“Do you like magazines?” asked the cute stranger standing at my dorm room door.
She wore very short khaki shorts and a tank top. Dirty-blonde curls tumbled out of her ball cap and bounced on her shoulders.
“Of course.” I said.
“Me too!” she gushed. Then she tilted her head, flashed a pixie smile, and asked, “What kind of magazines do you like?”
Wow, she’s pretty.
“Well, step into my room and I’ll show you.” I said with a wink. And that’s how I met my wife.
Actually, that’s a lie. I stammered something about guitar magazines, my brain sputtering to make sense of the unusual situation. Girls weren’t allowed to roam the halls without an escort and I was nervous about breaking the visitation rules. At the same time, I had a sudden and deep desire to impress the pretty stranger who seemed interested in me. I like guitar magazines. Do you like guitars? I play the guitar, you know…
“That’s great!” she said, producing a laminated brochure I hadn’t noticed before. “Because I’m selling magazines, and I have just the ones you like. It’s a great price that you can only get right now. Which one do you want to order?”
Wait, what? You’re selling something?
Then I pointed to Guitar Player on the brochure and wrote her a check for twelve bucks.
And I started to have questions.
Why did I just buy a magazine subscription from that girl? How will she know where to send it? Shouldn’t she have given me a receipt? What just happened???????
I never received a single issue. Pixie Girl cashed the check and skipped town, probably scamming hordes of college boys on a coast-to-coast road trip of petty crime.
With a few simple tricks, she triggered my brain to shortcut rational thought and hand over my money. Here’s how she did it, and how you can use the same tactics to influence your coworkers to buy-in to CX.
(But probably don’t scam them out of money if you plan to work there longer than Friday. Unless it’s a lot of money. And you have plane tickets to Sao Paulo, where there’s great nightlife and no extradition.)
Shortcuts to compliance
Your poor brain makes a lot of decisions. How to prioritize your day. Which of your 1,347 unread emails you can delete without reading. How to respond to the boss when he texts you at 7am Monday morning as you’re stepping into the shower. (Why does it feel so weird to text with your boss when you’re not wearing anything?)
Because our brains are so busy making decisions, they love to take shortcuts. How many times have you Googled for restaurants and used the dollar-sign rating to find an upscale option? Rather than research the restaurant, the chef’s pedigree, and whether he cooks with locally-sourced organic heirloom tomatoes, you’re relying on a shortcut that “expensive = good.” Then you glance at the star ratings and take another shortcut—if other people gave it five glowing stars, it’s probably tasty. (That’s called social proof.)
Much of the compliance process (wherein one person is spurred to comply with another person’s request) can be understood in terms of a human tendency for automatic, shortcut responding.
–Robert Cialdini, Ph.D. Influence:The Psychology of Persuasion, New and Expanded.
Most of the time, these mental shortcuts serve us well—we spend less effort and make faster decisions. But they also leave us vulnerable to influence.
Pixie Girl used four tactics—Consistency, Authority, Scarcity, and Liking—to trigger my shortcuts, and you can use them to increase CX buy-in.
After I said I liked magazines and the specific magazine she was selling, then the path of least resistance was to buy one. I’d feel embarrassed to refuse—why would I not buy something I clearly liked? Was I fickle? A liar? Or worse, a cheapskate? What would she think of me?!
We strive to be consistent with what we have already said and done, and also to appear that way to others. Consistent people are strong, logical, stable and honest. Inconsistent people are weak, frauds, or fakers. That self-proclaimed vegan eating a cheeseburger? Not a real vegan!
How to use it: Are you having trouble getting buy-in for a large project? Start with small requests, like asking for advice or help reviewing customer survey responses. Make it super easy to say “yes,” and after they’ve consistently helped you with smaller projects, draw them into the big one.
Pixie Girl’s laminated brochure screamed legitimacy. Without the brochure, she was just a stranger in hotpants. But once that brochure appeared in her hand, she became a trustworthy magazine saleswoman in hotpants.
We naturally trust people with authority. We identify authority figures with symbols—college degrees, certifications, badges, and uniforms. When we see the symbol, our brains take a shortcut to trust.
How to use it: Is there a stakeholder who keeps challenging your expertise? Bring in an outside expert as an advisor. Your coworker is more likely to listen to an authority figure with no perceived agenda. I’ve brought in guest speakers, researchers, consultants, and experts to make a point when stakeholders wouldn’t listen to me. They jabbered for months about how insightful the guest speaker was. He didn’t say anything I hadn’t already said—but they listened because he was a big-name thought-leader.
The deal that night—getting a favorite magazine for a dollar a month—was gone as soon as I closed the door. We desire something more when it’s scarce. When there’s risk and uncertainty, we’re driven to avoid losing something of value—something behavioral scientists call loss aversion and the kids call FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.
How to use it: Are stakeholders stalling? Create a deadline. We’re kicking-off the project on October 3, so if you want your department to be represented, Roger, then I need a volunteer by Friday. You can create scarcity of time, money, and people. Deadlines, budgets, and team sizes all work to trigger FOMO. If you don’t have a hard deadline, make one up. Say it out loud, and now it’s official. Put it on the calendar. It’s your job to move the project forward, and deadlines are a tool.
Pixie Girl wasn’t selling magazines in the women’s dorm, and the short shorts weren’t an accident either. Raise your hand if you’re surprised that physically attractive people are more likely to get what they want? Anyone? Bueller?
We’re motivated to help people we like. Physical attractiveness is one reason we like people, but it’s not the only reason, thank goodness! We also like people who are similar to us, who we’ve spent time with, and who we’ve cooperated with to achieve a mutual goal.
Cooperation is especially effective in business. Working together towards a common goal builds liking, trust, and—dare I even say it—friendship.
How to use it: Is everyone too busy with their own goals to commit to CX projects? Help them achieve their goals! If the VP of Ops has to reduce operating costs, help him reduce the cost-to-serve by improving experiences. If the VP of Customer Success has to increase retention, help her perform a churn analysis. BONUS: Helping other leaders achieve their goals also clearly demonstrates the ROI of CX. Cha-ching!
This article was originally published on Seaton CX.