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  • Camron Finlay

Uncertainty Impacts Customer Behaviour

Behavioural science is about simplicity of application, not only doing what you usually do but also doing it better. It has even changed Economics, which always assumed the response of a ‘reasonable man’, who often acted in a way entirely unexpected. By combining economics and psychology we hope to better understand how and why people behave in the real world, and perhaps predict with more certainty how they may react.

People, meaning customers, look for certainty. That is also a good assumption when it comes to influencing customer behaviour because in times of uncertainty people seek stability and become more risk averse.

While the likelihood of something happening does impact customer decisions, the decision eventually made often depends on whether the outcome may be either positive or negative. Simply, it’s not only the certainty of an outcome, it’s also whether that outcome may be good or bad for the customer.

To influence a customer to do business with us, our approach may need to change. For example:

Certain the outcome will be positive

The customer is highly motivated to proceed and could be scared of missing out. For example, you have stock and can guarantee supply when required (a positive outcome), or a tradesperson who turns up on time receives more referrals based on their reliability.

Uncertain whether the outcome will be positive

If the outcome is more likely to be positive, customers are likely to proceed but perhaps subject to whether the effort seems worthwhile. If they are ‘take it or leave it’, make it easier to decide. This could be a discount offered only now, or an easy sign-up process.

Certain the outcome will be negative

Here, the customer is looking for ways to avoid or minimise the result, making them more open to take a risk and to give something a try. Perhaps customers may seek you because no one else offers a solution to a complicated or difficult matter, so you need to emphasise that challenges are welcome.

Uncertain whether the outcome will be negative

If the situation seems uncertain and the outcome might be negative, the customer seeks ways to protect themselves from a possible bad event. They will pay to get peace of mind, for example, the insurance industry.

In 2020, another study found customer satisfaction and sales could be increased by using more specific language rather than abstract descriptors. The specific words make it more real and familiar, impacting satisfaction and willingness to buy.

For example, don’t ‘try to solve it’ but father ‘fix that issue’, or a waiter says ‘anything else?’ could be improved by the more tangible ‘would you like coffee or tea?’.

Whether the situation seems stable or shaky it is possible to change customer behaviour which can in turn improve the sales meeting outcome.

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