Behavioural science offers insight how customer experience can be improved – Interview with Prof. Nick Chater


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Insight eye

Today’s interview is with Nick Chater, who is Professor of Behavioural Science, Warwick Business School and co-founder of the research consultancy Decision Technology. Nick joins me today to talk about behavioural science, how our brains are hot-wired to make us all storytellers and how we can apply lessons from behavioural science to help us deliver better customer service and a better customer experience.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: It’s not about the channels in your support, it’s about the support in your channels – Interview with Girish Mathrubootham of Freshdesk – and is number ninety-three in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Here are the highlights of my interview with Nick:

  • Nick’s work focuses on looking at the political and economic world through the lens of natural sciences.
  • The brain is a pattern finding machine.
  • The kind of patterns that underlie human behaviour are all about intentional agency, ie. we have aims and objectives, and we are all trying to detect those and figure those out.
  • This lies at the core of all stories.
  • Stories are sequences of beliefs, objectives and actions.
  • Another characteristic of human brains is that we aim to identify the ‘storyline’ in someone else’s behaviour.
  • However, we are not just storytellers about other people, we are also storytellers about ourselves too, and many of the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves are illusions.
  • This has a lot to do with us wanting to be right and trying to find patterns to make what we see and feel fit our experience.
  • Applied to business, some businesses assume that customers know what they want when, in fact, they don’t.
  • Therefore, businesses should focus on trying to identify the clues or the stories that their customers are telling themselves, unpicking them and then providing them with what they really need.
  • Self-service could therefore be really dangerous unless the experience is really well designed.
  • Perhaps a better way would be to design an experience where the customer is helped to make the right decision for them rather than leaving that to chance.
  • The danger if you don’t do that is that the customer leaves with nothing or something that is sub-optimal and that has implications for retention, loyalty, repeat business and advocacy.
  • Through Decision Technology’s work, Nick has found that people view companies very much like they view people.
  • Given that, companies should treat people as if they would like to build a long term friendship with them.
  • Therefore, anything that has short term payoff and long term damage is very unlikely to be effective.
  • When you are inside an organisation it can be quite hard for people to believe or understand how strongly people can feel, positively or negatively, about a certain interaction.
  • Customers don’t see the complexity and juggling that goes on within a business. They just see the successes or failings.
  • Similarly, businesses only see the complexity and often think that the customer has nothing to worry about.
  • Both sides suffer from a social psychological phenomenon called the Attribution Error.
  • Often there is an ‘Empathy Gap’ between a business and it’s customers and vice versa.
  • In a service failure situation, it is almost always better for a business to be as open as possible.
  • Also, when things go wrong….other than acknowledging it, saying sorry and then fixing it, don’t underestimate the power of doing a nice thing.
  • Like in friendships, when something goes wrong our naturally tendency is to apologise and then make it up to that person in a symbolic way.
  • But, it has to be perceived as genuine.
  • And, one size fits all is unlikely to work. We are all individuals after all.
  • The options that firms give their customers will drive what their customers do, whether they like it or not. Therefore, if firms want to keep and take care of their customers and make sure they optimise what they get, they should think very carefully about the choices they give them.
  • Nick’s research, in future, is going to be focusing on how opinions get formed and how people decide what’s in and what’s out etc etc.
  • Do checkout the BBC Radio 4 programme called The Human Zoo that Nick contributes to. It’s all about applying behavioural science to the world around us to help us better understand why we do the things that we do. Also, many of the experiments that he mentions on the show you can find here.
  • Finally, if you want to learn more about behavioural science then check out Nick’s MOOC: The mind is flat: the shocking shallowness of human psychology (Explore how to make better personal and professional decisions, and consider the psychological dimension to some key ethical and political choices facing the world.)

About Nick (taken from his Warwick Business School bio page)

Prof. Nick ChaterNick Chater joined Warwick Business School (WBS) in 2010, after holding chairs in psychology at Warwick and UCL. He has over 200 publications, has won four national awards for psychological research, and has served as Associate Editor for the journals Cognitive Science, Psychological Review, and Psychological Science. He was elected a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society in 2010 and a Fellow of the British Academy in 2012. Nick is co-founder of the research consultancy Decision Technology; and is on the advisory board of the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insight Team (BIT), popularly know as the ‘Nudge Unit’.

Photo Credit: artist in doing nothing via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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