It’s Essential: Understand Your Customer’s Habits!

by Colin Shaw on November 9, 2017

We all have habits, good and bad. Few of us remember how they formed. Few of us know how to change them—especially those bad ones. However, understanding how habits develop and their influence on our behavior can be a powerful tool for tuning up our Customer Experience.

The scientific definition of a habit is anytime your mind prepares you to respond in a certain way based on some environmental cues or stimuli. When you discuss habits in relation to the two systems of cognitive behavior, or what we call the Intuitive System (emotional and fast) and Rational System (logical and slow), the Intuitive System governs habitual behavior.

How the Helpful 8-year-old Forms Habits

My co-author of The Intuitive Customer (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), Professor Ryan Hamilton of Emory University, compares the Intuitive System to a helpful 8-year-old. Like the 8-year-old, the Intuitive System wants to help, to make things easier, but it doesn’t always have all the information it needs to help for real. In other words, it almost gets things right some of the time and does pretty good the rest of the time. Habits are an example of when the Intuitive System is trying to help.

For example, when I go to pay for something, I always reach for my American Express (AmEx) card. I automatically go to the part of my wallet where I keep it and use it for my purchase. I do not consciously choose it every time; I just do it. That is an example of a habit. I have a stimulus, e.g., it’s time to pay for something. My Intuitive System activates my habit, e.g., it tells my subconscious mind to reach for the AmEx.

Now, before I had the AmEx, I reached for another card. Reaching for the AmEx, in the beginning, was a deliberate process. The stimuli would occur, meaning it would be time to pay, and I would think as I looked through my wallet, “What card should I use?” Then, I would choose the AmEx because I liked the rewards they provided. Over time, my helpful-8-year-old Intuitive System noticed that when it was time to pay, I was consistently reaching for my AmEx card. So, when it was time to pay the next time, my Intuitive System responded by automatically having my subconscious reach into the wallet for the AmEx. This instance is an example of when the 8-year-old is helpful. However, when the helpful-8-year-old Intuitive System has me reach for the cookies after lunch, it is not helpful!

The Three Parts of Habit: Cue, Routine and Reward

Now, the scientific definition only explains part of what makes up a habit. Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Charles Duhigg wrote The Power of Habit a couple of years ago that gives a more robust definition of habits, describing the three parts of habits. These are the Cue, Routine, and Reward. This video demonstrates the concept in action:

Customer habits are an enormous driver of consumer behavior. As an example, Ryan habitually buys toothpaste on a particular aisle at the store (Cue). His Intuitive System knows where it is on the shelf and what color the box is and he grabs it (Routine), and moves on without giving it much thought (Reward). Moreover, because he doesn’t think about it, the toothpaste competitors present in the aisle don’t have a chance.

Disrupting the Cue

Understanding the three parts of the habit as Duhigg described can help the competitor brands get Ryan’s business. If they can intercept Ryan before he reaches the aisle, say with an end-cap display or another attention-grabbing device in store, the competing toothpaste brand could disrupt the Cue and redirect Ryan’s Routine behavior. It is vital, however, that the disruption of the Cue communicates the new anticipated Reward.

The fact is I don’t see a lot of organizations research customers’ habits. Don’t get me wrong; they do research; just not research about Cues that drive customers’ habits. Instead, organizations ask customers questions about customers’ likes and dislikes or price preferences, etc. However, habits are a powerful driver of customer behavior, so recognizing what is triggering your customers’ habits is essential to comprehending their behavior.

Have you gained from studying your customers habits? Let us know in the comments below.

Customers Habits

Learn more about habits and how they affect customer behavior in the recorded webinar we did as part of ourIntuitive Customer Conversations webinar series. These FREE and informative webinars are designed to expand on the ideas behind understanding customer behavior.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy these:

Revolutionary Thinking on Customer Loyalty

Astonishing BIG Gains from Little Changes!

Act Now to Turn Customer Pain Points into Pleasurable Profits

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawIt’s Essential: Understand Your Customer’s Habits!

Is CSAT Dead? No. Should It Be? Yes, ASAP. Replacement, IMHO: Emotionally-Driven Value (EDV), PDQ

by Michael Lowenstein on November 8, 2017

Michael Lowenstein, Ph.D., CMC Thought Leadership Principal, Beyond Philosophy

Michael LowensteinIs CSAT Dead? No. Should It Be? Yes, ASAP. Replacement, IMHO: Emotionally-Driven Value (EDV), PDQ

Worried? Is Your Contact Center Failing You?

by Colin Shaw on November 7, 2017

Contact centers are often the communications lifeblood of a business. It’s where clients get the opportunity to talk to a ‘real person’, whether it’s by phone, live chat or even something as simple as email, and it’s where your employees have the greatest chance to take ownership of the customer experience.

Colin ShawWorried? Is Your Contact Center Failing You?

Big Banks: What Are They Hiding?

by Colin Shaw on November 2, 2017

Big banks have proven yet again that they cannot be trusted to do what is best for the consumer. And this time, the U.S. Senate agrees that they don’t have to!

Last week, the Senate voted to repeal a rule that banned most mandatory arbitration clauses in credit card agreements, checking account agreements, car loans, and many other types of consumer banking transactions. Mandatory arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print, often unnoticed by consumers. They force consumers to resolve complaints with private, individual arbitration proceedings. Without the clauses, consumers can band together and bring a class action lawsuit.

Colin ShawBig Banks: What Are They Hiding?

Doomed: Is There Any Hope For Hotel Chains?

by Colin Shaw on October 31, 2017

Would you like to learn golf from a hall of famer? How about baking some French macarons at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris?

Hotel chains, worried about competition from Airbnb, are rolling out these and other special experiences for their best rewards customers.

Marriott’s master class program currently offers a chance to skipper an America’s Cup yacht in San Diego, and past offerings have included a clinic with an NBA star and golf lessons with a hall of famer. Other experiences include a behind-the-scenes art tour of the U.S. Capitol. Customers bid points for the privilege of participating in these elite, one-of-a-kind experiences.

Colin ShawDoomed: Is There Any Hope For Hotel Chains?

Beware: Hidden Influences That Dictate Your Success

by Colin Shaw on October 26, 2017

As customers, each of us is under the influence all the time. Are we drunk? High? No and no. We are under the influence of our emotions, whether we are aware of it or not. Our irrational reactions to moments in any given experience can influence our behavior, often in ways we aren’t mindful of ourselves.

Dr. Ronald Milliman, the retired professor of Marketing at Western Kentucky University, shared an excellent example of this concept in action in a recent Freakonomics podcast rebroadcast. Dr. Milliman was blind so sound was important to him. He had worked at a radio station that also supplied background music for stores and professional offices. Dr. Milliman wondered how music affected our behavior. For his research, he worked with a manager of a grocery store in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to see if the type of music they played affected the behavior of the shoppers.

Colin ShawBeware: Hidden Influences That Dictate Your Success