The small things that turn people off from doing business with you can cause big damage.
Millions of people shop every day. Thousands of retail executives spend millions of dollars each year trying to pinpoint what makes people lock in and buy their merchandise. They discuss store formats, look and feel, customer flow, sales interactions, and numerous other concepts. And then, some guy comes along with a perspective that attacks high-concept with a decidedly low-concept insight.
That’s what Paco Underhill did in his book Why We Buy. One of my favorite insights from that book concerns the “butt-brush effect.” Simply put, the butt-brush effect is an observation that customers tend to stop shopping when they’re touched from behind. So, when racks in stores are packed too closely together, people negotiating the cramped quarters are more likely to brush their rear ends against one another. And when that happens, they tend to get uncomfortable and stop shopping.
Butt brushes are easy to describe in a retail environment. They are, literally, butt brushes. But butt brushes exist in all business contexts. They are small portions of customer or vendor experience (yes, I’ll include vendors) that make executing your strategy just that much harder. They make people uncomfortable.
In your business, butt brushes are unintended impacts. They come from people who aren’t setting the strategy. They sometimes even occur from people just “doing their jobs.” Those are the ones that are the most insidious.
What are some examples?
- “Aggressive attorney” butt brush: You know him. He’s the guy who makes closing the transaction a complete slog. He’s the one who focuses on the minute details to the exclusion of the relationship. He makes it hard for others to like your company.
- “Credit Nazi” butt brush: Similar to the aggressive attorney, the contentious credit guy is a sales-prevention army of one.
- “Purchasing” butt brush: You’ve gotten to know the senior managers of your prospective vendor. They like you. You like them. The deal is as good as done. Then, you have to pass them off to the purchasing department. Things get… brushy.
There are also the many tiny butt brushes you offer up to your prospective customers and strategic partners every day. A fantastic example is the “My smart phone is more important than you” butt brush. Yeah, you get it.
You’ve invested untold time and money into customer insights and strategy. You’ve established a path and process to get there. So why let butt brushes ruin it all? Seemingly small discomforts (sometimes driven by small mindsets) turn people off in a big way.
Keep an eye out for butt brushes before they bite you from behind.
What do you think?