4 Amazing Examples On How Easily Manipulated We Are

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behavioral economy

The last couple of weeks I have been knee-deep in books, blogs and videos on behavioral economy and social psychology. They are fascinating subjects; a look in to the underlying psychological factors that shape the decisions we make. What strikes me the most is how unbelievably easy we are to manipulate.

I, for one, like to think I’m pretty much in control of the decisions I make. I have worked in sales and marketing for years, I think I can spot the “tricks” a mile away. No .9 charm price is going to sway my decision. I know the fresh fruit and veggies are placed at the entrance to the supermarket, it won’t fool me in to thinking that the rest of the supermarket is an abundance of freshness.

It is easy to spot the “bigger” persuasion techniques, such as .9 pricing and “deal of the day”, they might draw your attention to a product, but I think most of us will base our decision to buy on a weighing of costs and benefits, and not just because it had a .9 price or was labeled a certain way.

It’s the small little manipulation techniques that have me completely intrigued and perplexed at the same time.

Want someone to like you – hand them a warm cup of coffee

Our brains work in mysterious ways, the interconnected neural network that inhabits first floor does not seem to be very good at separating seemingly unrelated events.

For years, Professor John Bargh has proven how easily we can be primed to feel a certain way. In numerous experiments he has tested the effect of having someone hold a warm or cold beverage first and then ask them to rate a stranger’s friendliness afterwards.

The people who were given the warm beverage, felt the person was kind, friendly and when asked if they would hire the person for a job, they said they likely would.

The exact opposite was true for the group of people who held the cold beverage, they were much less inclined to hire the stranger and they had a much lower opinion of the stranger’s friendliness.

How on earth can this be true? Well, according to Nathalie Nahai, author of “Webs of Influence”, the part of our brain responsible for processing physical temperature, is also involved in processing interpersonal warmth, and the same area also plays a role in our social emotions, such as empathy, trust, embarrassment and guilt.

Our brains simply can’t distinguish between these unrelated events, because they are processed by the same area of the brain. This explains why these experiments keep showing the same results time and time again, even when people have been forewarned that external influences are at play.

As a public service I’d just like to say – beware of politicians and salespeople handing you warm cups of coffee!

One word makes all the difference

In a fascinating TEDtalk psychologist Elizabeth Loftus talks about false memory. She describes memory as a bit like a Wikipedia page, we can construct pages ourselves and add new information – but so can other people. A bit scary really.

In an experiment they constructed a scene of an accident and showed it to people. Afterwards they asked half how fast the cars were going when they hit. The other half were asked how fast the cars were going when they smashed.

Just by changing one single word, hit/smashed, the results were remarkably different. The “hit” people estimated that the cars travelled at 34 mph and the “smashed” people estimated 41 mph.

Moreover the “smashed” people were more than twice as likely to say that they saw broken glass in the scene, when in fact there wasn’t any.

All it took was one single leading word and suddenly the whole incident was more dramatic and more violent.

I don’t even want to start speculating where evil people could and do use techniques such as this!

The power of default

If you really want people to choose a particular option, make it the default.

A study done on the percentage of a nation’s population willing to donate their organs to medicine after death showed some remarkable results.

Opt-in opt-out study

It seem the people of Denmark are particularly cold hearted and unwilling to donate organs, whereas the good folks of Sweden are much more inclined to donate. How can this be? Denmark and Sweden are culturally similar nations, as are the Netherlands and Belgium, and Germany and Austria. How can it be that some nations are so much more willing to donate than others?

Turns out that when the questionnaire was handed out, the countries on the left hand side were asked to tick a box to opt-in if they wanted to donate their organs.

The countries on the right hand side were asked to tick a box to opt-out if they didn’t want to donate their organs.

And what did people do? The exact same thing – they didn’t tick anything! Resulting in dramatically different results.

So can you trust statistics? Well, only to the degree you can trust the person who designed the questionnaire or the form you are filling out, as the design will have a dramatic effect on the end result.

