It must be love!!

6th June 18

Or, could it just be a great customer experience?

Or maybe just shopping? We’re a nation of shoppers these days!

A few years ago American Express published the results of a laboratory study on customer service and revealed that 53% of the participants that received great service showed the same neurological reactions that people get when feeling loved.

Whether or not the feeling of great service is akin to being in love is still up for debate. However if that feeling is a good one, then there is a high probability you would go looking for that experience again. The flip side of course sees us wanting to avoid negative experiences. Unfortunately for retailers humans are significantly more likely to remember the negative experiences and far more people pass on a bad experience than a good one.  The psychological name for this behaviour is Negativity Bias, an evolutionary enhancement developed thousands of years ago to help Mr and Mrs Caveperson stay alive long enough to pass on their genes. Marelisa Fabrega (Ten Strategies for Overcoming the Negativity Bias and Increasing Your Quality of Life) explains

“Human beings developed a negativity bias—that is, they evolved to notice and respond more forcibly to the negative—since that helped our ancestors to stay alive. Thousands and thousands of years ago it was more important to escape negative situations than it was to approach opportunity”.
Baumeister et al., in their paper “Bad is Stronger than Good”, suggest that for each bad experience it requires at least five good ones to address the balance.
On the face of it this looks like bad news for retailers especially if your customer’s poor experience does not follow five or more good ones.
However it’s not all doom and gloom many of these areas of psychological research can help inform us how to generate service propositions that really work.

Back on the topic of love and romance Baumeister et al. say

“in a romantic relationship each partner can make an effort to be nice to the other consistently. Such small acts of kindness are important for combating the bads that will typically occur”.

Is there some learning here? We recognise that it’s important to ensure we are positively affecting the outcomes of each customer’s experience, but however simple that sounds it’s just not easy to do. Most retailers have a proposition in place that tries to create positive experiences yet even when you have a great service proposition backed up by a slick operation it’s just not easy to get it right for every customer, every time. And are most service propositions genuinely as customer focussed and simple as they could be?

So where does all this leave us? I’ve suggested that the complexities of the average “customer service proposition” are not getting to the source of the issue and in designing our “catch all” service policies we sometimes overlook the fundamentals. Good customer experiences are really about human nature. What drives us to feel “in love” with what we experience? What reduces the desire to protect ourselves from negative reminders of past issues? This is tough stuff to get right and no wonder many retailers don’t manage to deliver it as it is extremely complex. Yet it is the simplest and most basic of human caring behaviours that deliver a “loving” customer service experience.

Jon’s next blog will investigate those human behaviours and what we as retailers can do to ensure in the simplest way, our customers feel loved.

Bad Is Stronger Than Good by Roy F. Baumeister, Ellen Bratslavsky, Catrin Finkenauer, and Kathleen D. Vohs; Review of General Psychology 2001. Vol. 5. No. 4. 323-370

Marelisa Fabrega (Ten Strategies for Overcoming the Negativity Bias and Increasing Your Quality of Life)