When the choice of words make a huge difference in the customer experience

by Beyond Philosophy on February 28, 2013

Wording and its role in ce

Subtle clues play a huge role in customer experience design and execution. The aspects of the experience that are not obviously noticeable and do not appear in traditional customer research reports because customers fail to point out, are in fact crucial to the outcome of the interaction between the customer and the experience touchpoint. Often times, tone of voice, colour of the wall or the smell in the changing room of a shop can shape customer’s satisfaction, likelihood to recommend or buy again without them being aware of the effect.

A study published in a psychology research journal suggests that adding the text “donating=loving” to a charitable collection box almost doubled the amount of money they raised.

The researchers placed collection boxes in 14 bakeries in Brittany, France, for two weeks. All the boxes had a short text explaining who is raising the money and why, showed a picture of a young African mother with a child in her arms and in some instances had the text “donating=loving” just below the money slot; in others the text “donating=helping”; whilst in third there was no further text below the slot. Different box types were placed in different bakeries on different days and the amount of money collected each day was recorded.
Results showed that the text on the donation boxes made a profound difference. On average, almost twice as much money was raised daily in boxes with the “donating=loving” text, as compared with the “donating=helping” boxes and the boxes with no additional text.

The researchers conclude that evoking love is a powerful technique to enhance people’s altruistic behaviour,” but the real insight is that a word made a huge difference in how customers/donors behaved. The relevance of choice of words is well known to researchers:

“… Such an explanation would fit the wider literature showing how our motivations and attitudes can be influenced by words and objects without us realising it. For example, one previous study showed how exposure to ageing-related words like “retired” led participants to walk away more slowly after an experiment. Other research found a poster of a pair of eyes on a wall led to greater use of an honesty box in a university canteen.”

The mechanism is simple: a word triggers associated ideas and concepts in people’s minds and therefore gets them to act accordingly. All this happens below the conscious level and customers would not be able to articulate it if asked, rather rationalise their choice best they can. Advertising agencies, call centre professionals are visual merchandisers are probably most familiar with this phenomenon. However, subtle clues appear in every touchpoint along the customer journey and they need to be accounted for. Customer experience design is very much about deliberately and systematically selecting and embedding the subtle clues along the customer journey. These may have different forms and target any of the human senses (sight, touch, smell, sound or taste), but they still need to be congruent to the intended customer experience and to each other.

Kalina Janevska , Kalina Janevska is a Consultant at Beyond Philosophy one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Kalina is a chief experience modeller and designer with deep applied knowledge of CE in healthcare, retail and developing economies. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.

Follow Kalina Jenevska @Kalina_BeyondP. View Profile
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