As Benjamin Disraeli, 19th century English Prime Minister, said “there are lies, damned lies and then there is statistics”. Seems he might have been on to something…

It is for this same reason that 42% of people click on the first result on search engines result pages and only 8% click on the second result. We choose what is served, whether out of laziness or a blind trust in other people’s choices, I don’t know. What is truly remarkable is, that even if you switch the first and second search result around (which should then serve you a lesser quality result first) people still choose the first option!

Want something to look fantastic? Place it next to something inferior.

My favorite behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, gives in his book Predictably Irrational some startling examples of how attractiveness really and truly is relative.

For example, did you know that restaurants can increase their overall revenue by including high-priced entrées on the menu, even if no one buys them? How can this be, I hear you ask. Well, people will typically not choose the most expensive dish on the menu, but they are inclined to choose the second most expensive dish. So by including a high-priced dish, you can lure people into choosing the second most expensive dish.

The same persuasion technique comes in to play in many product displays. Imagine you were looking at buying a new TV, and you were presented with these three TV options:

  • 36 inch Panasonic for $690
  • 42 inch Toshiba for $850
  • 50 inch Philips for $1480

Which one seems like the better deal? Is the Panasonic a better deal than the Philips? $1480 might be a bit hot, and 36 inch might be a bit small. Likely you will choose the middle option, because next to the other two, this one seems like the best deal.

And finally, my favorite, imagine you were going on a vacation, you have to choose between Rome and Paris. It’s a tough choice, both vacation packages come inclusive of hotel, breakfast and sightseeing tours.

If your travel agent really wants to sell Rome, he will include a second but inferior Rome option, like Rome without the breakfast. You will immediately recognize that Rome and Paris all inclusive are similarly attractive options, and you will also recognize that Rome without breakfast is an inferior option.

What happens is that this inferior option makes Rome with breakfast seem even better. In fact so much better, that now Rome with breakfast looks even more attractive than Paris with breakfast. And next thing you know, you have booked your vacation in Rome – with breakfast.

I hope you have enjoyed these few examples of just how easy we are to manipulate. I don’t really like the word manipulate, it is a very negatively charged word, and I don’t think these techniques are only for “evil” use by any means. I am simply fascinated by how seemingly small and insignificant things can have a huge impact on the choices we make, and I think we would be wise to slow down sometimes and think before we act.

Why Lead Nurturing is the World’s Best Pre-sale Service

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Lead nurturingFirst off, what exactly is lead nurturing?

According to Forrester it is “ a process by which leads are tracked and developed into sales-qualified leads”

When you are standing in the supermarket with a chocolate bar in your hand, you might not need very much nurturing before you decide you are just not yourself without the Snickers. Your sugar cravings will take care of all the nurturing required.

But if you are an accountant sitting in your office already dreading next year’s tax season, you might be looking around for some software that will make your life easier. Now the tax season is months away and you have to convince your boss to invest in the software first, so you wouldn’t exactly be in a position to click the “ad to cart” button quite yet.

So lead nurturing is everything that happens in the time between a potential customer’s first interaction with a company and the time when they are actually ready to purchase.

As a marketer the last thing I want to happen is that you (play along with me – you are the accountant) visit my website, receive tons of great information and then forget all about me and when tax season comes along my company name rings no bells and some schmuck runs off with the sale.

So what happens in the time between your first visit to my website, and tax season being just around the corner?

Well it is not uncommon that the chosen path would be something like this; I’ll send an email thanking you for your interest and asking for a meeting or time to talk.

Then what? I drum my fingers on the desk for a week and then I send another email asking if you are ready now. And if I’m super annoying I’ll pick up the phone and bug you at some inconvenient time and pester you with a sales pitch that you’d rather be without.

After a few more rounds of this, I start to resemble a kid on the backseat of a car constantly pestering the parents with “are we there yet”.

And guess what I am very likely to get out that whole exercise? Nuttin! Except the status of royal pain in the ass… not really what I was aiming for.

That’s where lead nurturing comes in.

