Customers don’t think the way they think they think!

Yeah, you might want to read that title a few times.

There is always a strange paradox encountered by anyone who has to deal on a regular basis with customers, and that is that customers simply do not behave in a way which is logical, even reasonable often.

Why is this? We conduct careful Market Research and Customer Satisfaction surveys, respond to their findings, strive to improve our performance and, well, nothing!

The answer may lie in the new science of Behavioural Economics.

The simple fact is that we, none of us, actually think the way we like to imagine we do.

A wonderful book by Daniel Khaneman* outlined the idea that we have two systems of thinking, System 1 and System 2. The system we all imagine we use, using logic and reason, comparing alternatives and coming to sound, rational conclusions, is System 2. Our customer satisfaction surveys, Market Research studies and marketing messages naturally assume this is the preferred option and are geared very much to System 2 thinking (and consequently give System 2 results)

System 1 is rather more driven by emotion, intuition and gut-feel. Your brain (good as it is) is overwhelmed and bombarded with information all the time and, as a consequence, is constantly looking for short cuts. The actual processing of a thought requires significant resources of energy and oxygen and it is your brain’s job NOT to be ‘right’, but to be ‘right enough’ and efficient. Consequently, it predominantly utilises System 1 tactics in its daily life.

So the purchase decision, the re-purchase decision, loyalty to a supplier and compliance are all driven by emotional factors and the employment of System 1 thinking which requires tactics of chunking, deletion, rules of thumb and habit etc.

Consequently, customers will often tell a Market Researcher something they believe is the ‘right’ or ‘expected’ answer and then actually do the complete opposite (as a case study, consider how many General Elections throw up actual results that are quite different to the opinion pools published earlier in the campaign.

So, to provide a quality customer experience (surely the primary goal of any Enterprise in this social 24/7/365 ‘always-on’ world), we need to understand that the customer is not a rational robot, (also he is not an intentional liar), but rather an emotional, unpredictable creature whose behaviour and decision-making is based on short cuts, rules of thumb, the practice of habit and what I like to call ‘Commercial Inertia’.

The role of the new Marketing is to understand this and start designing compelling propositions (and customer feedback systems) that reflect this new reality. If you are a leading brand, your job is to compound the habits of your loyal customers, if you are a new entry, your job is to break those habits and install new ‘short cuts’ for customers.

We shall post more on that later.

  • Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman D, Pub Penguin; 01 edition (10 May 2012)

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