The Neuroscience of Customer Service

Neuroscience has shown us how we can leverage our most basic human function – “Thinking” and helps us to bring together the art and science necessary to deliver truly exceptional standards of service.

We all know that feeling when our name is put forward to attend yet another Customer Service workshop! There is very little that we haven’t heard before, now with the help of neuroscience we can understand why the principles of good customer service are so important and identify ways of leveraging our actions to stand out from the crowd.

The brain can be compared to a roadmap, it consists of a complex network of connections, making over 100 million new connections every second. The brain’s underlying functionality is one of finding associations, connections and links between small pieces of information. Information coming into the brain is compared to our existing “maps” and if the links are strong enough, the information will be absorbed into who we are and “our way” of thinking.

1.    Make it Easy

Creating new maps can be hard work and draining on our energy, which means that we are often reluctant to create a new map unless we can identify a clear need to do so. What this means for customer service is that we have to focus on making it easy for the customer to do business with us, no complex ordering processes, no having to search out an assistant. If we want to make things easy for the customer we have to do things in a way that the customer is familiar with and can therefore use an existing map or if we want customers to do things in a different way, we have to make sure that it is as simple as possible to carry out.

Could this provide us with insights into why when introducing self service, customers are reluctant or indifferent at best to the changes?  Although the basic principles of self service are very easy, often due to lack of insufficient planning, incompatible technology, or the inability of staff to let go and fully empower the customer, the process becomes over complicated. Hence the customers don’t want to engage with the process. Is it just too much hard work to create a new map when the customer perceives little or no benefit?

2.    Empower customers to have an “Aha” moment

We have all experienced that light bulb moment when someone says something and suddenly the situation becomes clear and you know exactly what you should do. In neuroscience this experience is referred to an “Aha” moment, occurring when unconnected information links together to form a new idea. When we experience the “Aha” moment we create a new idea. There is a big release of energy, which intrinsically motivates and we are at our most likely to act upon the idea.

In a customer service or sales situation, we need to create the right environment to enable the customer to have their own breakthrough “Aha” moments to move them towards the sale. An example of this is when we focus on providing the benefits for our customers rather than selling the features of our product or service. By focusing on benefits we empower the customer to make the connections between our products and services and the challenges that have been keeping them awake at night.

3.    All Brains are different

Our environment shapes our brain, the smells, sound, sights, feelings, all influence the maps in our brains. Whilst we might think that all brains are the same and we all think in similar ways, it is said that “The difference in brains, can be as significant as two laptops which have been used for 40 years.” (Rock 2009). In customer service and sales situations we try to help our customers by thinking through their challenges and thinking what we would do or want in that situation.  We can often be heard informing our customers of what they should do, offering our solution and expect that they should be convinced.  And if the customer starts to question our suggestions, we start to resent it and feel unappreciated. But what we forget is that our brain is not the same as the customer’s brain, therefore when we input data into our brain it is processed according to our maps and produces the solution which is best suited to our experiences and terms of reference.

To overcome this we need to work more with our customers, providing them with individual bits of data and let them make the linkages for themselves.

4.    The Brain tries to make sense of a situation using existing maps

If a customer has had a previous “poor” experience with your organisation or a similar organisation, the brain will automatically start to search for the tenuous links between the present time and past experiences. The brain looks for evidence to support what we think. If you walk into a shop expecting the service to be slow, as you enter the shop your brain will be looking for information to support your belief. You will notice that there is only one assistant in the shop and that there are three customers, and that one customer looks to be buying half of the store…………….

In a customer service or sales situation we need to find ways of influencing the perception of the customer. Referrals, testimonials, and getting involved in the community are just a few ways of making a positive impact upon how customers perceive your organisation. One area which lets many organisations down is “off” duty staff in uniform or the office Christmas party, where staff, have let their guard down, and forget that they could well be surrounded by potential customers with impressionable brains, soaking up all of the data available!

5.    Social Connectivity

At the heart of most human interaction are the “Social” aspects or domains. The five domains of social experience have been identified by (Rock 2009*) as being Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. The brain although a very complex organ has a basic organising principle for managing all of the information received. Information coming into the brain is organised into either something which is a potential threat and hence we will want to move away from it or a potential reward, which we will move towards.

In a customer service situation this means that everyone involved in any part of our customer service, sales, marketing, management ……… should be fully aware of the impact of their every action and communication. A seemingly innocent few words by the sales person could result in an unhappy or lost customer. This is a vast area and in order to give it justice will be the topic of a future blog.

The guys at Jigsaw@work have put together a few ideas you may want to have a think about in relation to your service delivery.

If you would like to discuss how you could take your service delivery onto a new level, contact Michelle McArthur-Morgan at or telephone 01924 864444.

Reference; David Rock( 2009) Your Brain at Work Harper Business.