To nurture means to care for, help and/or encourage someone or something while they are growing or developing.

That is just touching… in one single sentence I managed to transform my field of work into something truly noble. I’m welling up and feeling all proud… and getting totally sidetracked!

The point here is that you (remember you are the accountant) are not ready nor able to make the purchase on the first visit, but what you would like are buckets full of enlightening and compelling information that will help you sell the idea of purchasing the software to your boss.

With the right lead nurturing system, I will be able to see what areas of my website you have visited, what information you have consumed and what type of media you prefer.

Don’t let that give you the heebie-jeebies and think it is awfully big-brotherish. If you were in a shoe store looking at pumps, you wouldn’t want me to come over and start telling you about winter boots would you? Same thing, except online I can only see what you are looking at if I can track you. Maybe it’s the word tracking… it’s kinda off-putting, like I’m spying or something, which is not the intention at all.

Good lead nurturing should be like the experience you get in a good restaurant where the waiter manages to top up your glass every time you are just about to run out of wine. Now how is the waiter going to know you are running low on dancing juice if he can’t observe you? And God forbid he tops up your glass with water instead of wine! The horror!!

Think about it, the more I know about your particular interests, the better equipped I will be to give you the exact information you need, when you need it and in the format you prefer.

And before I start growing some sort of halo above my head, yes this is all done in the name of making a sale.

I represent a company, not a charity, and we need to sell stuff to make money in order to survive. All of a sudden I don’t feel so noble anymore, but that’s ok cuz it was never the intention to begin with.

What I do want is to provide you with information that you want, when you want it and how you want it. I want that when you get that sales call, you will be like “Man I’m so glad you called – tax season is just around the corner and my boss really want us to upgrade the software!”

I believe lead nurturing is awesome service, and I’m a sucker for awesome service. How about you?

Oh and just for you numbers freaks, here are a few eye-opening stats:

  • More than 25% of leads take seven months or more to close
  • 73% of leads are lost because they are sent to sales before they are ready to buy
  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost
  • Nurtured leads spend 47% more on purchases than non-nurtured leads

10 Reasons Content Marketing is Excellent Customer Service

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The world seems to be in love with content marketing, and for good reason.

Your Ignored Ad Here

We are bombarded daily with messages of all sorts; we are so overwhelmed we do everything we can to filter the noise and only let the most important through. From no-call lists to spam filters, we use every weapon available to stay sane in this meteor shower of selly sell (a term borrowed from Chris Brogan; I love that he always puts it plain and clear when he is in a selly sell frame of mind).

No wonder traditional marketing methods are proving less and less effective.

That’s where content marketing is different. Instead of shouting out your sales pitch in the vain hope someone will hear it, you draw people to you with interesting, informative and helpful content.

But wait – being interesting, informative and helpful, that sounds an awful lot like qualities used in customer service?

Yes, that is exactly what it is and that is the essence of why content marketing makes excellent customer service.

Let me give you 10 reasons:

#1 When you write blog posts that highlights relevant news from your industry you become like a mini newspaper, your customers know that they can count on you to keep them up to date.

#2 Supplying the internet with lots of fresh good content will help your SEO, this in turn will help your customers find you.

#3 Allowing your customers to comment on blog posts shows them that you really really care about them, you want to know what they think and be in a direct dialogue with them.

#4 Providing Q & A’s gives your customers a way to quickly and easily solve minor problems.

#5 When you incorporate social media into your business you give your customers easy access to your company.

#6 Providing how-to-do’s gives your customers the tools they need to get moving.

#7 Offer lots of video content; 65% of all people are visual learners meaning they understand something much better through illustrative content than by reading. So help them understand better.

#8 Give your customers free ebooks; they can keep them and use them later for when they need to be reminded of how to do something.

#9 Intrigue customers with interesting blog posts that will make them feel like they just discovered something great.

#10 Stay in touch with your customers through newsletters; it’s always nice to know you have a friend nearby…

I often hear people refer to “the good ol’ days” when you would get good customer service because you knew who you were dealing with, not like now a days when companies are just big corporations who seem to not care one iota about you.

