Customer Experience and the "Unconscious Mind"

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Only 5 percent of customers' decisions are based on conscious rational thought. This is why understanding how they think is today's most definitive competitive edge.

When your customers interact with your brand you're constantly delivering a barrage of clues that effect their emotions, which, in turn, influence their attitudes and ultimately their behaviors. What they see, smell, hear, taste, and touch create their "experience" and affect them emotionally even though they aren't even aware it's happening. Research has found that 95 percent of our mental processing takes place unconsciously. That's right-only 5 percent of your customers' decisions are based on conscious rational thought.

Which is why understanding and acting on not just what customers think but how they think and how to affect that are today's most definitive competitive edge.

To earn customer loyalty and affinity, companies must look at the business from what I call "customer-back," rather than from the company-out. There's lot of talk today on "brand building" and what a brand needs to project to affect customers' impressions of its product or service. However, for decades I have been dedicated to turning this notion inside out. I believe this coveted emotional bond is created when companies think and look at everything from the customer backwards (inside their hearts and minds) by identifying the emotions customers want to feel as a result of an experience. The value created by experiences is how they cause customers to feel and that, in turn, affects how they feel about a brand. After all, customer satisfaction isn't a predictor of customer loyalty. Most defectors are actually satisfied customers. Satisfaction, loyalty, affinityall of these are based on deeper emotional engagement and less on rational thought.

This mindshift is what enabled Pizza Hut U.K. to reverse nearly a decade-long sales slide of this well-known global brand. By putting the customer experience at the core of its business strategy, and intentionally and strategically delivering clues designed to strengthen its customers' emotional connection, was able to increase sales, customer Net Promoter Scores, employee motivation, and job satisfaction and find profitability.

Working with Experience Engineering, Pizza Hut U.K. discovered the three most powerful emotions its customers want to feel when eating at its restaurants and that discovery led to the intentional design of "experience clues" that help create those feelings. This emotional end-frame became the critical lens for designing, delivering and managing an engaging customer experience. "Experience Engineering made us realize that we should stop obsessing about Pizza Hut and start obsessing about what people want to feel when they're inside our restaurants. That shift in thinking has unlocked a tremendous amount of creativity within our organization," says Pizza Hut U.K. Chief Executive Officer Jens Hofma.

Understanding how customers want to feel brings clarity, purpose, and alignment. Using the unconscious emotions desired by customers as a blueprint enables alignment for ensuring all its actions are headed in the same direction. Adopting this customer-centric mindset helps brands go from selling a product or service to delivering an experience that evokes those feelings and engages customers. The lighting and music played in a store. Gestures and language used by employees. Even the choice of menu items. Purposely designing and delivering the full spectrum of clues in order to reinforce specific thoughts and emotions-how customers want to feel-is proven to help companies to optimize the value of the experiences they create.

Lou Carbone is the Founder, President and Chief ExperienceOfficer of Experience Engineering, Inc., a Minneapolis-based experiencemanagement firm