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        5 min read

        The Customer Experience You Didn't Know About

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        Guest Post by Colin Shaw, Beyond Philosophy

        When trying to improve a customer experience, most people automatically look at the conscious, rational side of things. Do customers have to wait too long in line? Is the price too high? The selection too small? Are problems and complaints being addressed in a reasonable amount of time?

        These things are important, but they’re just one piece of the customer experience puzzle. All customer experiences also have a subconscious aspect that dramatically affects the way a customer feels about a company.

        The Hidden Customer Experience

        In more than 20 years in the customer experience field, I have learned that customer experience is based far more on emotions than on rational thought. Negative emotions like frustration and anger can destroy a customer experience, whereas positive emotions like gratitude can improve it. And while these emotions can be driven by conscious, rational factors, they are more often a result of subconscious influences.

        For example, it drives me around the bend when my wife and I are at a restaurant and the server arrives with our food and shouts “I have the pasta!” instead of placing our plates correctly in front of us. For heavens sakes, there are only two of us! How hard is it to remember that the woman ordered the fish and the man ordered the fettuccine?

        Looking strictly at rational data, the restaurant wouldn’t perceive a problem. The server has delivered my food, it’s what I ordered, and it’s hot. But subconsciously, the message I get is that my server doesn’t care about me. And that makes me less likely to visit that restaurant in the future.

        If you look, you can find examples everywhere.

        • At bank counters, they attach the pens to chains so you can’t walk off with them. Message: We don’t trust you.
        • At some department stores, the clothing racks are jammed so tightly together that a stroller or wheelchair won’t fit between them. Message: We don’t want people like you shopping here.
        • Some e-commerce sites have a complicated ordering system and no information about shipping or returns. Message: This isn’t a serious business and I might not ever get my stuff.

        If you want an improved customer experience, you absolutely cannot ignore your customers’ subconscious experience. An example from my business explains why.

        The Risk of Ignoring the Subconscious

        Awhile back, my customer experience consultancy, Beyond Philosophy, worked with a hospital system that was having problems with its customer experience. The hospital knew that patients were dissatisfied with their interactions with doctors. It believed it could solve the problem by having doctors spend more time with each patient.

        We came in and did some research and discovered a different issue entirely. It turns out that the patients didn’t need more time. They just wanted the doctors to listen to them. During their patient interactions, the doctors sat at their computers, typing in information. Because the doctors were looking at a screen instead of making eye contact with the patients, the patients believed the doctors weren’t paying attention or listening to them.

        The solution, then, was for the doctors to spend more time listening and making eye contact with the patients. If the hospital had followed its first assumption and simply increased the amount of time the doctors spent with patients, it would probably have made matters worse, since the patients would have felt ignored for an even longer time and would not have been of value to the hospital!

        When designing or improving a customer experience, it’s important to delve into the subconscious factors at work in your customers’ minds. You might be surprised at how strongly your customers are influenced by things you never suspected.

        Guest Post by Colin Shaw, Beyond Philosophy

        When trying to improve a customer experience, most people automatically look at the conscious, rational side of things. Do customers have to wait too long in line? Is the price too high? The selection too small? Are problems and complaints being addressed in a reasonable amount of time?

        These things are important, but they’re just one piece of the customer experience puzzle. All customer experiences also have a subconscious aspect that dramatically affects the way a customer feels about a company.

        The Hidden Customer Experience

        In more than 20 years in the customer experience field, I have learned that customer experience is based far more on emotions than on rational thought. Negative emotions like frustration and anger can destroy a customer experience, whereas positive emotions like gratitude can improve it. And while these emotions can be driven by conscious, rational factors, they are more often a result of subconscious influences.

        For example, it drives me around the bend when my wife and I are at a restaurant and the server arrives with our food and shouts “I have the pasta!” instead of placing our plates correctly in front of us. For heavens sakes, there are only two of us! How hard is it to remember that the woman ordered the fish and the man ordered the fettuccine?

        Looking strictly at rational data, the restaurant wouldn’t perceive a problem. The server has delivered my food, it’s what I ordered, and it’s hot. But subconsciously, the message I get is that my server doesn’t care about me. And that makes me less likely to visit that restaurant in the future.

        If you look, you can find examples everywhere.

        • At bank counters, they attach the pens to chains so you can’t walk off with them. Message: We don’t trust you.
        • At some department stores, the clothing racks are jammed so tightly together that a stroller or wheelchair won’t fit between them. Message: We don’t want people like you shopping here.
        • Some e-commerce sites have a complicated ordering system and no information about shipping or returns. Message: This isn’t a serious business and I might not ever get my stuff.

        If you want an improved customer experience, you absolutely cannot ignore your customers’ subconscious experience. An example from my business explains why.

        The Risk of Ignoring the Subconscious

        Awhile back, my customer experience consultancy, Beyond Philosophy, worked with a hospital system that was having problems with its customer experience. The hospital knew that patients were dissatisfied with their interactions with doctors. It believed it could solve the problem by having doctors spend more time with each patient.

        We came in and did some research and discovered a different issue entirely. It turns out that the patients didn’t need more time. They just wanted the doctors to listen to them. During their patient interactions, the doctors sat at their computers, typing in information. Because the doctors were looking at a screen instead of making eye contact with the patients, the patients believed the doctors weren’t paying attention or listening to them.

        The solution, then, was for the doctors to spend more time listening and making eye contact with the patients. If the hospital had followed its first assumption and simply increased the amount of time the doctors spent with patients, it would probably have made matters worse, since the patients would have felt ignored for an even longer time and would not have been of value to the hospital!

        When designing or improving a customer experience, it’s important to delve into the subconscious factors at work in your customers’ minds. You might be surprised at how strongly your customers are influenced by things you never suspected.

         

         

        Colin Shaw, Founder & CEO of Beyond PhilosophyColin has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the world's top 150 business influencers where he now has over 277,000 followers of his work. He has also been voted one of the ‘Top Marketing Thought Leaders over 50’ by Brand Quarterly. Colin has written six bestselling books on Customer Experience. He is Founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, a consultancy, training and research company that helps organizations move their Customer Experience to the next level.