Before you start blasting me in the comment section, yes, this is a Customer Experience blog, and yes, of course we believe that companies should always strive to deliver the best possible experience to their customers.
However, when it comes to the strategic decisions that will help you thrive as a company, a positive experience is not the only factor that will make customers choose you, or stay with you. Likewise, negative experiences aren’t a guarantee that customers will leave.
Allow me to demonstrate:
You have the world’s worst experience with a company, such as a bank or an internet provider. They don’t deliver on their promises or your expectations, they push all the wrong buttons, leave you on hold for 45 minutes, don’t help and don’t actually fix your problem at all. Yet, somehow, you don’t cancel
Your meal subscription company offers a damn good product, treats you like the queen that you are, gives you perks and freebies, rolls out the VIP treatment, never messes up your bill, and sends you handwritten cards in the mail on your birthday. But then, a trade-in offer from the competition pops up on your Instagram feed and poof! You’re gone in a hot second.
How can we explain the fact that we’ll churn even when we’re satisfied, yet possibly stay even when we’re ticked off? It’s actually quite complicated to explain, but in a nutshell: humans are weird, and our brains are wired in an illogical way.
And almost ironically and definitely counterintuitively, according to HBR, companies with poor customer service are in fact the most profitable. Ugh. How lame is it that it “pays” to suck at CX?
In fact, companies that had a reputation for delivering amazing experiences like Toys R Us, Blackberry, and Blockbuster still went under.
Many CX practitioners and thought leaders used Ryanair as an example of superlatively bad CX after being voted the worst airline for the 6th year in a row. But the puzzling bit is that Ryanair continues to thrive while customer-centric airlines like Virgin Atlantic reported loss for 2018.
What truly matters to customers, despite the negatives and positives, is how the scale tips at the end of the day and whether ultimately a company’s offer is the most “worth it” alternative to them.
The truth is that positive emotions are but one of the many experiences that influence customers’ ultimate decision to purchase.
What drives this final decision is what we call the “worth it” conclusion: the moment when the consumer weighs out the costs vs. the benefits of that purchase. In other words, what they’ll have to sacrifice in order to obtain that benefit or fulfill that desire.
We make this assessment every single time we, as humans, are faced with a decision. Here are a couple colloquial examples, really quick:
- Eat another row from the chocolate bar: satisfaction vs. getting fat
- Wake up on time: dead tired all day vs. being employed
- Drop 1k on a new phone: an entire month’s salary vs. owning the most amazing phone in the universe.
When it comes to buying something, or purchase behavior (the part that’s important for companies), we don’t consider how fat it’ll make us, or whether we’ll get 8 full hours of sleep, we consider the costs ($$) or effort (time) we’ll have to exert to access the expected benefits.
These “drivers” of purchase decisions are in fact a series of emotional and rational perceptions weighed out according to needs, expectations, market offerings, and even budget availability.
The Bottom Line
We all know that corporate strategy cannot and will not ignore revenue, shareholder value, profit margins and ROI. And the one thing that unquestionably drives the bottom line is the customer and their decision to buy or not to buy.
Understanding what truly motivates people to buy, and what drives them away is the secret to profitability. But understanding behavior isn’t the same across the board regardless of demographic, product or industry. There is no “one size fits all”.
While some companies may find that having great experiences are the most important thing to their customer and the best place to grab those ROI dollars, other companies or industries may find that depending on the moment of the customer journey, another driver like ‘price’ for instance, is the true motivator. Thus, shaving profit margins will provide the best return.
This is why channeling efforts and resources into research and voice of customer programs is imperative to a company’s success. It allows us to dialogue with our customer and understand their individual perceptions, needs, and pain-points. Once we identify those decision drivers, we can boost the positive ones and stifle the negative.
In conclusion, while positive experiences DO in fact play a crucial role in influencing the decision, they are but one of the many facets you need to be looking at when dissecting customer behavior to increase sales and growth, and reduce churn.
Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at survey tech startup Worthix, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.