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Review: All Customers Are Irrational: Understanding What They Think, What They Feel, and What Keeps Them Coming Back


(Note: I am not being paid for my review nor do I receive referral compensation. The links I provide are for your convenience only.)

All Customers Cover

Title and Author:

All Customers Are Irrational: Understanding What They Think, What They Feel, and What Keeps Them Coming Back by William J. Cusick




AMACOM (July 15, 2009)

My initial impressions – The first time I read this book was when I was working in the corporate world as a product manager and I kept thinking, “YES this makes sense”. And I wondered why aren’t more businesses focused on retaining customers rather than gaining them, and it validated my belief that in the long run, it would be more cost effective.

On the second reading, I was reading it with a different mindset and wanted to know what I could do to stack the deck in my favor if the premise that “All customers are irrational” is true. And lets face it we as humans can be highly irrational so it wasn’t a huge leap to believe it to be true. I think we have all had times where objectively something has been good but we just don’t like it and we cannot put our finger on why we don’t like it.

In the intro to the book they get to the heart of the matter:

"Retaining a customer typically costs as little as one-tenth or less of the cost to acquire a customer"
All Customers, page 5

As I re-read this book I had a vastly different perspective than the first time I read the book and for that reason alone I did not actually finish the complete book for this review. And I really do have a what I consider a good reason for it, right now my perspective is that of a small business owner and one that is just starting out so while I enjoyed the whole book the first time around this time I needed to refine what I wanted out of this book. By focusing on just the first 5 chapters I was able to:

  • better understand how decisions are made
  • accept that there are outside forces that I just cannot control that will affect a prospective client’s decision to convert from potential to actual client
  • formulate a strategy to hopefully make better decisions/li>
  • develop a strategy to better present my product

I would love to think that I am always logical but I know that I do let my emotions dictate some of my decisions, and I think that it is fair to say that everyone lets emotions dictate some decisions some of the times. Our brains are powerful and this quote absolutely struck me as amazing.

"At any given moment we are bombarded with 11 million bits of information. Everything from the temperature, to how your left pinky toe feels in your shoe, to that thing moving over to the side in your peripheral vision. And of those 11 million bits of information, you can consciously handled about forty at any given moment. Everything else is being handled by your irrational subconscious”
This quote is from “Strangers To Ourselves” by Timothy Wilson and was found on page 32 of All Customers

In chapter 5 the Cusick talked about “priming” and this is about uncontrollable outside forces. Reading this helped me to come to be a bit more accepting of the fact that quite possibly I could do everything 100% correctly and still have an undesired outcome. A potential client may have a headache when they read my website and even though they like the layout, colors, and text they still decide not to pursue a business relationship. I cannot control that and I cannot worry about that so I just need to do my best and not worry so much about what could have been. I would paraphrase the chapter using an example from the book as this:

“ A customer is primed before they see you due to random things for example: In a restaurant the hostess and server are fantastic. Your spouse loves the food and so do you. However, as you passed the kitchen you smelled something “off” but it was momentary and fleeting. However subconsciously it made you want to avoid the restaurant in the future ”
my paraphrasing of chapter 5

So given the fact that there is a ton of information being tossed in our direction and our irrational subconscious is dealing with that, what do I do to keep my customer or gain a customer? I also need to account for things that are out of my control because everyone is “primed” am I just out of luck and accept a spin of the wheel? Not entirely there are things I can do as a business owner to try to shift the tide my way, such as ensuring that I am making the best decisions about my business and how to present my product in the best way.

A surprisingly simple way to help ensure your are making good decisions is to “sleep on it” because

“...95% of our cognitive processing power is in our subconscious"
All Customers page 36

The author goes on to say:

“if we just try to analyze a problem in the rational part of our brain, the different factors and information don’t help us, they distract us"
All Customers page 36

So the final step is to develop a strategy to better present my product. From previous marketing pieces that I have read and even going way back to my undergraduate marketing classes each one stresses that it is critical to answer why your product is best. It sounds so easy but sometimes it is really difficult to put into words why your product is best. Cusick, points out that you should also consider helping them answer ‘how will I feel about that product?’ And as I am writing this review I think that reframing the text on my website to answer not only the question of why my product (aka my services) are best as well as how the customer will feel is a valuable and daunting task but one that will be worth while to complete.

I am not a naturally born marketer or writer so that will certainly be a challenge for me so I think I will need to just do it, the question is how do I do it? If left to my natural inclinations I would procrastinate, and last week Laura Vanderkam did the whole week (May 13 - May 17) on procrastination in her Before Breakfast podcast that I am hoping will help me overcome my desire to put this off.

In conclusion, I did like the book and found value in it, however, I don’t fee that it is a “must read” for a business owner. As a small business owner, I feel that the most valuable points are that I now have a better understanding on how decisions are made so that I can work on fostering better decision making, and will embrace the tried and true “sleep on it” strategy. I will also work on channeling my inner Elsa and “let it go” after I know that I have done everything I could, because there are so many outside sources that I just cannot control. And lastly, I have a goal to re-write my content with the perspective that includes answering the unasked question from the client “how will this product make me feel?”

If you would like to read the book for yourself you can check your local libraries or order it from Amazon. I am providing the link for convenience, it is NOT an affiliate link I do not receive anything if you decide to purchase.

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