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Why Customers Love it Easy

[Big Ideas Series] How do you grow customer loyalty and create brand advocates? Find out the science behind the habit loop below.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Ana Iorga will be speaking at IIeX Europe (February 19-20 in Amsterdam). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX EU. Click here to learn more.

If you needed to get to an urgent meeting, would you call an Uber or look for a cab down the street? Do you usually buy your groceries from the store or you order them online and have them delivered at your doorstep?

With very few exceptions, most of us resent making any effort. And whenever possible, we choose the easiest way out.

A quick search online will reveal hundreds of articles that explain why We’re wired to take the path of least resistance, or present Scientifically proven ways to work smarter, not harder or why Hard work is not enough, and the list goes on and on.

Effort & Habits

Why is this the case? Are we all slackers and slouches?

The answer lies in neuroscience – our brains are wired to conserve energy because, evolutionary, we never knew when our next meal would be, so we needed to make sure we survived until the next one. That is why our brains are lazy. And they hate effort so much, that they convince us to keep buying the same products repeatedly.

This is how habits are formed. And you would be surprised to learn that they control most of our behavior. Up to 95% of our decision-making process happens at the non-conscious level, meaning it relies on automatic processes. Kahneman does an amazing job of describing these processes in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow. He describes System 1 – that is fast, non-conscious and automatic – and System 2 – slow and in charge with conscious processing – and explains why we live so much in System 1.  

Why Effort Matters

Because Customer Effort is strongly correlated with Customer Loyalty and Engagement. So much that customers who rated the last experience as Easy, are 40% less likely to defect. By making life easier for their customers, companies manage to keep them in the habit loop, so that they don’t question their choices and are deaf to competitors’ temptations.

This is a passive state, when we, as customers, buy out of habit and don’t bother to change it. Our loyalty doesn’t come from an intrinsic motivation, it is merely a reflection of our inertia. The opposite is true when we are active brand evangelists, and are willing to tell anyone who wants to listen about our preferred brands. This is what happens when we are engaged with a brand.

The Engagement Neurotransmitter

How can companies turn inertia-driven customers into active brand advocates?

Neuroscience again has the answer. There is an “engagement” neurotransmitter, called dopamine, that gets released when we get a reward and keeps us motivated to pursue the next reward.

To benefit from the advantage of the dopamine effect, companies should follow 3 simple steps:

  1. Offer their customers small rewards, for the effort that they go through.
  2. Give customers another challenge.
  3. Offer another reward.

Airline companies do a great job at keeping their customers in the habit loop. Frequent fliers get points for putting in a small amount of effort, and those points can be converted into different types of rewards. These rewards determine the release of a dopamine rush in their clients’ brains.

Now, we all love rewards, so if we want to get more of them, we need to collect more points. We therefore need to do more business with the airline, for which we get another reward, which means another dopamine rush. Before we know it, we become engaged customers and we gift the airline company with a big chunk of our business.

Figure: The Dopamine Reward loop

We, humans, are wired to be lazy, so why then buck evolution and make life difficult for your customers?

During my talk on February 20th, we will learn why measuring customer effort is important and how we can increase customer engagement by making it easy. Successful businesses have developed an intuitively easy customer experience and they are reaping the benefits: higher conversion rates, more stable customer base and reduced churn rates.  

See you there!

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