Originally published by Colin Shaw on LinkedIn: Customers Are Irrational - Deal With It!

Why do we design rational Customer Experiences when people are irrational? Rational experience designs are born of the notion that we are logical beings. However, emotions, not logic, drive our behavior, particularly as customers. Nevertheless, moments in an experience betray the fact that many organizations ignore the role emotions play in Customer Experience outcomes.

The hotel mini-bar is a great example. The mini-bar seems customer-focused at first glance. Access to a Snickers in the room is convenient for a guest, particularly when it's late and going out is too much of a bother or the guest is pressed for time and is missing a meal. However, the mini-bar experience isn't customer-focused. In fact, I would wager if you asked the average hotel guest how they feel about his or her mini-bar experience, most of what you heard would be complaints.

Some time ago, I encountered this sign in my room at a hotel:

The sign demonstrates that the mini-bar experience is not customer-focused, but rather operations-focused. The sign says, 'for my convenience' but is it? After all, it makes no difference to me when I am charged for my refreshments. I will still overpay for them, whether it is immediate, takes fifteen minutes or even hours to appear on my bill after I remove it. What's more, it doesn't say "eat" or "drink" or even the vague verb "enjoy." It says "remove". This sign is a warning, e.g., "You move it, you buy it." My guess is it was the hotel's preemptive strike to intervene before bewildered guests complain about charges on their bill for mini-bar items that they "removed." In other words, this sign on the mini-bar communicates a policy but doesn't send the right message.

The sign also says that the hotel doesn't understand what a Customer Experience is. In our global Customer Experience consultancy, we define a Customer Experience as the following:

A Customer Experience is an interaction between an organization and a customer as perceived through a customer's conscious and subconscious mind. It is a blend of an organization's rational performance, the senses stimulated and emotions evoked and intuitively measured against customer expectations across all moments of contact.   

When I read the sign on the mini-bar, it says to my conscious mind that the mini-bar is there to provide me access to snacks that will be charged (immediately) to my bill. The sign also says to my subconscious that even if I pick up the cashews and a Coke and then change my mind and put them back, I will be charged (immediately). It also tells my subconscious that the hotel means business about these room charges because of their "immediacy" of the charge so when I complain, I will be reminded of the sign and the policy. My subconscious experience concludes that I am in for an adversarial relationship (at least as far as the mini-bar goes), which isn't exactly what I am looking for in a hotel experience.

Emotions influence more than half of any Customer Experience outcome.

Your customer might or might not be aware of them as they appear in both the conscious and subconscious mind. The emotions affect what customers remember, how they evaluate their experience, and where they will be customers in the future. Each of these emotions is triggered by moments in your experience, like the mini-bar sign. The sum of all these moments and their related emotions add up to an overall feeling customers associate with your brand, like that your relationship with the hotel is adversarial as it pertains to mini-bar charges.

People are irrational and susceptible to influences from their conscious and subconscious mind. What we know about customer emotions must translate into the type of experiences we design. We should not design for rationality and logic when irrationality and emotion drive customer behavior. Too many organizations today are making this mistake in lots of mini-bar ways and miss the opportunity to build an emotionally engaging experience.

Organizations ignore the fact their customers are irrational and design a rational experience for them. They are fighting the idea that customers are irrational. However, psychological research shows that customer irrationality exists, drives behavior and affects Customer Experience outcomes. It's time to embrace customer irrationality and provide a Customer Experience that, like the Snickers, really satisfies.

Published on: Oct 19, 2017
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