I don’t know why the hipsters accepted a nerd like me into their social circle but they did.
As a young woman in my twenties I found myself regularly going out to clubs with a set of stylish young things despite the fact that my presence significantly brought down the cool quotient. One of the women in the group always wore cute little strappy sandaled high heels, no matter what the weather. I live in Canada, so weather is no minor consideration in February.
“Ooooooo…. I’m so cold!” She would squeal and shiver, hugging herself. Inevitably, some guy would come around and offer her his coat, or sometimes wrap his arms around her comfortingly.
I just thought she needed some solid, practical advice on footwear.
“You know what you should do?” I ventured helpfully, “You should really get these Sorel boots. They keep you totally warm even in -35 weather!” (that’s -31 F for you Farenheit folks). She stared blankly at me from under the arms of some suave, bearded hipster in a trucker baseball cap.
I was truly mystified. Why on earth would she wear shoes like that in the winter?
We repeated this conversation about 6 times before she finally firmly pulled me aside and said “F*** off with the boots already, OK?!?”
It was then that I finally clued into the fact that she knew exactly what she was doing.
I was under the mistaken impression that she was behaving irrationally or needed some information about sensible shoe choices. Like it somehow wasn’t obvious that wearing open-toed sandals in a blizzard was not the optimal choice for keeping warm.
It was however, the perfectly rational choice for what she was trying to do.
I have this experience when interviewing customers all the time.
We often enter into interviews thinking that the customer needs to be educated, or perhaps is just not very intelligent. It is not unusual for me to hear from clients (especially from the engineering team) “Our users are stupid”.
However, we usually find that customers are behaving perfectly rationally and intelligently. They just have a different frame of reference, and different goals than we expect them to.
A while ago, I conducted some interviews in which we asked customers about how they use certain security features. Surprisingly, almost nobody used the security features the way they were supposed to.
Our first thought was that perhaps they didn’t understand the benefits of the added security and the audit trail.
But they did.
Then we thought, perhaps they just didn’t understand how to use the darn thing.
But they did.
Finally, we asked them why they did it the way they did and they said that it was basically too much of a hassle, and it didn’t provide them with enough benefit. The security benefit was to protect them against some hypothetical threat at some point in the future, but in the meantime, they were under the gun to get their work done quickly. Doing things the quick and less secure way seemed like the sensible thing to do.
While we were trying to give them the sensible shoes, they were just trying to snag the suave hipster (and keep their boss happy).
When you suspect your customers of behaving stupidly, you should stop and make sure that you understand their frame of reference.
Customers are smarter than you think.
Photo Credit: http://www.spera.de/ (pretty awesome shoes too)