“Relying on what customers tell you will doom your business to fail, and what to do instead.”​

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Bri Williams is a behaviour specialist and author of Behavioural Economics for Business: The science of getting people to take action. This is a well laid out book for a reader looking for a good summary of the theory behind behavioural economics and plenty of hands-on advice for applying the theory in your own business.

With a good run-through of the groundwork in behavioural economics theory such as; “Mistake #1: Assuming people do what they say” - the gap between the intended and actual behaviour of the consumer at the heart of wasted resources and ultimately business money, “assuming people are rational” and overlooking the unconscious factors that influence behaviour along with “underestimating our environment” and how much it impacts on our behaviour, we are off to a flying start. If these theories are new to you it is a great concise summary.

In an early section, “Infobesity leaves us starved of answers”, Bri addresses the issue of quick-fix data being fed to businesses that ultimately provide no answers, leaving them craving for new analytics. None of us is short on data these days, but this does not necessarily mean that you are getting the answers you need. Getting hold of the “real not reported” behaviour and that which is “orientated to the future and not the past” is essential to effectively make decisions.

This is where behavioural economics steps in studying why we behave the way we do with the central tenets being that, including our customers;

“we don’t always act in our best interests…are efficient rather than effective decision makers…[and] are satisficers more than optimisers making ‘good-enough’ rather than perfect decisions most of the time.”

The book includes the theory and examples of behavioural economics experiments in the real world illustrating the social, cognitive and emotional biases and heuristics we use as humans to make decisions (there’s a great selection of examples and Bri’s own “Williams Behaviour Change Model”), the book moves into Part 2 to deal with applying behavioural economics in both Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer contexts. This covers many different practice areas including market research, pricing, customer retention, website design and people management.

“If you are relying on what consumers tell you they want, don’t.

Bri gets straight down to business and asks the big questions such as, on market research, “How can it go so wrong when research says it’s right?” deciding businesses are either getting the wrong kind of research, ignoring what it is telling them or cherry-picking results to support a decision they want to make. And on people management, “why job interviews are a waste of time” and the myth of the money being a motivator. There’s even a section where Bri writes that she realised she wasn’t bringing her learning on influencing into her presentation style when a client gave her the feedback “You don’t practise what you preach”, completely changing her format which she outlines in the book.

“I’d been so focused on using Behavioural Economics to influence her customers I’d forgotten to use it to influence her.”

I particularly liked the customer retention chapter, addressing developing customer relationships describing humans as “an inherently lazy bunch…following the path of least resistance” and building better loyalty programmes.

The summary is packed with resources from Bri’s practice and use of behavioural economics with a worksheet, her triangular Behaviour Change Model and online resources on her website. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with Bri and reading this book and see it as a practical toolbox for bringing behavioural science techniques into a wide range of business practices.

Join us in Behavioural Science Club https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13871707/ to read new and classic behavioural science books and meet and connect with like-minded people. We meet weekly in Zoom at 4 pm GMT every Saturday.

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From it’s origin as a book club that invited authors for open discussions, the Behavioural Science Club has developed into a place that welcomes discussions on all things Beh. Sci related with practitioners, authors & newbies. Join us @ https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13871707/

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Louise Ward

Louise Ward

Co-Host of Behavioural Science Club. On a continual learning journey.

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