Well bring back “the good ol’ days” with content marketing. Put a human face on your business, get to know your customers and build long-lasting relationships with them. In the end the efforts you put into this will be rewarded; your customers will be happier, they will recommend you, you will grow and you will feel great because you are doing all of this by being interesting, informative and helpful.

 

How I Accidentally Ended Up Buying A Miserable Cow

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cow

Have you ever been in a situation where your emotions got the better of you and all logic and good reasoning seemed to disappear into thin air? Well, that’s what happened the day I became the owner of a miserable cow.

It all began with a farmer placing his cow right outside my house – at the time I lived in Barbados where it is not uncommon for cows to graze in the middle of residential neighborhoods. The farmer didn’t take very good care of this cow, didn’t give her water nor feed. She was very skinny and I felt terrible when ever I looked at her.

So one day I decided to don my cow-saving cape and confront the farmer. He offered a gazillion excuses for not taking proper care of his cow, none of them good enough for me, so as you do I offered to buy the cow. I really hadn’t thought it through, actually hadn’t thought of it at all and didn’t expect him to immediately jump at the chance to get rid of his cow. Talk about an emotionally driven impulse buy!

I took on my new role as cow owner very serious and read books on how to take care of a cow. I bought her proper feed, although the woman at the farmers market kept asking me if I wasn’t sure I had a horse, apparently not many women keep cows! I made sure she had plenty of water and a placed a very attractive umbrella in the field so she could enjoy some shade. And I named her Rose.

Rose the cow
Rose enjoying the cool shade

Rose quickly came to associate me with food, which resulted in her literally giving chase every single time she saw me. Now if you have ever been chased by an 800 lb. cow you know it can be quite scary. The more Rose regained her strength the more unruly she became. When I attempted to move her to a spot with fresh grass she would take off leaving me scrambling trying to hold on to the rope while she galloped through the neighborhood. She would often fall in love with some other cow or bull – what do I know, and muh at the top of her lungs at all hours of the night driving everyone insane with her endless serenades.

Boy did I have a serious case of buyer’s remorse!

Had I known what exactly I was buying into that day and had I not let my emotions run the game, I would most certainly not have become the Rose’s owner. So my point of telling you all of this is; as the seller make sure you give your customers ALL relevant information on your products or you can be sure they won’t shop with you again. And as the buyer keep your cool, don’t let impulses or emotions control your purchases or you might just end up with a miserable cow.

In the end Rose collided with a motorbike on one of her rampages, the police was called and I mysteriously disappeared, Rose was taken away the 5-0 never to be seen again. Although I felt kinda bad I was also immensely relieved to no longer be Rose’s owner. Oh, and nothing happened to the man on the motorbike.

Fake It Till You Become It – Works In Customer Service As Well

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This is one of my all time favorite TEDtalks. Amy Cuddy talking about how your body language shapes who you are.

The idea that by practicing being powerful we can actually become powerful. That we have a tremendous impact on the events that shape our lives and our everyday experiences by the non-verbal messages we send. Events such as dealing with a difficult customer or having to give a pitch, like a sales pitch or any other social threat situation that we may experience.

The term powerful is not to be understood as having success, money, power or anything of that nature, but rather being assertive, confident and comfortable – and who wouldn’t like to be that?

When you deal with customers on a daily basis, you often find yourself in these unequal power situations. As a salesperson or customer service person you will likely have experienced feeling powerless in front of an a complaining customer. Unfortunately being powerless is a self-reinforcing mechanism; the balance of power tips and it becomes difficult to restore as the customer is more likely to act in an aggressive manner because the more you shrink the more they powerful they become and vice versa.

This imbalance does not do much to promote constructive communication and unfortunately it can result in a lowering of overall service performance as you will fear a similar situation next time you deal with a difficult customer and therefore start out in a defensive and low power stance.  

