Stop!! You're doing your customer insight all wrong!!!

Right, I have your attention. Good. It is good because if you are in marketing, customer insight, market research or consumer profiling, you may be doing it all wrong.

What do I mean? I am glad you asked.

Well, studies in behavioural economics and behavioural science have shown that our limbic systems are hardwired for loss aversion. “Say what? What difference does that make to my customer insight or market research strategy?”

Here is the thing. These studies had further shown that when a person is remembering or imagining a thing they are more immersed in the thing than when they went through it. “Erm???” I hear you say.

Ok, so let me put it this way when we experience something we are less cognizant about the thing we are experiencing than when we are set a task, by way of a questionnaire or survey, of remembering or imagining the experience of that thing.

Usually, when we are experiencing something like using a mobile phone or driving a car we are not thinking about the experience and enjoyment of using that thing. Normally our minds will be elsewhere thinking about something else. We are distracted from the experience.

That is to say; we are more involved or connected to the experience when asked to focus on it than when we are experiencing it, and because our brains and our limbic system have an aversion to loss our answers become biased. Especially when compared to if we were asked about our experience of something as we are experiencing it. Behavioural economics has shown us the way in which the question is put across and the way we phrase a question becomes paramount.

Meaning that the only true way to get the accurate information about the way someone feels about a situation or experience is to ask them or study their behaviour in real time. Being careful that the questions asked are not influencing loss aversion or confirmation bias by not asking questions such as “how much time would you be willing to give up for this cause?” or “how good would you feel if?”

In sales psychology and behavioural economics, we know that this kind of neuro-linguistic presupposition causes a person to go inwards and have a physiological and cognitive reaction associating feelings to an imagined future. A clever marketer will then anchor and trigger that associated feeling with the product. Even though those feeling will probably not be the actual experienced when that imagined future becomes the present moment. But we also know that when we imagine a future and the feelings associated with it, it can be immersive and therefore not be a true reflection of one's actual feelings around the product or service in question.

Market research calls or surveys that ask questions before a product launch or after a customer experience automatically play into this kind of bias before they have asked their first question. Statements like “I want to ask you about your experience with” or “how would you feel if product x was offered to you tomorrow?” take the person asked the question mentally out of the present moment into the past or future.

Add to this the way in which you phrase questions, and you are getting so many biases all over the shop that the data becomes useless and not something you should be basing real sound decisions around.

These types of questions are fine if your market research or customer survey call is more about a positive reinforcement of the brand or product by associating positive feelings with a product or if the feedback is not great being passionate about improving the customer experience to establish a new anchored positive feeling to it. It is though important that you realise the difference between this kind of customer research and influencing the customer experience compared with gaining real customer insight.

I am by no means knocking the work of market research companies or customer experience specialist but what I am suggesting is that the way in which you ask questions, the language used and the timing are all keys, and these factors must be applied when looking at the data and what it is telling you.

Question: So what's the answer?

Answer: investigate customer behaviour using digital analytics, social listening, and real-time surveys!

Especially if you are looking for real customer insight to make real decisions. If you were to take these into consideration. Then study the customer's behaviour using digital analytics throughout the customer experience, interject this with some social listening using linguistical semantic analysis together with creating a customer feedback system that encouraged real-time answers to your questions,  over a period using the product or service, then you would be on to a winner.


Interested in finding out more about Behavioral Insights, Behavioural Economics, Persuasion and Communications Science

Check out more articles below

Bringing About Change: Individuals, Want and Values

What is social marketing and how can it influence behavioural change?

Digital Forensic Behavioural Linguistics

Behavioural Economics

Stop!! You're doing your customer insight all wrong!!!




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Written by Sam


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