The Subconscious Experience


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The DNA of Customer Experience, outlined that all organizations have an Emotional Signature®, but how do you measure the emotional aspect of an experience?

Try this exercise.

Think about the shoes you are wearing. Your first thought was probably, “Which shoes do I have on?” Then you may have considered whether your feet were hot or whether your shoes were comfortable or uncomfortable and a number of other things.

Here’s the interesting bit. All of these messages about whether your feet were hot or your shoes uncomfortable were being sent to and received by the subconscious part of your brain. All I did was to raise this to your conscious mind and, in so doing, allowed you to consider the messages. Before I posed this question, your subconscious brain handled all this but did not deem it important enough to highlight this information to your conscious mind. Your conscious mind cannot deal with the thousands of signals it receives every moment of the day, so the subconscious mind prioritizes what is important.

“Seeing” subconsciously

So what does this mean for measurement and the customer experience? Assume I am looking for a conference site. As I inspect a potential hotel, my subconscious sees scuff marks in the hall, a threadbare carpet and a porter half throwing customers’ bags on the floor. My subconscious puts meaning to these but assesses these are within my acceptable parameters (just!) and does not raise this to my conscious mind.

This is what we would call the subconscious experience. It has not yet reached the conscious mind, but we have “seen” it.

Now assume that on the way out, I decide to use the restroom. My subconscious eye notes it is not as clean as I would like. On the way out, I overhear a guest complaining to the manager. All these little details, these messages, are logged. In my car, I am feeling disappointed. These subconscious signals have come together and evoked an emotion. The hotel is not good enough. But why? What has made me feel disappointed? The reality is I may not be able to articulate it myself, but I just know it is wrong. It is the culmination of all the subconscious signals that has made me feel this way. If asked, I may say, “It just didn’t feel right,” or, “There is something I didn’t like about it.”

The following day, the hotel conference manager calls for a decision. “Sorry,” I say, it’s a bit too expensive.” Or, “It’s not in the right location.” I say this either because I am unable to articulate my feelings or I don’t want to enter into conflict. A few days later, I get a questionnaire from the hotel. I put down “too expensive. ” This is what is measured, but it is totally the wrong thing!

To be able to measure things properly you need to understand the subconscious experience and the process of how emotions are evoked. In a very brief summary:

1. We receive stimuli.
2. Our bodies change.
3. A feeling is generated.
4. We become aware of the feeling.
5. We work out why we are feeling this way.
6. We make associations.
7. We memorize and learn.

As you can imagine, it’s a bit more involved than this that. It is called the Dual State Theory

Now perhaps you see why businesses may have a customer satisfaction of 95 percent and still see customers leave.

When you attempt to manage your customer’s experience, you need first to understand the subconscious experience. That means understanding the minute details and what is most important to a customer even better than your customers understand it themselves.

When you don’t understand the subconscious experience, you are in danger of focusing on the wrong things. These can be very expensive and still not create the ideal experience you’re aiming for.

Only after you have understood how emotions are evoked and measured your customers’ subconscious expectations can you deliver an experience that will increase their loyalty.

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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