Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Customers Do What They Do

Action! Image courtesy of jonathankosread
I originally wrote today's blog for MindTouch; it appeared on their blog on June 2, 2014.

Have you heard about Aristotle's seven causes of human action?

They are certainly an interesting study of customer understanding!

A little background first.

In his book Rhetoric, Aristotle said: Now every action of every person either is or is not due to that person himself. Of those not due to himself some are due to chance, the others to necessity; of these latter, again, some are due to compulsion, the others to nature. Consequently all actions that are not due to a man himself are due either to chance or to nature or to compulsion. All actions that are due to a man himself and caused by himself are due either to habit or to rational or irrational craving. Rational craving is a craving for good, i.e. a wish-nobody wishes for anything unless he thinks it good. Irrational craving is twofold, viz. anger and appetite. Thus every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite.

So let's think for a moment how that applies to customer experience. I bet you don't have to think about that for too long, since Rule #1 in customer experience is "understand the customer." Understanding the customer includes listening, creating a customer journey map, and using other tools that will help you understand who they are, what their needs are, what jobs they are trying to do, what their painpoints are, and how you fit together. If you know customers well, it's much easier to meet, and especially exceed, expectations.

Aristotle also notes that all actions are due to either emotion or reasoning. I think we're familiar with that thinking in the world of customer experience. Reminds me of the left brain and right brain and how we need to engage both in order to gain executive commitment for our customer experience efforts.

O my. Perhaps Aristotle is our founding father! (Or not.)

He does go on to say, in not so many words, that target demographics are superfluous and if we focus on the seven causes, that's all we need to do. Think he knew about personas and/or jobs to be done?

Let's go back to the seven causes of human action, and I'll run through each one. They are seven interesting ways to look at why customers make the decisions they make.

Chance: The things that happen by chance are all those whose cause cannot be determined, that have no purpose, and that happen neither always nor usually nor in any fixed way.

Perhaps the customer stumbled upon your product or service and decided to give it a try. There is no rhyme or reason for the decision/action.

Nature: Those things happen by nature which have a fixed and internal cause; they take place uniformly, either always or usually.

In this instance, the customer makes a decision or acts because of some force of nature, e.g., he's hungry, or simply because of human nature, i.e., it's what I do. A different type of force of nature might be your approach to corporate social responsibility. The causes that your brand supports are those that the customer supports, as well. Instant alignment.

Compulsion: Those things happen through compulsion which take place contrary to the desire or
reason of the doer, yet through his own agency.


Some irrational behavior drove customers to take this action, make this purchase. It was just so easy to do. It might be an impulse move/buy.

Habit: Acts are done from habit which men do because they have often done them before.

This one is probably pretty straight forward. I purchase from X because I've always purchased from X. There is comfort. security, and trust in consistency.

Reasoning: Actions are due to reasoning when, in view of any of the goods already mentioned, they appear useful either as ends or as means to an end, and are performed for that reason.

This means that people have a rational motive to do something. Oftentimes, the company has given them a reason or told them why they need the product.

Anger/Passion: To passion and anger are due all acts of revenge. Revenge and punishment are different things. Punishment is inflicted for the sake of the person punished; revenge for that of the punisher, to satisfy his feelings.

Some emotional response has triggered the customer to purchase or to interact.

Appetite/Desire: Appetite is the cause of all actions that appear pleasant.

In the absence of reason, appetite (or desire) takes over. I want, I want, I want. Just ask your kids! It's about the feeling that the purchase elicits.

***

In order to deliver a great customer experience, we must first know who the customer is and what job/task he is trying to achieve/do with the organization. And why. If we understand what motivates him, we have a better chance of delivering a customer experience that is relevant and memorable.

Do you agree? What do you think of those seven causes? Are there others?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. -Aristotle


3 comments:

  1. The seven causes are interesting Annette, though I think they probably merge as well, it is possible to do something both because it is the rational thing to do and also because you are angry.

    I suspect though that you are right, understanding your customers motives is all important.

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  2. Hi Annette,

    I agree that understanding motivations is a key part to delivering a great CX.

    Small point......When you say "Some irrational behavior drove customers to take this action, make this purchase". Is that behaviour irrational from the customers perspective or from the organisation's perspective?

    I suspect if you asked the customer there is a good chance that they would consider their own behaviour perfectly rational.

    Adrian

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  3. Nice article Annette. I've done quite a bit of work researching behaviour studies particularly in complaints management and you're right on many fronts. Understanding customer behaviour is key, and this becomes more and more significant as the emotional temperature is raised.

    There are some common themes and its' good for people working in customer service (and particularly complaints) to understand the psychology behind a customer's reactions.

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