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    Don’t Try to Guess Customer Behavior (or… Customer Experience, Gunslinger Style)

    Posted by Luis Serpa on February 13, 2009 - 9:55 AM

    It’s interesting how you can find Customer Experience wisdom in the strangest places. The message I got for this post came in fact from a novel I was reading yesterday (The Dark Tower III, by Stephen King).

    In it, two of the main characters were discussing odd human reactions to certain situations when making decisions. 

    The dialogue went more or less like this:

    Character 1 (Ed): “I was just thinking about how stupid some people can be. You put them in a room with 6 doors and they’ll still walk into the walls… And then have the nerve to bitch about it!”

    Character 2 (Suzanna): “If you are afraid of what might be on the other side of the doors, maybe bouncing off the walls seems safer…”

    That got me thinking immediately on how similar this dialogue could be to any number of companies receiving complains on their Customer Experiences:

    Company Manager (Ed): “I was just thinking about how stupid our website users can be.  You offer them 6 different product views and they still prefer to call the 1-800 number to get the information…  And then they have the nerve to complain they couldn’t find it online!”

    CX Expert (Suzanna): “If they don’t know how to use those 6 views or are overwhelmed by how to find the product in the first place, maybe calling the 1-800 seems safer and faster…”

    The moral of the story here is that nobody should guess Customer Behavior based on what customers “bitch about” when they speak to you.  What you are hearing is how they see and rationalize YOUR problem and not what motivated theirs. Customers are irrational and they don’t really care about what drives them to do something, they just do it.

    Real behavioral knowledge comes from observing your customers and understanding their basic fears and motivations. Without a sincere effort to understand Customer Behavior, what you think would be a solution for their grumble might exacerbate the exact problem you are trying to solve.

    So it doesn’t matter how many features (doors) you put in front of your customer.  If they don’t know what they are there for and you are not trying to address their real motivations (fear of what’s on the other side), you will end up watching your customer bouncing off the walls, refusing to use the doors and still blame YOU for a lousy customer experience. 

    And guess what?  They are absolutely right… 

    See original post at Vox Inc – Customerspective Blog

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    6 Responses to “Don’t Try to Guess Customer Behavior (or… Customer Experience, Gunslinger Style)”

    1. Donna says:

      You made some compelling points, thanks for sharing them. Customer feedback should always be a major focus, even more so during economically challenging times. Online surveys are one of the best ways to gain insight into your customer’s mindset in order for you to market your product/service/brand as effectively as you can – especially when you can do the research for very little $$ or even for free.

    2. Jack Trytten says:

      Luis, you hit it on the head. My research has continually confirmed your thoughts.

      Although I’m not sure online surveys are the best way to explore customer motivation. Counting is not the issue, understanding subconscious drivers are. Online surveys can’t handle that.

    3. Luis Serpa says:

      I totally agree, Jack. In fact, I am also of the opinion that online surveys are usually misleading, giving that customers are usually irrational/emotional and they often lie when surveyed (not because they want to lie intentionally, but because they actually don’t know what is really motivating – the subconscious drivers you mention – and then answer surveys based only on how they rationalize their own decisions).

      All in all, understanding those underlying reasons requires more than just listening to customers. It requires observing their motivations and reactions before, during and after they talk to you.

    4. Donna says:

      Luis – I would have to disagee somewhat with your and Jack’s previous online survey comments. Survey questions can vary according to what type of information you are trying to collect from the respondents, and how this information will apply to the goals of the survey. There are two basic types of survey questions: Open-ended and Closed-ended. While your points may have some merit for for Closed-ended questions, Open-ended questions allows participants to respond in any way they choose (participants provide answers in their own words). Open-ended questions provide primarily qualitative data, and are frequently used in exploratory research. Using an Open-ended question approach can help you understand your customers behavior, using non-numerical data (ie: your customers own words).

    5. Luis Serpa says:

      Donna, I’m sure NOT saying that surveys don’t have their usefulness or that they are not a valid research channel to gather valuable customer information. I also do agree that open-ended surveys can bring more qualitative results than closed ones and each one has its value and place.

      What I am saying here is that the way online surveys are usually conducted, as a quick (and sometimes only) source of user feedback without looking at the whole customer experience, will certainly lead to incorrect conclusions. A surveys alone cannot frame the full context of users emotions (feelings, perceptions, expectations, unspoken desires, etc) and, without the understanding of the customers’ behavior and motivations, these surveys may induce managers to make the wrong decisions.

      For example, 75-80% of customers who leave an organization have answered “Satisfied” in online surveys for the same organization. The company executives then get a false sense of security with those results and tend to relax on important initiatives to fix or improve real customer experience issues.

    6. […] on what we want since we always think that what we want and what the customer wants are the same.  Standing Out From the Crowd Blog has excellent insight on this very issue.   It talks about reacting to what a customer says when […]

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