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Getting inside the customer's mind

Colin Shaw
|
7
min read
Getting inside the customer's mind

Customer Experience, like everything else in the world, is changing. What customers want and what they do is changing, too. As we prepare for the next generation and level of putting the customer at the center of everything we do for a Post Pandemic world, we should remember that the critical part to achieving what we want (aka, customer-driven growth) is getting inside the customer’s mind.

Lewis Carbone, a Customer Experience management expert, speaker, and founder of ExpereinceEngineering™, was on a recent podcast to discuss how to get inside the customer’s mind and move to this next level of Customer Experience Management. He compares where we are for the transformation of Customer Experience as the transition from driving cars with gauges to driving Indy cars. Moreover, he sees it as a fusion of art and science, a science that has evolved over the years.

Per Carbone, people are aware of the impact of unconscious thought. Moreover, the study of neuroscience and psychology has amassed more knowledge about the best way to apply it to consumers over the last ten years than it has over those disciplines’ entire history. The key, it seems, is in the clues we leave for customers in our Customer Experience design. In Carbone’s Book, 'Clued In How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again', Carbone emphasizes the significance of clues and signals for our unconscious mental processes. The brain takes in information, interprets, and filters it all the time. Much of it is unconscious, and all of it is essential to understand.

Lewis Carbone, a Customer Experience Management Expert sees [CX] as a fusion of art and science, a science that has evolved over the years.

Many years ago, Carbone made Deep Metaphor Elicitation his preferred methodology and applied it to experience management. He and his team learned that the unconscious mind decides even before we articulate or rationalize it. It happens at a primitive and emotional level. Therefore, Carbone’s team uses this fact as a fundamental building block for all their experience design and management programs, aiming to create greater emotional engagement with customers.

Both Carbone and I agree that emotions are the key to designing and delivering excellent Customer Experiences. However, we are both still surprised by how few organizations adopt this methodology. Carbone thinks that could be because they don’t know what to do with this information, so firms stick with what they know because it’s comfortable. Or companies only take a shallow dive into the idea, hoping that a little effort will yield big results.

Clues send signals in experiences

Carbone says he would rather know how people think about something versus what they think. With that “code,” he can unlock how to help them experience what they want and feel the way they want to feel. Carbone does this in experiences by leaving clues. Clues, he says, are the signals that help our brains process information.

Carbone did some work with hotels over the years and learned that people thought of the hotel room as a “safe container.” If there is a breach of safety, then, unconsciously, it reflects poorly on the experience.

Consider a time you walked into your hotel room after checking in. The first time you use the bathroom, you might remember there is a triangle that is folded at the end of the toilet paper. This triangle is a clue or signal that the staff has just cleaned the bathroom toilet you are using. Carbone says if he notices that the triangle is missing, then unconsciously, he feels uneasy and wonders if someone has been there before him or forgot to clean the room.

For my part, I understand what he means. I feel the same way about hotel rooms and the idea that people have been in there that I didn’t know about. Although, it depends on who was in there. For example, I don’t feel weird when I come to my hotel room and realize I have received turn-down service. (The chocolate didn’t hurt with that feeling, either.) However, if someone came in to do some maintenance and I wasn’t aware it would happen, it would bother me. I would also wonder why the front desk didn’t tell me about it. These little things are essential.

More than hotel stays at the moment, digital experiences are crucial these days. Digital experiences present an excellent opportunity for many organizations to manage Customer Experiences. After all, one of the beautiful things about digital experiences is that you can measure everything. However, one of the daunting things about digital experiences is that you can measure everything. The danger I see is that few people are trained in using the information they measure to identify what it means for customer behavior. They lack the training in the behavioral sciences and misinterpret the underlying behavior that exists. In other words, they have the data, but they don’t know what to do with it.

