The Neuroscience of Customer Service Part 2

In the first part of “The Neuroscience of Customer Service” we looked at how in a customer service situation everyone involved in the service process should be fully aware of the impact of their every action and communication. We discussed some of the key neuroscience findings which have implications for Customer service;

  • The importance of making it easy
  • Enabling customer ah ha moments
  • All brains are different
  • The use of existing maps
  • Social connectivity

In part two we are going to look at Rock’s SCARF model (2008), which captures the five domains of social experience;

  • Status
  • Certainty
  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness
  • Fairness

and how the model can inform service delivery.

As discussed in part 1, all information coming into the brain is received as a perceived Threat (something we will move away from) of a perceived Reward (something we will move towards). The challenge for service providers is to reduce the number of perceived Threats and increase the perceived Rewards experienced by the customer during service delivery. It is worth noting at this point that according to Barbara Fredrickson it takes three perceived Rewards to counterbalance just one perceived Threat. Which means that service providers, have to work hard to minimise potential Threats in order to provide the customer with an overall perceived Reward experience.

STATUS – relative importance to others

How can your goods or services positively impact upon the customer’s perceived status within the family, friends or business circles?

Creating a status Reward is about leaving the customer with a “feel good” factor about your product or service. They need to have a clear vision of how your product or service will enhance their position in society or within their organisation. I remember a comedy sketch where a junior manager hired a top of the range Mercedes, to go to work in, so that his bosses would see him arriving in the car and think that he was definitely a rising star within the business.

Products which are new or rare can also be used as a Status Reward, if the newness or rarity of the item is pointed out to the customer by informing them that they will be the first person in the area to have………..

Brands are another great tool for creating a perceived Reward. If you stock the big name brands, make the connection between the brand name, the product and the customer. Let them know how it will enhance their status, perhaps focus the attention of the customer upon the brand advertising and the images / status portrayed in the advert. E.g. The new Kia TV advert, features a group of trendy young people driving the car and having a good time together. The advert then shows them arriving at a large stadium concert and getting out of the car to loud screams as they are the chart topping band that everyone has turned out to see. The advert is providing a perceived Status Reward, for young people who want to be seen by their peers as being trendy, popular people.

CERTAINTY – being able to predict the future

The human brain likes to be able to predict the future, which means that as customers we like to be certain about the products or services we purchase. Customers are looking for evidence and assurances about your product or service.

The provision of money back guarantees and warranties are a way of providing certainty. An example is Asda’s money back guarantee, they are providing a Certainty Reward that by shopping at their stores you will get the cheapest prices for the area.

Use the fact that you have been in business for X years as Reward leverage, for example Warburtons, Hovis, Werthers, and Fairy Liquid, are all good examples where they use the length of time they have been in business as a way of providing perceived Certainty Reward. There is an implied Certainty of the quality and continuity of supply as the product has stood the test of time.

Another example of a retailer providing a Certainty Reward is B&Q who intentionally leverage the fact that they employ retired trade’s people in their stores. This provides customers with perceived certainty that the retail assistants have the knowledge and experience to help them make an informed decision about their purchases.

AUTONOMY – a sense of control over things

Customers must be given the right number of choices for them, whilst it is important not to give too many options, otherwise the decision becomes hard and the customer may well walk away and go to another supplier. At the same time, customers do not want to feel as if they are being told that this is the only option you can offer them. Information should be presented to customers in such a way that they feel that they are in control.

Examples of where organisations get this wrong can be seen across all sectors. The pushy sales person, who will not let the customer go until they have agreed a deal.  Then after the salesperson has left, the customer telephones the company and cancels the order. Not only has the sales person lost a sale, and wasted the time it took to get the order, but the company has probably lost a customer forever and damaged its reputation. I have personally had experience of these types of sales people when purchasing double glazing. (Fortunately not all double glazing or car sales people are like this)

Another example is when organisations are struggling for business, there is a danger of the staff becoming “desperate” for the business and this again can create a situation where they create a perceived Autonomy Threat for the customer. If sales are below target, staff may try doing whatever it takes to, get the customer to buy there and then, hence creating a perceived Autonomy Threat. This is one of the reasons why staff need, to be resilient and able to manage the pressure of working within a tough environment.

RELATEDNESS – a sense of belonging and fitting in

Everyone wants to know where they fit into the bigger picture, at work, at home and in life in general. If you inform your customers as to how your products or services will help them “fit in” and “belong” you are creating a perceived Relatedness Reward.

One example of a Relatedness Reward is by using fashion and trends as leverage, where is the “in” place to be seen? What brands are in vogue?

If you clearly define your target market and identify what your customers peers are buying, or interested in you can use that information as leverage to demonstrate to your potential customer how your product or service “fits”. A great example of this is football supporters they like to wear “their” team’s colours, each time a new strip comes out they go out and buy it, as it provides them with a sense of belonging, it helps them to identify and relate with their team and other supporters.

In a retail situation, the decor and environment can create the relatedness. As a 52 year old, I would not feel comfortable walking into a trendy boutique clothes shop, aimed at young people. Not because I think of myself as old, but because the shop has been designed with the young trendy adult in mind and usually employ trendy young people hence creating a Relatedness Reward for them whereas for a 52year old, it is far more likely to be perceived as a Threat.

The, challenge for organisations is to clearly define and segment their target customers, and then identify how their products and services can provide a sense of belonging and fitting in for the customer.

FAIRNESS – a perception of fairness

The growth of Fair-Trade and Eco-Friendly products has been levered on our social need for fairness. As human beings when we hear the stories about the use of child labour and the terrible conditions people in third world countries are expected to work in, to provide the luxuries the Western world take for granted, we perceive a fairness Threat. When we listen to the news about Global warming and what will happen if we don’t cut our carbon footprint, we perceive a Fairness Threat, as we realise that our grandchildren may suffer as a result of our abuse of the planet. Our reaction to these, Threat’s is to move away by changing our behaviour or in this instance products and services we purchase.

When a well know high street bank, advertised special rates which were only available for “new” customers, there was a public outcry as to why the preferential rates were not available to their existing loyal customers.

The popularity of comparison websites could that be driven by our social need for fairness? We all want to make sure that we are getting the fairest deal!

The way we perceive energy companies has changed over the last few years, as we the customers have had our energy prices increased every time the cost of oil increases and yet when the price of a barrel of fuel decreases in price as customers we rarely see a reduction in the price we pay. Hence a perceived Fairness Threat results in more customers swapping and changing suppliers to try to get the fairest price. The cost to the energy companies, – brand loyalty.

The discoveries about the brain are still in their infancy, there is still so much more to learn but yet so far we have learnt so much which can really help organisations differentiate themselves from the rest.

Do you want to be a brain friendly service provider and be a market leader or are you a follower? The choice is yours.

By Jigsaw@work.