Customer Service Psychology is about more than giving people what they want

Customer Service Psychology: Splitting Hairs

Customer service psychology is an ongoing debate amongst the experts and amateurs of every industry. It is all about how you greet, speak and act with the customer. In order to better measure it you have tools such as ‘Customer Journey Mapping’, ‘Customer Emotional Behaviour Mapping’, ‘Customer – Employee Touch points Chart’ and so on. However, in our pursuit of a psychological understanding of our customers we’ve lost track of what they’re actually doing. The thought processes behind every decision a customer makes are all well and good, but once we over-analyse these decisions we forget that behind those choices there are some very basic business consequences.
In the course of designing my current project, a training application for the retail industry, I started by establishing the basic customer journey and the key moments that impact the experience. I definitely agree that this is the best way to initiate a thorough customer experience analysis. Mapping the customer journey is a powerful tool to provide accurate data. That said, I reached an impasse when trying to analyze each moment from a psychological point of view.

Moment Number 1

Let’s start at the beginning!

The customer must be greeted. This is the standard procedure. But how do you greet the customer? Should it be verbal or non-verbal or a combination of both? Are we actually aware when doing it or is it just a reflex? Are we on customer service auto-pilot? Do we take into account the cultural differences or the emotional impact? Are we subconsciously mirroring the behavior of the customer? Does that work in our favor or against us?

Moment Number 27

Somewhere along the way, we get to the moment where the customer decides to purchase. In this step, we are advised to escort him, talk with him, personalize the experience, and make sure he doesn’t change his mind. That’s the best practice – that’s ‘by the book’ in customer service psychology. However, does he even want to be escorted? How does the customer feel being constantly accompanied?

And about all that personalisation…? How personal is sufficiently personal without getting too personal?

The point is that we have these ideas of what the customer should experience in terms of ‘good service’, from the moment they enter the store to their point of purchase. At the same time, we want to measure and quantify it so we can keep track of what we’re doing wrong or right.

If we want to trigger certain behavior, the science of customer service psychology tells us we have to adopt certain attitudes. If we want to create a specific ambambiancee can use certain colors. Need something to look better value for less money? Just put 99 cents at the end of the price. And although we have so many theories and articles that discuss this subject, we still don’t have an accurate grasp on true customer service psychology.

Why is that?

Believe it or not, it’s not so easy to influence the human mind.
It’s not the new trend or the new sales technique that is so effective. The power lies in mapping the customer’s decision-making process. There’s a pattern that repeats itself. Do you buy the latest IPhone because you need it or because it’s new? The pattern of wanting the newest product as soon as it is available is one of the driving successes behind brands like Apple’s IPhone. The psychology behind it, however, can differ from person to person. The idea is that we are trapped in the inertia of our own decision process without even being aware.

There are so many reasons why customers decide to do what they do. In the ocean of all these ‘whys’, should we bother with customer service psychology when, as businesses, we could be focussing on the fact that they just do?

Food for thought.


This post is brought to you by one of AQ’s Undergraduates, Laura Susnea. As part of our internship programs, undergraduates and classic interns are encouraged to take part in company culture. Laura’s primary project focusses on training programs and eLearning and how best to adapt this to industries under pressure. 

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