Carbone says that what’s under the data and the depth you dive into the data will help move digital Customer Experiences forward. Many times, data analysis will result in fixing broken things in the experience, which is excellent. However, it is not enough. Carbone and I would both like to see more organizations move beyond remedying problems and get into creating digital experiences that consider the customer’s mind. The signals and clues we unconsciously process demand it, especially now in the COVID Era.

These same considerations of our mindset during the COVID Era also carry over into physical experiences. Carbone says designing experiences that appeal to the unconscious mind’s need for safety are crucial. He recalls a recent stay in Wisconsin where the hotel staff had seals on the door to indicate the room had been sanitized from its previous occupant. The team also opened doors and pushed elevator buttons for guests, so people didn’t have to touch too many surfaces. Carbone said that he had the distinct feeling that the hotel was showing they cared about him. These actions had an improvisational feel, meant to adapt the hotel experience to a customer’s needs in a COVID environment. Carbone calls this type of experience management adaptive impulsivity.

However, Carbone says that intentional design is critical to experience management. In other words, understanding in depth how customer emotions work in experiences, creating a deliberate strategy that appeals to customer emotions, and then implementing them consistently is critical. Moreover, he wants organizations to think of it as an integrated system.

Organizations should ask themselves how to determine the emotional end frame and then make it a reality from the fusion of their experience. Carbone also says that organizations should understand that the ultimate value they create is the experiential value, which can be managed to make an emotional response.

If you want customers to feel comfortable, safe, or cared for, paying attention to these little things will make a big difference.

I talk a lot about decision shortcuts that customer use, called heuristics. Many times, heuristics place importance on small things in experiences. Our subconscious mind processes information and makes decisions differently than our rational mind. It relies a lot on these shortcuts, symbols, and signals. Therefore, if you want customers to feel comfortable, safe, or cared for, paying attention to these little things—like toilet paper triangles or opening doors for customers during COVID—will make a big difference.

So, what should you do with this information?

Carbone says that the most critical factor for getting inside the customer’s mind is self- awareness. Understanding where you are on this continuum of increased knowledge and sophistication in experience management will help you move forward into the next era of Customer Experience.

Carbone also has five absolutes to Customer Experience Management:

1. Move from the world of making and selling to sensing and responding.

2. Think about emotional and rational bonds with customers.

3. Understand and leverage the role of unconscious thought.

4. Become “Clue conscious” of your signals in language, physical space, and gestures.

5. Develop a rigorous system that manages clues and creates a Clue-Conscious culture at your organization.

It would be best to understand that we are entering a whole new era of opportunity to apply these new thoughts and move beyond this improvisational bridge we have created. The behavioral sciences have led to understanding experiences more deeply than we’ve ever understood them before. Applying new tools and techniques to understand how experiences make the customer feel is essential.

Carbone says that organizations need to go back and look at signals they send in their experience and understand those signals’ power. Moreover, you have to change your approach to research. Surveys tend to be a popular way to get feedback from customers. Unfortunately, Carbone says that the way you ask the question changes the answer. Instead, he would try open questions that do not aim for specifics and then “wander through the maze of their mind and let them take you where they want to go.”

Many organizations have yet to grasp what the new world is going to look like post-COVID.


What we do know is it’s going to be a lot different. Getting under the skin of what that means and what clues you should be sending is critical for all organizations.

Understanding your customers’ motivations is also vital, whether they want safety, convenience, or feeling cared for—or all three at the same time! Knowing that opens up what you can do creatively to facilitate those motivations. In problem-solving mode, your solutions are going to be much more tactical and much more narrow. But if you widen your scope, you can create a robust experience with the proper clues and signals that deliver the appropriate customer emotions.

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About Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

He has also been voted twice as Brand Quarterly readers on one of the 'Top 50 Marketing Thought Leaders Over 50' and has been established as one of the top ‘Customer Service Gurus’ in the world by a Global Guru poll.

Colin has even been interviewed by us on the Engati CX show and was a panelist on our Titans of CX webinar. This article was originally published on the Beyond Philosophy blog.

Our interview with Colin Shaw

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