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How the unconscious drives customer behaviour

30th Jun 2020
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Understanding human behaviour is never as straightforward as we would like. If humans were the conscious, rational decision-makers we once believed then human study would be simple. We would just ask people about what they did and why they did it. Sadly, we humans are a lot more complicated. Firstly, our unconscious controls many of our decisions and actions, so we often don’t know why we do things. Secondly, as social creatures wanting to fit in when people ask us about why we do things we often try to say the ‘right thing’ – either because we don’t want to look stupid or because we want to please the person who is asking. Thirdly, we often don’t remember the what’s and whys of the experience because they never made it into conscious thought.

In the world of customer and employee experience, there still appears to be a core belief that asking people questions gets to the truth, that somehow our voice of the customer programme that we spent so much time and effort on captures the reality of human behaviour. Unfortunately, it doesn't. We may capture when we piss customers off but we are unlikely to uncover the truth about customer behaviour. Customer experience professionals need to go beyond surveys and the 'voice of the customer' if they are to make a difference to customer behaviour. 

Understand human behaviour and you can improve the customer experience

Understanding human behaviour is the cornerstone of customer experience. To do this we need to question the standard tools and explore behavioural science and neuroscience to uncover techniques that help us explore unconscious behaviour. Sadly, delving into unconscious behaviour is rarely practised – and that’s because it is much easier to ask customers questions about what and why (which we know from earlier is only useful if humans are rational, conscious decision-makers). And, we have been asking customers questions for a very long time - so everyone is comfortable with this form of research, but that does not make it true. Remember, customers don't do what they say and listening to customers does not make organisations customer-centric.

Uncover the unconscious

To better understand customer behaviour we need a different set of tools. Tools that include using smart biometric devices to understand customers' physiological response to the experience. Facial coding to understand changes to see the moments of excitement, of happiness, the moments when your experience genuinely makes people smile (or frown). Ethnographic observation, behavioural experiments and other tools that exist and can be used together to capture the Tripping Points®, those moments that cause stress/arousal for your customers and employees. Some of these Tripping Points® are big and hit us in the face but others are subtle moments that do not make it into our consciousness but can make a significant difference to our behaviour. Armed with this new insight we can design improved experiences that influence both conscious and unconscious behaviour.

Biometric customer research
CX Lab

Return on Investment

For one recent client, we were analysing the digital experience using a mix of tools, including biometric devices and facial coding. We were able to identify a number of these Tripping Points® and prioritise them in terms of their impact on the customer experience. We also witnessed first-hand the very notion that people don’t say how they feel. Participants who had a difficult and frustrating time during the experience were more than happy to state that things were easy when questioned after the event. Armed with these Tripping Points® we were able to design a prioritise roadmap of improvements including both functional and emotional elements. Following implementation, the conversion rate improved by 21% adding £muli-millions in additional revenue.

For another client, we could see how the effect of too much choice played out. Faced with too many options, the physiological stress response kicked in and the potential customer simply chose not to buy anything!

Stop relying on what customers say

Designing improved experiences means that we must stop relying on what customers say and start capturing the physiological and psychological response. With advances in technology and understanding, we now have the tools to understand the unconscious behaviour of hundreds and even thousands of customers and employees. This may be harder than simply asking questions but if it leads us closer to the truth of behaviour the commercial value is vast. If you’re just interested in what people say then stick to traditional research. But if you are interested in getting to the truth, understanding the unconscious behaviour and insights that can deliver commercial value, then now is the time to re-think how we understand the customer experience.

If you would like to learn more about using behavioural science in customer experience there is lots more content here 


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