Now I am not advocating that you should put your hands on your hips and give back as good as you get, but you can improve on the situation by being more powerful yourself. By exuding power you become more confident and people trust confidence as it gives us a sense of security. Your customer will evaluate you much more positively and the likelihood of a successful outcome of the situation will have increased dramatically.

So my advise to everyone is – take two minutes out of your day every day and practice Amy’s high power poses and walk out there and fake til you become it!

Tips on How To Make Customer Service Work Using Social Media

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Many businesses have a presence in social media with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a host of other options available. Social media is a fantastic opportunity to spread the word and show lots of great content. It is also a great way for consumers to interact with a company and reach out in times of customer service needs.

Departments pie chart

And it is exactly on the customer service side of the equation that the film often breaks. Social media is usually the responsibility of the marketing and/or and public relations departments, and they do a fantastic job when it comes to transmitting corporate messages and showing off all sorts of “can’t-live-without” features and latest models. It seems that some companies forget that good customer service is out-of-this-world fantastic marketing and PR. Adding customer service to the mix will complete the circle and add tremendous value to the overall customer experience.

Unfortunately I see an awful lot of poor customer service on the various walls around the net. Unanswered queries and messages that get answered by someone who either doesn’t work in customer service or shouldn’t be working in customer service, they often carry a  passive-aggressive tone with a hint of defensive self-righteousness. They make my toes curl – it looks ever so bad.

Seeing such walls makes me wonder what kind of customer service I can expect from these companies who seem to prioritize pushing sales messages so much that they don’t have time to stop and pay proper attention to existing customers. I have actually chosen not to buy from companies because of how poorly they have demonstrated their ability to handle after-sale service issues on social networks. Surely I’m not the only one…

So here are some tips on how to it right.

The first tip is really not a tip at all. It’s a requirement. Answer ALL customer queries. There really is no middle ground here. You answer the phone when it rings right? This is no different, except here everyone can see when you choose to ignore the call.

There is a lot discussion going on as to whether 1 hour or 24 hours is the correct amount of time to answer customer queries. I’d say it really depends on your industry, but in general the sooner the better. Customers love immediate attention; makes them feel valued and a timely reply can easily be an ice-breaker if the query is of a difficult nature.

twitter-customer-service1

When a customer reaches out, the first and most important thing you must do is to acknowledge them and show them empathy. I see companies using phrases like”Oh no, we understand your frustration and will….” or “Dear XXX please accept our sincere apologies we will immediately….” These types of responses are great, they really show that you care about the customer  and appreciate their predicament. One thing to keep in mind though is to not use the same phrase in response to all queries, a whole wall full of “Oh no..” looks like the responses are insincere and rehearsed, like a broken record.

The second thing to do is to demonstrate action. Let the customer know what you intend to do about the situation. And please do not say that “there is really nothing you can do” or “Facebook is not the right place to…” Yes, I have actually seen responses such as these, and there is ALWAYS something you can do and Facebook is an obvious place to demonstrate how much you care about your customers. So tell them that you will personally see to some action taking place or ask them to contact you personally with more details.

The last bit of advise I’ll give for now, is to NEVER reply to a customer query if you are in a bad mood or feeling irritable. In that situation a later reply is likely better than what you would be delivering immediately. When we communicate in writing, we only have the actual words to interpret, there is no tone of voice or body language to guide and help us, so you have to be acutely aware of your choice of words and using positive and supportive phrases is just a lot easier when you are in a good mood.

I came across a great example of how you can turn a very uncomfortable and difficult situation 180 degrees by giving the customer the answers they are looking for. It was a furniture company with a very unhappy customer who had received a sofa in less than prime condition, the reply to the customer was a detailed explanation that with complete transparency and honesty told how and why the situation had occurred, apologized for the unfortunate events, offered a solution and was signed in person and with a personal e.mail address attached.

Not many companies would dare to expose faults as openly as this company did, but judging from the subsequent comments I think it was the right thing to do. Admitting when you are wrong is a character trait that earns respect, not just for people but for businesses too.