What can Panic Buying of Petrol tell us about changing employee or customer behaviour?

29th March 2012


Business Strategy & Growth


Have you found yourself in a queue for fuel at a Petrol Station over the last couple of days and found yourself frustrated with people panic buying? I even found myself queuing last night before reasoning with myself that I had ¾ tank of fuel and there was no imminent strike – I’m not one for queuing. I drove on.

The BBC are reporting that there was an increase in Petrol sales of 81% on Wednesday (28 April) and 43% on Diesel. That is a significant shift in customer behaviour.

This got me thinking….what were the factors in play that were causing such a significant change in customer behaviour and how could they be applied to changing employee behaviour to increase performance and engagement? How could they be applied to changing customer behaviour to increase sales? What would have to be in place to create this effect?

1) Effective Communication Medium to a high number of people
There has been wide spread media coverage about a planned strike by fuel tanker drivers and even though no dates for a strike have been confirmed, this news item has dominated the news over the last 2 – 3 days. Add to this the viral / word-of-mouth effect which can often distort messages “you better fill up your tank, there is going to be a strike by petrol tanker drivers”.

How can you get your message out to a large group of prospects or employees?

How can you induce the viral effect? The points below provide some insight.

2) Personal Impact on the person
We only pay attention to a bit of news or information if it is of interest to us. If that news is likely to have an impact on us, positive or particularly negative, then we will pay attention.

Make your messages relevant to your audience. What will be the personal impact on them? What will your product or service do for them? How will the planned changes in your company impact them?

3) Consequences: Pain and Pleasure
No doubt many drivers were imaging the inconvenience of running out of fuel, the impact it would have on their jobs, their family, their transport arrangements. The perceived pain of such inconvenience drives people to queue for fuel even when they have ¾ of a tank of fuel.

What are the potential problems for your customers or prospects if they don’t buy, what are the benefits if they do? Given that employees can be seen as internal customers, the same questions apply.

4) Perceived Scarcity
When there is actual or even perceived scarcity of a product or service demand increases. A fact Dr Robert Cialdini discovered in his research. Scarcity is one of Cialdini’s 6 principles of Influence. http://amzn.to/H3gCdu

How can you create a “you have a limited time to get the benefit from this” feeling amongst your employees or customers?

5) Advice from Authority figure
Cialidini also discovered that we if we are told to do something by an authority figure, we are more likely to do so. With the Prime Minister going on TV saying that “take sensible precautions, if there is an opportunity to top up then do so” he may have thought he was preventing panic buying he was actually telling people to top up their tanks…thereby lengthening queues.

How can you become an authority figure to your prospects? How can you be seen as an expert in your field and therefore an authority?

6) Social Proof
The 3rd of Dr Cialdini’s principles in play here: If you see other people queuing for fuel, you are more likely to queue yourself. If you visit a new town, you are more likely to dine in the restaurant that is busy rather than the one that is empty.

How can you give the impression that people are choosing your product or service. Amazon does it well “people who have bought this, also bought that”.

When creating change in cultures, look to the largest group that you can convert quickest and get them out as advocates for the change. Get them to create the “pull” where people want to queue to be a part of this new game in town.

5 Responses to What can Panic Buying of Petrol tell us about changing employee or customer behaviour?

  • Leigh Ashton says:

    Nice one Gavin. Love the angle 🙂

  • Sue Coorey says:

    Yet again you get grey matter thinking about improvement in such a topical way. Thanks Gavin ;0)

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    Want to know more, fill in your details & we will call you back:

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

    Work with us

    Gavin Logo Faded Large

    Strate-G Logo

    The Work Life Balance Myth

    • The Work Life Balance Myth

    • Have the Real Conversation

    • Profits Follow Purpose

    • Good Things Happen to Good People

    • Stack the Reasons Why You Must Change


    Keep up to date with Gavin's blog ...

    More From Gavin's Blog