50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion Book Review

Each fortnight I read something interesting from either the Amazon business books list, something I happen across in the bookstore. This week I’ve been reading Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion by Goldstein, Martin and Cialdini.

Now, I love a bit of psychology, and the science of persuasion is one of the most useful tools for customer service and marketing specialists. The astonishing things you can learn about the sometimes bizarre ways humans think through experiments and case histories are fascinating.

There’s a lot that customer service and customer retention professionals can take from this book. Handling angry customers, or working out how to retain existing ones is made a lot easier if you can utilise the principles Goldstein, Martin and Cialdini discuss.

So if you work in any role where customer service, customer support or customer interaction is important, here are my top 5 takeaways, and top 5 quotes, from the book:

Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion: Top 5 Takeaways

  1. Get active commitments from customers wherever possible. Research quoted in the book showed that in an experiment, one group of students were asked to volunteer for a cause and sign up using a form. Another group were asked to volunteer and ignore a form opting out. The students who actively filled a form turned up on the day in 49% of cases, versus only 17% of the students who didn’t fill in the form.
  2. Use social proof and pressure to help customers and prospects choose you. The authors show how hotel guests are 26% more likely to recycle their towels whilst staying in a hotel if they saw a sign informing them that “the majority of guests recycling their towel at least once during their stay.” This was versus the traditional sign telling guests how good it was for the environment.
  3. Highlight progress (even if non existent or tiny) to help customers get started with you. Studies cited in the science of persuasion book show that customers are more likely to stick at a task if they already believe they are part way along it (even if they aren’t). So writing to potential new customers to let them know that their onboarding process, or showing them progress, like LinkedIn do with your profile completeness, is a good idea.
  4. Customer behaviour can be influenced. In experiments, the simple use of the word “because” had a dramatic effect on behaviour. Always accompany any customer request with a strong rationale, and use of the ‘because” word to drive up its influence.
  5. Own your mistakes when you make them. Experiments cited in the book show categorically that no matter how embarrassing a mistake, companies should take ownership of them immediately rather than blaming elsewhere or pointing fingers. Subjects who were shown a fictitious annual report statement where a company took responsibility for an earnings drop, saw it much more favourably than one they were shown blaming outside factors.

Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion: Top 5 Quotes

  1. “If you find yourself in a situation in which you’ve made a mistake, you should admit it, and follow up immediately with an action plan demonstrating that you can take control of the situation and put it right. Through these actions, you’ll ultimately put yourself in a position of greater influence.”
  2. “Potential clients may be more receptive to a pitch from a salesperson with whom they share similarities in any number of domains, including names, beliefs, home towns and alma maters. Pointing out similarities can also be the first step to resolving potentially ugly conflicts…” 
  3. “People will be more likely to stick with programmes and tasks if you can offer them some evidence of how they’ve already made progress towards completing them.”
  4. “Incentives to improve performance can only have an impact, in many circumstances, if there is a prior understanding of how improvement actually happens.”
  5. “Rather than just explaining to team members what benefit they would derive from supporting a particular initiative, you should ask them whether they would be willing to support such an initiative and wait for a “yes” in response.”

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