Achieving Extraordinary Customer Experience: How does the latest in neuroscientific research match up to what’s tried tested and true?

I’ve worked for almost two decades on designing and delivering customer experiences for enterprise and category-defining brands. It’s an active space and the research and science around understanding the emotional and rational drivers behind customer experiences is thriving. Last week, I had the chance to attend an MIT Sloan presentation on using neuroscience to create great customer experiences.

It featured a presentation by Paul J. Zak, a neuroscientist at Claremont Graduate University in California, USA, the founder of Immersion Neuroscience, and the author of the forthcoming book, Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and the Source of Happiness (Lioncrest, 2022).

Professor Zak has spent the last 20 years looking for neurologic signals from extraordinary experiences. He and his team have found that exceptional customer experiences are: unexpected; emotionally charged; narrow one’s focus to the experience itself; easy to remember, and provoke actions. The hour-long discussion explored how pairing neurological insights with design thinking can help companies innovate with greater precision and consistency to deliver lasting and impactful customer experiences.

Professor Zak’s research is certainly exciting, but for business applications, these five qualities are not quite what’s needed. For instance, this framework doesn’t acknowledge that all customer touchpoints are not created equally and that not all moments in the journey need to be extraordinary; sometimes, all that’s required is simply meeting the baseline expectations.

It’s one of the most common struggles we see, that companies are stretched thin trying to be extraordinary across too many touch points, instead of focusing on the right ones.

The Level5 Strategy Approach:

For the past two decades, Level5 Strategy has implemented an approach to customer journeys that looks at the entire experience through the lens of customers. It’s built on five stages. These are awareness, conversion, transactional use, problem-solving, and retention.

It’s a methodology designed to understand where and how emotions play a role in customer journeys.

What we find is that companies today are struggling with the overwhelming number of customer touch points and the inability to create a straight-line customer experience journey.

Fundamentally, what’s essential is getting the right customer touchpoints to deliver the emotional needs the customer is looking to satisfy at that moment.

Car insurance is an excellent example of this. The ultimate emotional driver is that the customer wants to feel safe in their key moment of need, but they don’t need to experience that feeling throughout their entire end-to-end journey. For instance, they don’t need to feel safe when they purchase their policy or pay their bill. But in those immediate moments after an accident, the ability to deliver an experience that leads to the customer feeling safe is essential.

Success in customer experience is about understanding and delivering the experiences that customers need at the critical moments in the journey – and then this becomes how to lock in the emotional connection neurologically.

For instance, to continue our insurance example, while there are many routines, and standardizable experiences such as bill payment and policy renewal, where the rubber really meets the road for an insurance carrier is after an accident.

This is an insurer’s moment of truth. It is the emotional need. If in those intense post-accident moments, the insurance company can live its brand promise and deliver an experience that meets its customer’s emotional need for safety, it will neurologically “connect” the customer’s experience to the brand, creating an opportunity to significantly enhance their relationship over the long-term. These are typically the customers that tell their friends and families about their experience and become brand ambassadors from the strength of this emotional connection. In Net Promoter Score (NPS) terms, they become “Promoters” of your brand.

On the other hand, if the insurance carrier doesn’t deliver their promise at this moment of truth, and doesn’t accommodate the customer’s emotional need for safety, this negative experience is likely to lead to customer churn.

Determining what these emotional drivers or Moments of Truth are is a foundational task of a customer-centric business because even as the company grows or scales, what remains important to customers is not likely to change. And by understanding these moments of truth, companies can design a journey purpose-built to deliver differentiated experiences. At Level5 Strategy, we embrace an insights-driven agile approach to mapping and measuring experiences that deliver growth and ownable competitive advantage.

Ready to build an extraordinary customer experience? We’d love to help. Get in touch with us here.

For more on customer experience, see the perspective paper on reimagining customer experiences.

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