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Commentary: Connect with your customers

Phil Hardwick
Dolan Media Newswires

jackson, miss. – Are you a maximizer or a satisficer? I came across those terms in a book, “The Paradox of Choice,” by Barry Schwartz.  He writes that when it comes to making decisions, especially shopping decisions, a maximizer seeks the best product, service or whatever. The maximizer will wade through numerous choices until he or she finds the very best. A satisficer, on the other hand, will make the purchase as soon as the satisficer’s standards and needs are met. The premise of the book is that today’s consumer has too many choices, causing maximizers to suffer stress because they are continually searching for the best even after making the purchase because they wonder if they made the right decision. In many areas of our lives, the choices are almost limitless as evidenced by visiting the cereal section of a large grocery store or by scanning the channels on a cable or satellite television.

The implications of this concept go beyond shopping. Individuals, businesses and organizations must make many decisions. When there are many options to choose among, the maximizer has a difficult time.

Consider a board of directors or executive committee faced with multiple choices. If it is a maximizer board, look for the decision to be put off or assigned to a committee. If it is a satisficer board, the decision will probably be made and then the next order of business will be considered.

One of the basic tenets of business success is that businesspeople understand their customers. Successful businesspeople know when and whether their customers are maximizers or satisficers. I suspect that businesses that sell a lot of variations of the same product are selling mostly to maximizers. Computer manufacturers come to mind. The maximizer customer is in heaven (or hell) when trying to decide which computer to buy — or whether to even buy a computer.  The businessperson knows that in order to be successful, he or she must offer the maximizer customer many choices. Sometimes, though, businesspeople obsess so much over what they think the customer wants instead of asking the customer what he or she wants. In that respect, it can be said that the businessperson is a maximizer. Do you constantly agonize over what your customers want? Are you selling to the maximizer or the satisficer? It depends on what business you’re in, of course. Also, some parts of a business or organization may be in the maximizer category while other parts may be of the satisficer variety.

Understanding whether you, your organization and your customers are maximizers or satisficers can improve your life and your business.

Phil Hardwick is coordinator of capacity development at the John C. Stennis Institute of Government.

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