I was reminded recently of a former University lecturer, who gave a course on International Export Marketing. He was quite eccentric and spoke to us at great lengths about his life selling airport runway lighting systems around the world.
One of the things he tried to explain to us was that ‘The Customer is not as stupid as you might think — They are more so!’
For many of us sitting in the classroom, this was a bizarre thing to say as we often hear that the customer is always right or that the customer is king. However, after some explanation, his reasoning made a lot of sense.
Decisions by their very nature are risky things. We make every decision without being in possession of all of the facts.
These facts will only present themselves at some point in the future after we have taken the decision.
When we buy a second-hand car, we are deciding a situation where we do not have all of the information. The seller is in possession of some of the knowledge while the vehicle itself may be hiding some secrets from both parties.
We can seek to mitigate this knowledge gap by looking at the service history, kicking the tires or reading reviews online and trying to learn what faults to look for, but whenever we make a decision, we will only find out if our choice was any good in due course.
The situation may also be more stressful if the salesman is using techniques to play on these fears to make the sale.
Buyers remorse might be a familiar thing for many of us.
So my lecturer was correct, and he went on to support his argument by saying that when our customers are making their decisions, they face fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
The customer feels like the situation is not in their control, so what they are actually looking for is someone who can lead them through the decision making process and out the other side with the feeling that they have made the right decisions with the extra information you have given them that they may not have previously known about.
This is also true in software development. Customer invests a considerable amount of time and money creating that miraculous new piece of software. But without appropriate testing, it will have hidden bugs which will have an impact later.
So in software projects, a customer is always trying to make decisions without all of the facts. As software testers, it is our job to lead them gently and along the path to reducing that fog of war. To find and provide information and to tell the truth and while doing that we significantly increase the odds of a success story for this specific project.
So while I wouldn’t advocate calling a customer stupid, every decision is made with inadequate information.
A decision is a moment in time when we make a bet. What tester does is tweak the odds to the favor or future success.