How You Really Make Decisions


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How You Really Make Decisions

How You Really Make Decisions

What is your instant thought when you think of a brand, interact with a person or view something within a Customer Experience? However fleeting a thought, in that split second lays a person’s perceptions, thoughts and prejudices both rational and irrational. A significant part of our decision making is made by our subconscious without us being consciously aware of this choice. This has a huge impact on what people buy. This means that a large part of a customer choosing to use your product and service is determined by factors that your customers are not aware, are influencing their decisions. The role their subconscious plays is a major one, worthy of your consideration and analysis, but ironically ignored by most organizations.

We have recently conducted research into this subject and the results are available here:

Our white paper, ‘Implicit Association Test: Measuring the effect of the subconscious on a Mobile Phone Brand’s Value’, details our findings on a recent study we worked on for a blue-chip mobile phone company as an illustration of this approach. Our researchers used word association with each brand and measured the response times for the respondents and whether the association was positive or negative. This Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a measure of a person’s ‘gut reaction’ to a brand. Like the common word association test, the team measured the speed with which the respondent associated the word with the brand. In the study, we used both a set of positive and negative words. They were looking at a few things including:

  • The extent to which consumers’ subconscious feelings impact the brand experience
  • How much subconscious feelings drive or destroy value
  • Whether subconscious feelings express themselves differently than how they are normally structured
  • What is a consumer’s emotional reaction to brand logos

The research yielded a very important fact about the reason that a customer recommends brands: 50% of the reason was based on emotional reaction. Another way to say this is that 50% of the reason a consumer recommended a brand was a result of the subconscious emotional response. This is a critical point for a business to understand about its customers and one that isn’t easy to control or measure.

We discovered that when it pertains to a customer’s subconscious experience, there are 10 emotions that were identified by respondents as relevant to the customer experience. They fell into two groups. The first group, which includes pleased, satisfied, unhappy, frustrated and neglected, are usually covered in customer satisfaction surveys and will come as no surprise to most customer service experts. But the second group – submissive, interested, important, and in control – are usually not covered by most companies. We therefore assert that the second group presents an opportunity for a brand to differentiate itself from its competitors by making sure these needs are satisfied for their customers.

We also discovered that risk-averse emotions were the strongest for most respondents, as these positive responses that indicated they felt safe, valued, and happy had the shortest lag time in response. A shorter lag time indicates that the customer associates the emotion with the product. They determined with the mobile phone study that making sure the customer feels that your brand is safe and secure is as important as making sure that they feel the risk of participating is controlled. These emotions play a significant role in purchasing decisions.

We showed respondents logos and measured their response. They found that certain images were more likely to evoke either a positive or negative response. For instance, when a simplified, or clean looking logo or image was shown for the company, the positive responses rose. When a more complicated logo or image was shown, the respondents tended to lag more and become more negative.

What does this mean to you and your customer experience?

Generally, if your customer is making decisions at a subconscious level that means they are responding with a certain amount of emotion. Emotions are harder to track and quantify when you are designing a customer experience, especially when they are part of your customers’ subconscious.

From my book, DNA of Customer Experience: How emotions drive value, we know that all organizations have an Emotional Signature of the experience which will drive decisions from their customers. So naturally by understanding what emotional signature your customer experience elicits, you can better control the subconscious reaction to your brand and influence positively the decisions your customers are making.

One way to design your experience and affect your organization’s emotional signature is to look at the experience from the point of view of the customer. As our study confirms, 50% of the decision is rational and fact based, while the remaining is purely emotional. If you look at the experience through the eyes of your customer you will have a better understanding of the 50% of the experience that is not rational. In my post “Why Journey Mapping Sucks“, I made the point that most journey mapping tools only look at the rational side of a Customer Experience. Some, not many, look at emotions, none looks at the subconscious and psychology experience, that we are aware of, other than our Moment Mapping methodology.

I believe we have shown that your customer’s emotional experience has a huge influence on what your customers do. With so much riding on the success of your customer’s emotional experience, it is clearly important that you both know what that experience is and try to facilitate a safe and secure one. By analyzing your emotional signature and participating in moment mapping, you can do both.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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