Cusick is the founder and CEO of Vox, Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on why customers do what they do. Throughout the book, Cusick provides examples from his childhood, to experiences he has faced throughout his adult life. In one such example, Cusick explains as a child, after his summer time job, he would continually go to a hot dog shack that was very hot inside. He even had to fight his way through a large crowd of people just to yell his order to the cashier! Just from this description, most people would not have the desire to go to this hot dog shack, but there was an underlying emotional reason why people would line up out the door to get a hot dog at this location. Even though it was a basic hot dog, it was a childhood tradition that had an emotional meaning for him and many others. Cusick noticed that the emotional drive to purchase things carried on in other ways as well throughout his life.
One key example of this was when he went to purchase a new luxury car he had always wanted, and this want was very motivated by emotion. Cusick purchases this car and shortly learns that the cup holders are not as functional as his previous vehicle when he has a drink that spills all over it. Turns out that this German engineered car did not put the same emphasis on cup holders as his previous vehicle. This was possibly a cultural difference in the value of cup holders, but the purchase of this luxury vehicle was emotionally based, not logically looking at the pros and cons of certain features that would serve a practical function.
According to Cusick, 95% of the choices we make are driven by subconscious thought. Because of this, one can infer that we are not making choices based on rational, conscious decision-making. Therefore, understanding the irrational subconscious of a customer is key for driving customer retention.
It is far less expensive for a company to keep existing customers than it is for a company to acquire new ones. Companies tend to focus too much on acquiring new customers by spending millions of dollars on marketing, when, if they focused on keeping just a small percent more of their existing customers on a yearly basis, their profit margins would grow exponentially over time.
Another way for businesses to connect with their customers on an emotional level is through a concept described as “brand promise.” A company that uses brand promise or brand intention is Southwest Airlines. Their brand promise is that they will deliver a low rate for flying for their customers. They do not promise comfortable seats and they do not even provide assigned seating, instead they focus on the low rates knowing it is something that they can consistently deliver for their customers. The customer’s only expectation is a low airfare rate. By promising low fares for flying and following through on this promise, Southwest is able to continually satisfy and create an emotional bond with their customers that keeps people coming back. This has helped them become one of the top-ranked airlines for years.
Another way to understand customer populations on an emotional level is to obtain pertinent and meaningful data about the customers and by studying customer behavior. One such way to collect this information is through a customer questionnaire. However, Cusick argues that there are better ways to obtain this information than customer questionnaires. Since we understand that customers are irrational, the data collected from the questionnaire may not actually paint a reliable depiction the opinion of the customer. It is important, as a company to put yourself in the shoes of the customer to better understand their experience with your company.
It all comes down to connecting with your customers on an emotional level. As customers, we are all irrational, not crazy. Based on brain research conducted by scientists, customers do act and make decisions on an irrational subconscious level. Making this connection will not only help gain new customers but also, more importantly, retain your existing customers.
Chris Towle is currently enrolled in the Master of Entrepreneurship program at Western Carolina University.
Additional Facts about the book:
Title: “All Customers Are Irrational: Understanding what the think, what they feel, what keeps them coming back.”
Author: William J. Cusick.
Length: 229 pages
Publisher: American Management Association
Reading time: 7 hours.
Reading Rating: 6 (1 =very difficult; 10 = very easy).
Overall Rating: 4 (1 = average; 4 = outstanding).