Want to Perfect your Client Experience? Use Behavioral Psychology

Whether you sell to consumers or businesses, optimizing your Client Experience (CE) is crucial for improving loyalty, operating efficiencies and service levels.  In some competitive industries like financial services, hospitality, transportation, telecom and retail, getting the CE right can be a key strategic differentiator and driver of long-term profitability.

The CE is an amalgam of on and offline customer interactions, from awareness building & product knowledge transfer to selling & post purchase support.  When designing CE systems, most firms look first to accommodating internal needs (e.g., structure, people, rules, process) first before considering what customers want or how they think.  In particular, little attention is paid to how customers really want to be treated or how their behaviors and impressions are driven by sub-conscious drivers.  Of course, getting the structure, people and processes right is an important element to improving performance.  However, it is not the only factor to consider.  All CE designers can benefit from incorporating the insights of Behavioral Psychology (BP), in areas like process design, employee training, technology deployment and resource allocation.

In a groundbreaking Harvard Business Review article, Richard Chase and Sriram Dasu outlined 5 key operating principles companies can leverage to improve service performance and customer satisfaction.

 1.         Finish Strong

Most service providers believe that the beginning and end of a customer interaction are equally weighted in the eyes of the customer. From a BP perspective, they are mistaken. The end is far more important because it’s what the customer remembers later on. Of course, a strong first impression and overall performance is important.    However, a firm is better off with a relatively weak start and a modest upswing at the end than with a great start and a mediocre finish.

2.         Get the Bad Experiences Out of the Way Early

According to BP, in a sequence of events involving good and bad outcomes, people prefer to have undesirable events come first – so they can avoid dread – and to have desirable events come at the end of a sequence – so they can savor them.  This insight has important implications for services like health care where providers must deal with anxious and inexperienced people on a regular basis.

3.         Segment the Pleasure, Combine the Pain

BP can teach customer service leaders in the hospitality, theme park and health care industries many things about how good and bad experiences should be structured and timed.  For example, customer experiences seem longer when they are broken into discrete segments. In addition, people have an asymmetric reaction to losses and gains. Most people would prefer small wins spread over time.  On the other hand, most people would prefer losses to occur in once incident.  These learnings teach companies that they should break pleasant experiences into multiple stages to stretch out the enjoyment and combine unpleasant activities into a single stage or event.

4.      Build Commitment Through Choice

Most of us are happier and more empowered when we believe we have some control over a process, particularly an uncomfortable one. Usually, it does not even matter if the control gained by the customer is largely symbolic. Consequently, savvy service managers in industries such as telco, transportation and hospitality will allow customers some measure of control over their customer experience even at the risk of introducing extra cost and complexity.

5.         Let People Have Their Rituals

Most customer service designers don’t understand the importance of ritual in people’s lives. Most of us find comfort, order and meaning in repetitive, familiar activities.  People unconsciously see these rituals as trust-building mechanisms between unfamiliar parties. Rituals are particularly important in sectors with longer-term encounters like professional-services and health care where certain activities like the exchange of business cards, establishing credentials and timely follow ups help mark key moments in the relationship.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

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4 comments so far

  1. [...] a customer’s stated and hidden needs and the seller’s unique capabilities. An understanding of behavioral psychology can help tailor the experience – messages, practices and process – to the customer’s [...]

  2. [...] hidden needs and the seller’s unique capabilities. Specifically, we have used the principles of behavioral psychology to help tailor the experience – messages, practices and process – to the customer’s [...]

  3. [...] compelling brand strategy will flounder if the customer experience is not supportive of the brand promise.  Our client experience bears this out. We have seen a service-focused hospitality brand stumble [...]

  4. [...] the customer experience A compelling brand strategy will flounder if the customer experience is not supportive of the brand promise.  Our client experience bears this out. We have seen a service-focused hospitality brand stumble [...]

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