Use emotion and ‘identifiable victims’ in customer experience reporting
No strategy is worthwhile and no project is worth doing if you cannot communicate it effectively. Once the communication is about how your customers and partners feel about your company, intuition and emotion enter into play. Let’s start with two suggestions. The first is on how to use color-coding of numbers to achieve what you want, and second is about use of ‘identifiable victims’. Both are intended to help you to align the rational and emotional messages you want to get across.
Consider the three sets of data in the table below. Let’s suppose they represent your customer experience performance in different countries. The data is identical in all three columns; only the colors are different. The messages are radically different between the first and second table. If you are showing the first table to your CEO who has been in place for the last few years, the subliminal message is, “You have totally failed in over half the countries. You are a disaster for our customers.” No CEO is going to accept that and your work will be dismissed as worthless.
The message to the CEO in the second table is, “You are doing a really nice job for our customers generally. There are some things to improve in France and Italy.” That message is far more likely to be accepted. Remember the actual numbers are identical. The choice of red status is arbitrary, no matter what you think. Use red carefully, understanding its impact. The third table is a bit more subtle, showing a continuous set of shades from green through amber and red. It can be appropriate if your messaging is subtle too.
Timing can change how you want to communicate
Let’s suppose a new CEO has just arrived. The old one has been kicked out by the board for poor performance. Then there is almost no possible downside to presenting the first table, as the new person will blame his or her predecessor, even if you do not. Timing is everything.
Decide whether you want to emphasize or de-emphasize something
The leaders in the emerging field of behavioral economics have taught us a lot about how people perceive and react to different types of numbers. Our intuition and emotions kick in quickly, and prevent further rational thought. Rather than pretending it does not happen, why not exploit it? OK, yes, I am talking about manipulating your audience, but your audience is always manipulated; you just want some control over how and to what end.
Use emotion – Identifiable victims are essential
In his book The Upside of Irrationality, Dan Ariely describes an experiment run by Small, Lowenstein and Slovic. Two groups were given radically different explanations about humanitarian crises in Africa. The first group was given this text:
Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than 3 million children. In Zambia, severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42% drop in the maize production from 2000. As a result, an estimated 3 million Zambians face hunger. 4 million Angolans — one third of the population — have been forced to flee their homes. More than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.
The second group was presented with a photograph and information about Rokia, a seven-year-old girl from Mali.
Her life would be changed for the better as a result of your financial gift. With your support, and with the support of other caring sponsors, Save the Children will work with Rokia’s family and other members of the community to help feed her, provide her with an education, as well as basic medical care and hygiene education.
Both groups were then asked how much of $5 each person had been given they would be willing to donate. Guess what? The Rokia group gave twice as much.
Customer experience victims
Applying this to customer experience, try not to talk about percentages and big numbers if you want to change something. Communicate it by video clips of individual customers, direct quotes from decision-makers, and talking through the journey or experience a specific person has had with your company. Make it personal. On the other hand, if you don’t want to attract any type of emotion and don’t want people to pay attention, use big numbers and percentages. As Dan Ariely puts it, “Rational thought blocks empathy.” Humans do not behave like economists would like us to believe. Use that to your advantage.