Recently, I had a chance to chat with Rory Sutherland, who is Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather UK and a cofounder of #ogilvychange, their behavioural science practice. Rory is a leading thinker in the marketing and advertising space and a huge proponent of how we can use insights from cognitive psychology and behavioural economics to improve marketing and customer experience.
I wanted to highlight two insights from our conversation that are both practical and useful ways that firms can think about to improve their service and experience using behavioural insights.
The first concerns ‘anti-nudges’, which are the little things in service or experience that, as Rory says, ’stop people from doing certain things or feeling comfortable about taking on a new action’ – this is similar to the concept of grit in your customer experience that I have talked about before.
Illustrating this, Rory cites an example that describes a service feature that is common in many hotels i.e. When you arrive at a hotel, you are often greeted by a someone that says ‘Can I take your bags for you?’ However, the challenge with this sort of request is that it often ignores the customer’s context i.e. many arrivals at a hotel have just gone through a travel experience that has exhorted them to not forget their luggage or to keep an eye on it at all times which combined anxiety around whether their carrier will lose their luggage or if it will arrive at the same time and at the same destination as them can often mean that travelers are quite sensitive when it comes to their luggage.
So, when they are presented with a stranger that asks to take their bags away from them, their unconscious brains can often react very negatively. It is often the last thing they need or want to hear at the end of their journey, particularly, before they have checked in or even know their room number.
As Rory puts it:
‘the hotel probably thinks of it as adding service but to the unconscious brain you might as well stab us in the eye with a fork!”
As a result, we should always be conscious of the customer context and the ‘anti-nudges’ that have been designed into our service and experience.
The second insight concerns ‘framing’ and how it can be used to alter customers perceptions of particular experiences.
Rory cites Wagamama, a UK-based Japanese chain restaurant where rice and noodle dishes are served to customers sat at long communal tables, that uses framing very well to help it deliver a better experience in the minds of their customers.
Normally, if you wander into a restaurant, sit down and order some food you would expect the food to arrive, roughly, in the order that you asked for it. However, in Wagamama’s case it doesn’t always work this way because, as they explain on their website:
“in the name of kaizen, ….our ingredients are cooked fresh, served fresh. every bowl and plate …is served as soon as it’s ready”.
What that means, in reality, is that dishes can often arrive in an unexpected order. Seen through a normal ‘frame’ our experience of their service and food would probably feel somewhat chaotic and confusing.
As a result, Wagamama have designed their experience such that when you arrive at one of their restaurants you are met and greeted, escorted to some free seats and from there your server briefs you on the process, approach and what to expect. This little ‘framing’ exercise around what to expect turns what could be a chaotic and confusing experience into one that is both unique, memorable and engaging.
The morals from these stories?
- Just because you think you are being helpful does not mean that that is how it will be perceived by your customers;
- Understanding the customer’s context will go a long towards helping you better understand what you should and could be doing to deliver the best service or experience possible; and
- Framing what you do and what a customer can expect, when it comes to your service or experience, can turn a potentially confusing or negative situation into an engaging and positive one.
This post was originally published on my Forbes.com column.