Designing A Great Customer Experience In The Age Of Irrational Customers

Recently we’ve seen a lot of interest in the emotional aspects of customer experience by some of the smartest practitioners we know — chief customer officers. There’s a reason for this. Recent advances in the behavioral sciences now give us a better understanding of how people make decisions, experience pain and pleasure, and recall their experiences.

Maybe you’ve read about some of these studies in books like Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, or Switch by the Heath brothers. If you have, then you picked up on the fact that we now know our customers to be inherently irrational, making most of their daily decisions without any particular logic.

For example, we know that people experience the pain of loss more acutely than they feel the pleasure of gain. That’s the reason why people dump shares of well-run mutual funds when the economy turns down, irrationally converting their paper losses to real losses. It’s also why it’s easier to lose a customer than to gain one — people are less likely to forgive you when you inflict pain on them (got the order wrong, didn’t resolve the problem) than they are to love you for satisfying them.

We also know that people consist of two selves, an experiencing self and a remembering self. As it turns out, the sum of our experiences does not add up to our perceived memory of an experience. Instead, we form memories based on the average of the emotional peak of the experience and the emotional end of the experience. The result: You can send customers off to bad-mouth you because you ruined the checkout process (if you’re a retailer) or the discharge process (if you’re a hospital) or the deplaning process (if you’re an airline).

How should companies change their approach to customer experience in response to this new insight? Here are a couple pieces of advice from a new report on this topic by Forrester analyst John Dalton.

Begin at the end. Get out your customer journey maps (or create some if you don’t have them) and look carefully at the order in which events take place. For problematic journeys — like stressful processes — does the level and duration of customer pain (like anxiety) increase or decrease over time? Peaks often occur during channel transitions, like going from a website to the phone. When you find these peaks, look for opportunities to reduce them. Sometimes you can do this through the counterintuitive approach of adding more steps to a process, which can make it less painful than a shorter, more jarring approach.

Reimagine the scope of an interaction. Environmental and physical factors create a context that greatly influences customer perceptions. When conducting customer research, make sure to identify issues like the time of day when people perform tasks. Is the customer tired because it’s late? Or stressed because she’s trying to cram an important task into a break at work? Being able to identify these contextual issues can help designers focus on either slowing down a process so it’s less likely to produce an error or providing shortcuts that speed up a process.

It's hard enough building enjoyable experiences for a rational customer; approaching the task with an irrational one in mind won't be any easier. To prepare, customer experience leaders must begin doing the spadework now.


There is an other component

There is an other component in Dr. Ariely's work that stands out as an important factor to consider. The revenge factor is an important consideration when designing maps and service recovery practices. One of the studies he writes on provides very clear evidence that humans are creatures that seek revenge. Social media has provided numerous examples of revenge being played out on stage. There are things that can be done to reduce your revenge risk that are different based on the customer and product or service you provide to them. Understanding the risk and incorporating this into your strategy is key.


Revenge is a clear sign that there are process issues. Understanding the underlying emotion on the drivers for consumers that seek revenge by bad mouthing on the internet you will see that it mostly comes from a place of frustration and/or helplessness.
Much as we may like to believe our customers want to talk about us in their free time, the truth is customers want to get things done quickly and easily. Just enough to get the job they need doing done. It takes effort to find a relevant platform and express frustration and that effort needs to be energized.
There is no reason to wait for customers to rant online. It is enough to get feedback on the communication touch points, especially when customers are not entirely happy with the service and evaulating the processes that brought the customers to that state.

Customer Experience Design with Faith

what is also needed is to put in the element of faith in the CED process. We normally pay attention to purpose and ease but not faith. Faith makes a process easier.