There are many videos on YouTube of cats; cute ones, stroppy ones, cats doing tricks and cats jumping out of boxes. One cat video that I found particularly fascinating was the cucumber trick. While the cat under test is chowing down on its dinner, our YouTuber puts a cucumber on the floor behind it. When the cat finishes and turns around, some primeval instinct takes over and makes him jump feet into the air with fright. It’s as unexpected as it is interesting – an artefact of the primeval brain that is hard wired to run from danger.
Books on Neuromarketing will tell you that it’s the same part of the brain which makes buying decisions as makes cats jump at unexpected cucumbers. This means that we are all frightened away by strange things before we buy. Phone menus, rudeness, complexity in products, unreliability: these are all cucumbers which companies should be very wary of allowing near their customers. The list is not complete, customers can be put off by the most unexpected things and these things are hard to diagnose. When we are quizzed about why we don’t buy something, most of us lie and say that the reason is to do with price. When I hear a customer tell me a product is too expensive, I smell a cucumber.
When I started at Fireco, it was the natural thing for me to begin by identifying what it was that we do; our fundamental “raison d’être”. Whilst I have always been more than a little sceptical of a grinning Californian business culture which must have its vision, its mission, its goals and so on, the benefit of this in my mind is to help everybody understand what we don’t do – so we can avoid getting distracted. It became clear after careful investigation that we were quite good at making it easy to comply with fire regulations. Dorgard has been doing this for 20 years and doing it well. So, we now have our strapline “Compliance Made Easy”. Straight away, that resonated with me as it hints at the absence of cucumbers for our customers.
The removal of cucumbers has become so natural now at Fireco that my colleagues and I find their appearance elsewhere remarkable. Alarming even. In a review of competing products, I was surprised at the cucumbers I found. I encountered difficult and time consuming setup, poor consistency, poor reliability, complex instructions, each of them capable of making a customer jump. It’s one thing to be faced with such things if you have bought something yourself, say a TV and you are faced with these things in the privacy of your own living room. It’s quite another if you are installing them for someone else on their premises. In that situation, ease of installation, reliability, consistency are everything. You want the products to be as ‘lick and stick’ as it gets.
Here at Fireco, the cucumber hunt goes on. We’ll be improving our call handling, our order processing will become much slicker and we’ll make other customer service improvements over the next year. New products will come out next year and they have been vetted for cucumbers. We have an electronic form called a Code of Practice report which anybody at Fireco can fill in when they spot something that’s not right – I should rename it Cucumber Watch.
When you are choosing products, whoever you are, you may think that you are calmly and logically assessing columns of numbers, weighted factors and adding them all up. The relatively new science of Neuromarketing says that in fact you are not. So, look out for the cucumbers and try to consciously take them into account. And if you see any that I should know about, please let me know.
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Don’t get me wrong, they can be useful. There are those workshops where people slap them around on walls with words like ‘OPTIMISM’ and ‘EMPOWERMENT’ scrawled on them. I am sure that can help but it’s a bit earnest for my taste. I prefer quiet reflection.
Notices are one of those things that give me nervous twitches. If you want a clue about what an organisation is like, read its notices. A notice is so often a sign of a glitch in the works. For the sake of my sanity, I have named these glitches cucumbers.
I used to be quite calm about door wedges before I worked at Fireco. Even on fire doors. In hotels, universities, factories – in any place you can think of, the door wedge rules. It’s cheap, it’s effective and it’s lethal.