CX Quandary: Why are new habits so hard to form?

When I’m explaining what I mean by CX (customer experience), I explain that it’s WHAT a customer does / doesn’t do and HOW they feel when they are experiencing that product or service.  The business then supports a customer through this.  Customer service is all about ensuring that when a customer reaches out to you for help, you fix things and let the customer resume their customer journey.  It’s a reactive approach, which when done well, creates enough information to help you make changes to your customer experience to reduce the need for customer support.

Customer success is the proactive element, with the intention to drive the customer along the customer journey by responding to the customer’s activity / inactivity against your expected customer actions on a mapped and managed customer journey.  By being proactive, we build richer information on WHAT the customer did and HOW they felt, allowing for a more dynamic managed journey, more timely enhancement and greater scale for growth.  So customer success is a valuable investment that helps both customer experience and the bottom line – but not every business has a customer success function, and some that do can’t get it to work.  So why is it so hard to help customers form healthy habits around your customer experience?

Think about the way you make your morning cuppa.  Or the route you take from the station to your office.  Or the way you tie your shoe laces.  As animals, we are programmed to form habits.  From the involuntary (such as breathing, blinking our eyes or scratching an itch) to the more developed habits (such as brushing our teeth, riding a bike or completing a jigsaw puzzle), we learn new tasks and skills throughout our life, which over time, become habits.  This equally applies to customer experiences with products and services.

For example, when my smoke alarm at home beeps to indicate that the battery is running low, I grab my phone, open the Amazon app and order replacement batteries.  The low battery alarm triggers a habit to replace the battery with a new one, which in this case is to make a purchase from Amazon.  I could walk to the local supermarket to purchase the replacement batteries, order from another website or buy from another source, but I always end up buying from Amazon.  In some ways, it’s obvious why – quick and easy customer experience, pretty reliable and consistent, good price.  But that’s only part of it.

To understand habit formation, what we REALLY need to think about is habit breaking.  Try and take a slightly different route to work, or brush your teeth in a different way.  It’s harder than you might think.  Our internal “auto-pilot” kicks in to ensure that we stick with our tried and tested habit.  Familiarity trumps most things in life, and without a conscious effort, it’s quite a challenge to change an existing habit, even when we know it might be for the better.

So when you are wondering why it’s so hard for customers to form healthy habits around your customer experience, flip it round and think about the barriers to them breaking their old habit (even if that was inaction or apathy.)  There’s no guarantee of an instant “a-ha!” moment, but it might just help you see the challenge through the eyes of your customers!

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