Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Core Motivation of Customer Behavior

One of the weaknesses of customer experience planning and design is a lack of the context, specifically the root motivation for customer behavior.  The typical analysis begins with “a customer comes into our store [or visits our website] with the intention to buy a specific product.”   From here, the strategists and designers conceive of a way to make the shopping and buying process as comfortable and effortless as possible.   But this is beginning the inquiry a step (or more) too late.

Actions, the atoms of human behavior of any kind, are undertaken to produce results, by whatever word they may be described (goals, objectives, aims, desires, etc.)  By the time the customer enters the store, he has already been motivated by a desire to achieve results and he has already decided what action to take (which product to buy, which vendor to buy it from).  He brings with him his own reasons and his own expectations, and if strategy and design ignore those reasons and expectations, its success will be very limited.

Strictly speaking, the universal goal of every action is to enable a person to escape distress and return to a state of contentment.   The distress may be a threat to the status quo, in which case the goal of the action is to restore the previous condition, or it may be a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo, in which case the goal of the action is to achieve a change to their previous condition, whether permanent or temporary.   Whichever the case, the customer is unhappy, or less happy than he would like to be.

This dissatisfaction generally arose from an incident.   In some instances a customer may be motivated by a chain of incidents (each of which is similar enough to be considered a repetition) but it is the last incident in the chain that motivated them to take action, whether a single incident was particularly irritating or their irritation is cumulative, such that the last recursion in a chain of similar incidents met with a reduced level of tolerance for discomfort caused by previous irritations.

The motivation to act is always in the manner of an economic evaluation: the displeasure of the action that will achieve the desired outcome exceeds the displeasure of failing to achieve the desired outcome and allowing the status quo to be degraded or to persist in an unacceptable state.   Or in simpler terms, the customer perceives the total cost (price and effort) of effecting a change to be less than the total cost (inconvenience and irritation) of not taking action to effect that change.

But when the analysis begins with “a customer enters the store,” none of this is considered: the factor that is motivating the customer to seek a solution, whether the action it is meant to restore or improve to their status quo, the expected cost of the solution, and the perceived cost of inaction.   That is to say, that such an analysis ignores the most important factors that motivate consumer behavior and will lead to engagement that will sustain the initial motivation.

The consequences of this disregard is in the provision of a solution (and a process of acquisition) that do not align with the motivation of the customer, hence the disengagement of the customer from the process of acquisition – and given the drop-out rates between the front door and the register, particularly in the digital channel, these items merit closer examination, consideration, and inclusion in the strategy and design process.

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