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Customer Experience is Neuroscience, not Rocket Science

Posted by Dean Asher on 7/22/14 11:00 PM
Topics: college store customer service, customer loyalty

Daryl Travis posted this article to that highlights the neuroscience behind customer experience. Whether people love your prices or hate your store’s layout, the human brain perceives experiences in terms of emotional satisfaction that can in turn subconsciously promote coming back to your store — or going elsewhere.

Some of the moments embedded in a retail experience are more emotional, and thus more critical, than others, but many companies overlook this obvious fact. Getting caught up in monitoring every possible touch point, companies create needless complexity that leaves them data rich and insight poor. Big data can be invaluable but not until it reveals big insights. This distraction causes companies to lose focus and neglect to optimize the moments that matter most. Many companies simply fail to grasp that customers don’t always think or behave logically and that good or bad customer experience is determined by emotions that data alone does not reveal.

For example, give two groups of kids a great chocolate candy bar and they will be happy. Then give only one of the groups an inexpensive piece of hard candy. Logically, we think the kids who get two pieces of candy will naturally be happier—they have more candy! Right? But, no they aren’t. Actually, when scientists conduct this very experiment, the kids that receive two pieces of candy are less satisfied.

Nobel laureate and father of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman, described this phenomenon as the Peak-End Rule, explaining how experiences are judged almost entirely on the intensity of emotions at their peak moments, coupled with the end point or resolution of the experience. So a positive experience—the chocolate candy bar—is diminished and turns negative when a cheap piece of hard candy follows it and is the last touch point in the experience. Virtually every other aspect of the experience appears to be forgotten, including the overall pleasantness or unpleasantness and of the entire customer experience.

Another example: A trip to the grocery involves countless touch points for a customer. These include emotional rewards ranging from finding a new product that provides healthy meal solutions for hard-to-please kids, the satisfaction of checking everything off the list and completing the shopping task, to frustrations about out-of-stock items, confusing store layout and difficulty returning a shopping cart to the queue.

The customer will take the whole experience in stride and think nothing of it since she is accustomed to the overall irritations of grocery shopping. But the emotional side of her mind will not forget even subtle disappointments and evoke the feeling that she should go to a different grocery store without ever thinking of it consciously.

The touch points with the most positive or negative emotional intensity and the end or resolution of these specific peak moments have a disproportionate influence on the customer’s overall experience. This is very good news for retailers who are willing to take the time to identify and enhance the peak moments along their customer’s journey. Those retailers who identify their customer’s peak moments can stop wasting time and energy on things that don’t matter nearly as much. They can intensely focus on improving and optimizing the critical Peak-End moments that mean the most to how the customer feels about your store and your brand.

Much of what actually creates a successful brand is the ability to identify and deeply understand the psychology of the 4-6 peak emotional moments in the customer’s experience. These are the moments that will create and sustain loyalty while increasing the lifetime value of a customer. These are the moments that unlock the secrets to extraordinary customer experience.

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