Retail Customer Experience: Why customer satisfaction surveys don’t work
by William Cusick CEO and founder, Vox
Through a special
arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current
article from Retail Customer Experience,
a daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the
suggests fully 95 percent of our cognitive processing is subconscious.
That leaves all of five percent of the rational mind to do what it does
best: rationalize (some might say “guess about”) our decisions and actions
What that means
is we’re pretty poor at telling others what we like or don’t like, and
why we feel that way. And the science suggests we’re even worse at predicting
what we might like, or do, in the future. One might wonder then, if we’re
so horrible at this, just why businesses continue to crank out standardized
customer satisfaction surveys. How can you get closer to the truth, to
determining real, actionable steps to drive customer behavior, when you
don’t know what they’re thinking in the first place?
And there lies
the real paradox: our actions are driven by emotion (in our irrational
subconscious) much more than logic. Yet, to really understand your customers,
you can’t look at those emotions. Instead you must take a step back,
stop making assumptions and focus on their behavior. Behavior, it turns
out, leads to the truth.
a self-described “retail anthropologist,” has understood this for a long
time. In his book, Why We Buy, The Science of
Shopping, he makes a compelling case for employing
observation of customer behavior over other techniques like surveys.
To help his clients get closer to the truth, he doesn’t ask customers;
instead he sends his “trackers” out in the field to the actual retail
environments, and observes customer behavior in real time.
It was through
this power of observation that Mr. Underhill discovered what he referred
to as the “butt brush factor.” He noticed that there were serious and
unintended consequences when two product displays stood in close proximity
to each other. If a customer wanted to bend down to take a closer look
at a product on a lower shelf, it forced passersby to turn and shuffle
by, resulting in said “butt brush.” This seemed particularly uncomfortable
for women, and it meant very low sales on the products in those displays.
The behavior, in other words, held the answer to an actionable improvement
to the customer experience, and to desired customer behavior.
This same idea
— that behavior is truth — holds in the online retail world as well.
You can’t just ask customers if your website is “satisfactory,” or what
improvements they’d like to see.
Can you see
just what your customers are trying to do on your site? Where do they
enter, and what path do they start down? Where are the road blocks? It’s
been our experience that, once you look at the behavior, it’s not that
hard to see where customers are abandoning the site, where they are stalling
or backtracking, and more.
it’s not what they say, it’s what they do.
What are the pros and cons of behavioral research?
How well suited is it to analyzing consumers’ web experience? What
value do you place on customer satisfaction surveys?