You Have No Idea What You Want!


You Have No Idea What You Want!

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  July 28, 2016

We are terrible at predicting what we will actually like, according to Charlotte Blank of The Maritz Institute in her closing keynote at the recent CXfusion event in Las Vegas.

Explaining what we like, and what we will in fact choose are two very different things, said the executive director of the research and design collaborative that does human-centered design. But she took her point a step further, using her audience as guinea pigs to demonstrate her point.

What option would you select, she asked the audience, if I offered you a smaller chocolate in the shape of a heart or a much larger chocolate of the same quality in the shape of a cockroach? Most audience members seemed to indicate they would choose the cockroach, which is clearly the most logical choice. But here’s the rub. Blank they displayed a slide of the unremarkable heart chocolate followed by an image of a very lifelike cockroach crafted out of chocolate. Many in the audience, including yours truly, cringed at the sight of the cockroach option and seemed pretty unlikely to enjoy this treat.

This was just the beginning of a very engaging and unexpected presentation, particularly given it was the event’s closing address.

She then went on to discuss what she called the introspection illusion, which she said points to the fact that people tend to be less happy with their choices when they have to explain them. In this test, she explained, students were asked to choose between two posters. One group of posters was landscapes of fertile land and blue skies, what Blank described as ideal art. The other posters were of stuff like crazy cats, and the students were asked why they chose them. Thirty days after choosing the second type of posters the students were polled again, and it was revealed they were less happy with their choices.

So why did Blank talk about this study? She explained it is because we as customer experience professionals need to figure out what we can do to create great experiences, but without requiring too much explanation from customers. That, she added, is what her organization does.

Human-centered customer experience design, she explained, requires one to consider brain and body queues, the heart, and the mind.

Which soft drink is better: Coke or Pepsi? A 2004 study by a guy named McClure put that question to the test and found that most people in a blind taste test preferred Pepsi as indicated by the brain activity during their tastings. That’s because it’s sweeter, said Blank. However, she added, when the test was done when people knew the brand, there was more brain activity while drinking Coke. Blank said that’s because identity and memories also come into play more frequently with Coke. 

“This is neurological evidence to the value of building a strong brand,” she said.

Businesses working on customer experience should also ask questions that count to their customers, said Blank, adding this is a sign to customers that those organizations care about them. And studies, like one by a person named Morelli that was done in 2012, have found that when people experience empathy the same pleasure centers are activated as when they eat something sweet or get a physical reward like money.

Then there’s the mind to consider. Blank mentioned the term mental heuristics, saying they involve the quick and dirty rules we use to make decisions based on one key salient element. For example, she said, a 2008 study by Cialdini indicated that most hotel guests hung up and reused their towels if the in-room signs suggesting this mentioned the most guests who stay in the hotel reuse their towels. The compliance rate was even higher, she said, when the sign said most guests who stayed in that same room reused their towels.

A separate study, this one by someone named Iyengar and conducted in 2000, indicated people are easily overwhelmed by too many choices. (I’ve made my own observations about this related to a popular big box retailer called Costco.)

In this “paradox of choice study” by Kahneman & Fredrickson in 1993, participants were presented with two tables filled with jars of jam. One table had 24 varieties of jam; the other had six. As it turned out, the 24-jam table got most of the attention from the study participants, but more people actually chose the jam from the six-jar table.

Another study that Blank mentioned, this one by Diener in 2005, had participants submerge their hands in ice water for 60 seconds. Half of the group put their hands in ice water again at the start of a 30-second period that followed during which the water was warmed at the end, providing a positive sensation, she said. It may surprise you to learn that the people who had to stay in the ice water for not one, but two, sessions were happier with the overall experience than the 60-second-only group. This, Blank said, showed that people tend to remember the most recent part of an experience. This translates to other things as well, she said, like people remembering the experience during their last part of their vacation rather than weighing each day equally in their memories of the total experience.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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