Ignore What Your Customers Say, And Some …

My Customer Satisfaction Charter goes like this:

 1. Ignore most of what your customers tell you that they want … they usually don’t mean it.
 2. Tell your customers what they actually want, and mean it.
 3. Limit your customers choices …
 4. Smile

While I am fully convinced by my Charter (ask my clients!) I would like to think it is actually foolproof for almost any business. I have ample evidence to support the fact that not only does it work, but it is actually the sweet spot for a Win-Win outcome for your business and your customers.

While I do not need convincing of its power, I am actually looking for evidence to the contrary.

Do you have any? If so I would love to hear from you.

So how does this charter work?

Two of my previous posts share some stories on this topic.  In the post You Create, We Improve , you will see how a company ignored what their markets were saying they liked in a sauce, and then told them that they actually like ‘Extra Chunky’ sauce; they made $100s of millions. My other post Focus Groups Can Shift Your Focus, shows how a furniture maker did the opposite of what the customer surveys/studies say and effectively told his market that ‘despite your feedback you will actually love that chair’; it is now in the U.S. Museum of Modern Art after breaking record sales.

But are these isolated incidents? Or can we find some scientific proof that acting on what customers say is a hit-and-miss exercise?

I will start with one old story about a famous hypnotist as told by marketing consultant and psychiatrist Clotaire Rapaille. Repeat this experiment today with your smartest customers, and you are likely to get a similar outcome.

The 19th century scientist Jean-Martin Charcot hyptonised a female patient, handed her an umbrella, and asked her to open it. After this, he slowly brought the woman out of her hypnotic state. When she came to, she was surprised by the object she held in her hand. Charcot then asked her why she was carrying an open umbrella indoors. The woman was utterly confused by the question. She of course had no idea of what she had just been through and no memories of Charcot’s instructions. Baffled, she looked at the ceiling. Then she looked back at Charcot and said “It was raining”.

It is now a well-known (but often forgotten) fact that people invariably try to rationalise their decisions. And if you ask your clients what they want, or why they want it, there is a good chance you will hear the equivalent of  “because it’s raining!

“…the only effective way to understand what people truly mean is to ignore what they say …”C. Rapaille.

(N.B: In my next post I will attempt to convince you to limit your customers’ choices, and make them happy. But do I need to convince you of the power of the smile?).