Motivation Is Key


Share on LinkedIn

Understanding Motivation is Key…

I have an actor friend that studied at one of the prominent acting conservatories in the country. He still teaches occasionally and coaches young budding actors and actresses in their careers, particularly for auditions. I have heard him talking about these sessions and often hear him use the phrase “What is the motivation?” when describing how he was enhancing the student’s performance to reach a new emotional high.

I asked him what he meant by this and he explained that every character in a scene has a motivation, or something they want. He said that as an actor, you must fully understand that motivation otherwise you will not communicate clearly what the character wants with their lines in your performance.

Play scripts, it seems, come with very little insight into the thoughts of the characters. They are essentially pages of dialogue that tell a story to the audience. That leaves the actor with more room to interpret their portrayal of the character. Actors create what they call emotional subtext so they can create context. This means that an actor must create a reality from a fictional backstory of inner thoughts and life history of each character that drives their choices. The more an actor does this, the more authenticity is communicated in their performance. The end result of all this detailed imagination is that as an audience member the motivation of each character is clear and we have an enjoyable time at the performance.

I was surprised by this explanation because of the similarity it has to the customer experience. We are in effect watching the motivation of our customer’s at work when they interact with our company, purchasing our products and services. Motivations and emotions are as important to your customers as they are to a character in a play. I discuss this concept in detail in my post, “How Emotions Generate $$$“.Emotions play a big role (pun intended) in the customer experience before, during and after the interaction with your company.

Finding the Why

Where we differ from actors is that instead of creating a fictional history and backstory to our customers, we should ask them directly why they do what they do. We have the benefit of having an actual history and emotional context from which our customers act. We need only to have them reveal it to us.

Understanding why your customers make the choices they do, is critical to improving your customer experience. What each company must do, therefore, is find the “why” from their customers.

An interesting study from Harvard shows us one way that you can find the “why” from your customers. They based their study on the consumers of milkshakes. After collecting data from one of the milkshake purveyors, they learned that the big selling time for milkshakes was at 8am in the morning.

Researchers then stationed themselves inside the restaurant to observe these consumers to get information about them when they made the purchase. Were they alone? Did they buy anything else? Did they drink it there or take it with them? They took careful notes to help build data that might help support their motivation for the purchase.

The next day, the researchers were waiting outside the restaurant to ask the consumer just after they made the purchase why they bought a milkshake. Here they learned the why of the purchase directly from the source. Milkshakes, it seems, filled these customers up all morning.

Now most companies would take this information and run with it, making changes to the milkshake. They might want to make it thicker, or colder, or sweeter, or more natural to attract the milkshake consumer to buy their milkshake. But that would be a mistake. This assumes that the consumer is buying the milkshake because it is better than other milkshakes. It assumes that the competition for the purchase was another restaurant’s milkshake that was thicker/colder/sweeter/more natural.

What the Harvard researchers learned about the customer’s motivation was more revealing than that. It showed the restaurant who their real competition was….and it wasn’t another milkshake. It was in fact, a banana, a donut, or a bagel. These items it seemed did not keep them full enough, were too messy to eat in the car, or were not enjoyable enough to eat (without jam). The milkshake kept the consumer full all morning AND was easy to eat in the car on the way to work.

This study is detailed in an interesting video.

Improving Customer Experience Requires Understanding Their Motivation

Motivation and emotion drive the customer’s actions. Meeting the need and satisfying their why is important to the customer experience. I believe that knowing the reason a customer makes the purchase before they make it is as important as making the purchase enjoyable. Asking them questions before they enter the experience is important to understanding this motivation.

The Harvard study confirms that sometimes the customer doesn’t even understand the reason why they do something until you ask. It also shows that you may not understand who your competition is until you get the feedback from your customers that reveals it. Having this information is as critical to your performance as it is for the actor to have carefully constructed backstory outlined for their character in their performance. Knowing their motivation and meeting the needs for them over your competition will enhance your customer’s experience and bring them to their feet in a standing ovation of repeat business and rave reviews.

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.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here