Making Decisions on Choices Available

Sean Dasher
Contributing Writer
Success Academy Trainer

Have you ever had to decide based on the choices available?

Intuitively, people feel the more choices they have, the greater their chances are of finding the item that will perfectly satisfy their needs.  So, having choices is better than only one thing to choose from.  We live in a world of abundance, where we can find and purchase virtually anything that we want. But this wealth of choices can become an overwhelming experience.  Options are no different and simply having them can be an illusion – the more options we have, the less likely we are to decide at all. Too many options lead to indecision.

Observations of visitor behavior on multiple eCommerce websites has shown that, when customers are given many options to choose from, they have a much harder time deciding than those who use the sites’ filtering tools to limit the number of possible choices. Visitors that try to scan through all the assorted products available inevitably become frustrated and leave the website altogether.  This is because having too many options causes a sort of paralysis in the decision-making process, which leads to avoidance behavior – an example would be, choosing to do nothing at all. In the instances when a choice is made under these conditions, it is usually accompanied by frustration.

Professor Sheena Lyengar discusses this phenomenon in her book “The Art of Choosing.” A grocery store presented customers with two different sampling stations: one with 24 flavors of jam and the other with only six options. The results of the study revealed that the availability of six options resulted in 30{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f} of consumers purchasing at least one jar of jam, while the sampling station with 24 flavors had a conversion rate of only 3{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f}. While the larger selection attracted more onlookers, the smaller selection generated more sales.

Why does this happen?

When we are presented with many options, we usually fear making the wrong decision. This can be translated into simple math – when there are only two options, we have a 50{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f} chance of choosing the right one. But when there are five options, our chances suddenly decrease to 20{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f}. Matters become even more complicated when there are twenty options or more. Human cognitive ability cannot efficiently compare more than five options, so most of us will start looking at the first few options and then stop.

Don’t give your customer more than three options. You’ll kill the opportunity if you do. I don’t care how awesome your fourth or fifth offer is. Don’t do it.

When you load up too many options, you enter dangerous psychological territory. It’s called option overload, also known as “the paradox of choice” in the terminology of Barry Schwartz, the psychology professor who wrote the book on the subject. Once you go beyond three, sales will begin to drop off.

Don’t try to upsell from the middle offer during the initial sales process. It’s just not necessary. It’s an unnatural psychological ploy that will be confusing to our customers.

The mind can only sort through so many options and make so many choices before it starts to run out of steam. Making decisions too quickly can be an indication someone is tired or fed up.

We make poorer decisions when we are tired. That’s why impulse buys like candy bars and magazines at the checkout aisle in the grocery store can be hard to resist. We’ve exhausted all our good decision-making skills.  It’s caused by decision fatigue.

The same goes for our workday. Making lots of decisions not only exhausts us, it can put us in a foul mood. A study out of Columbia University found that judges were more likely to give prisoners a favorable ruling in the beginning of the day and after a food break, than at the end of the day.

When we’re tired, we tend to conserve our energy by making choices based on a single factor like price, for example, rather than considering all the other factors that go into making the best decision. When you’re doing this, you are acting as what researchers call a cognitive miser. Another study out of Columbia University shows that this happens when consumers are given a lot of features to choose from when buying a car or suit. After a while, people start asking for the default option rather than carefully weighing each decision.

That’s why it’s critical to make your most important decisions in the morning rather than at the end of an exhausting day when your energy has been depleted. The “sleep on it” saying really does have clout when it comes to making big decisions.

This can also happen when faced with a decision in your creative work. Given the endless options of which route to take, we can sometimes end up going with the more conventional path simply because it’s the easier way to go.

In other words, letting yourself have less options to choose from can help you arrive at a more creative answer.

In the franchises I’m associated with our Warranties and Guarantees are focused on 100{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f} customer satisfaction.  If you did not write down an option and your customer calls someone else.  They may bring up what you left out.  What is the first call they are going to make?  More than likely it will be to your manager asking, “why didn’t the technician bring this to my attention”? It is your obligation as an Electrician, Plumber, or HVAC Technician to share your findings.  Especially if it is safety related.  After you master the art of giving options you will be able to serve your customer better than your competition.

Bottom line giving too many options will overwhelm and only one option will not serve your customer’s needs. Great technicians know how to balance their findings with the customers’ needs at that time.

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