New Research Reveals Lack Of Customer Understanding


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Most organizations realize Customer Experience is vital to their competitive differentiation. But they don’t do anything about it, at least not anything with real impact.

My co-author Professor Ryan Hamilton and I shared seven imperatives for taking customer experience to the next level in  The Intuitive Customer. Designed to help navigate the new thinking in the new world, the imperatives provide a starting point for developing a future customer experience. Many organizations know that emotion drives much of our behavior as customers and are working to incorporate these tenets.

After publishing, we undertook research through an online self-assessment form. Over 350 responses revealed that most organizations had not taken Customer Experience understanding into Customer Experience action. In an ideal new world of customer experience, the responses we received would have scored 5 out of 5 in each of these areas. Here are the actual scores:

Imperative 1: Recognize that customers decide emotionally and justify rationally.

While organizations are starting to accept that customers buy emotionally, 3.2 out of five, internal discussions within the company leave emotion out of it, 2.7 out of five. Many organizations have not defined the particular feeling that they wish to evoke with their customer experience (a huge mistake), 2.8 out of five. Also, customer experience design still lacks implementation of emotion that drives value for the organization, only 2.7 out of five.

Imperative 2: Embrace the all-encompassing nature of customers’ irrationality.

Recognition that customers are irrational was about average, 3 out of 5, but few organizations did anything about it, 3 out of 5.

Imperative 3: Understand that customers’ minds can be in conflict with themselves.

Respondents knew that customers have an intuitive and rational way of thinking, 2.9 out of five. However, few include this consideration in their design, 2.4 out of 5. Even fewer train front-line people how to use this concept to their advantage when dealing with customers, scoring only 2.2 out of 5.

Imperative 4: Commit yourself to understanding and predicting customer habits and behaviors.

Many organizations do not understand what triggers customer’s habitual behavior, 2.8 out of five, nor do they understand the subconscious signals their experience gives to customers, 2.4 out of five.

Imperative 5: Uncover the hidden causes and unintended consequences of customers wanting things to be easy.

Many businesses think they are easy to do business with, 3.1 out of 5, but did not recognize where customers need to use effort (brain power) in their experience, 2.8 out of 5.

Imperative 6: Accept that apparently irrelevant aspects of your customer experience are sometimes the most important aspects.

Most organizations have not identified the subconscious dimensions of the experience that they’re trying to deliver, 2.5 out of five and most do not design unconscious elements to sway emotions within their customer experience, 2.3 out of five.

Imperative 7: Realize the only way to build customer loyalty is through customers’ memories.

A disappointing 2.6 out of five organizations have identified the current Peak (the highest emotional moment for the experience) and End emotions (how they feel at the end of the interaction) produced in their customer experience, which affect a customer’s  memory of the experience. Also, only 2.5 out of five have identified the Peak and End emotions that drive the most value for their organization. Finally, a mere 2.3 out of 5 teams have designed these into the customer experience.

Are these scores because the respondents were lazy or stupid? Nope. In fact, it’s the opposite. Many of them took the self-assessment because they want to do the hard work of change. These numbers reflect a truth, that despite the significant number of companies that understand the importance of providing a customer-focused and emotionally engaging customer experiences, few know what that means in practical, day-to-day action.

Moving your customer experience to the next level requires also moving your thinking to the next level. It’s a new world for customer experience, and your understanding of it needs to incorporate new concepts.

The new world of Customer Experience ABANDONS OLD concepts like:

  • Customers are rational people who make logical decisions based solely on price and quality.
  • People never buy emotionally.
  • Improving your customer experience adds costs to your business.

The new world of Customer Experience EMBRACES NEW concepts like:

  • Customers do not always make rational decisions but instead buy emotionally.
  • Psychological influences drive people’s behavior.
  • Buying decisions are complicated and affected by more than price.

The good news is that more organizations accept that positive emotional outcomes are imperative to exceptional customer experiences. Some companies have even analyzed their current emotional experience and designed a customer experience that results in an improved emotional outcome for customers.

The bad news is that few organizations realize what it takes from a specific action perspective to achieve an exceptional customer experience. Understanding what to do and how to do it is crucial to success. In the new world of customer experience, learning how our psychology influences our thoughts and behavior is a critical aspect. Organizations that can accomplish this understanding and implement it in deliberate design and action will put the future of customer experience to work for them today.

Find out more about these concepts and how you can use them to improve your customer experience today. Register for our FREE webinar – The Future of Customer Experience Today – on May 2nd.

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.


  1. For many organizations, what we’ve frequently found is that, inherent in the imperatives addressed in the post, there is a focus on sales, process, and product based on antecedent ideas about satisfaction, retention, and engagement. These can easily miss emotional drivers of decision-making behavior and the building of strategic, value-based experiences and relationships.

    Our research identifies differences between what customers say about experience and value, what they really mean, and downstream action based on emotional (and rational) memory of the experience. One of these is often seen studies focused on Imperative #5. It’s not so much that customers want ease in their relations with a vendor. What drives behavior is the degree to which the vendor is trusted, transparent, sensitive to needs for simiplicity, and proactive on the customer’s behalf.


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