CX Field Guide: A Journey into the Unthinking Mind

Katya Andresen, Senior Vice President, Card Customer Experience, at Capital One

Katya Andresen, Senior Vice President of Card Customer Experience at Capital One, was a 2018 SXSW Speaker at the Capital One House at Antone’s. The article below, provided by Andresen, reflects the key themes of her March 10 talk, “A CX Field Guide for the Intrepid.”

Years ago, a friend of mine told me a story about running focus groups for an electronics company that was testing boombox designs. The goal of the focus group was to understand how people made decisions about what devices they preferred. The participants were asked what they thought of the colors available — one black, one yellow. Everyone professed enthusiasm for the yellow boombox. Then, when it was time to leave, the participants were invited to take home one of the products for free. Everyone chose the black one.

“Never ask people to predict what they will do — or why they do what they do,” the researcher advised me. “We’re just not that rational.”

Technology has since changed dramatically but human nature has not. The good news is that we’re not only in an era of rapidly advancing technology — we’re also in a golden age of neuroscience. We understand how people think — in all its irrational glory — better than ever. That means we can design great products and experiences based on a deeper understanding of the human psyche. That’s an incredible opportunity, because if we understand people more deeply, we can matter more deeply in their lives.

Researchers from the fields of psychology, neuroscience and behavioral economics have concluded we are literally and figuratively of two minds: the rational, prefrontal cortex mind (system 2) and then the more instinctive and impulsive mind of our limbic system (system 1). The rational, deliberative self is the one that vows to get up at 5 a.m. The more impulsive, automatic, emotional one hits snooze the next morning. The rational, “thinking” mind sometimes gets caught in analysis paralysis; the more “unthinking” mind give you a gut instinct on how to take action.

If we want to build great experiences for our customers, we have to take both systems into account. But we tend to over-index to assuming that our customers (and colleagues) are rational. So much of our work — analyzing the numbers, summarizing the focus group results, coding the software, testing the product, projecting our P&L — strips the humanity of our customer from our minds. We begin to believe the rational answer is the full answer. So we have to encourage ourselves to depart from the realm of the rational. If we do not, we risk failing as leaders, product managers, corporate strategists, digital innovators, and just about everything else. Expanding our thinking to include the unthinking mind is the key to leadership and innovation. When we incorporate and create for this state of mind, we’re better equipped to build great companies and change lives for the better.

So how do we bring the unthinking mind to our work? Here are three takeaways:

A Field Trip into Psychology

In building an experience or a brand, creating deeply emotional connections with our customers is critical. When you ask people what they remember about an experience, they will form their opinion based on something psychologists call the peak-end rule. They will remember the most emotionally intense part of the experience and the very end.

So as you design an experience for your customers, ask yourself how you might create both an emotional peak and memorable end. When you take this framework into account, you can begin to build a beloved brand.

A Field Trip into Neuroscience

If peak moments help customers fall in love with your product, service or experience, then how do you keep them coming back for more? The question moves us into the automatic, habitual brain and involves cultivating a sense of routine, or a set of habits, for your customers. Habits – both good and bad – are powerful, as many of us know. They have a tremendous influence on what we do. In fact, about 40% to 45% of our actions each day may feel like they are based on a decision we have made, but they are actually habits in action. If we think about our experiences through the lens of habit formation, we have the opportunity to understand how to be more digitally engaging. When we approach building habits this way for our customers, we’re able to create more meaningful, lasting relationships.

A Field Trip into Behavioral Economics

We’re told that people arrive at most decisions through a process of weighing costs against benefits. In reality, we’re at times irrational, impulsive, ruled by emotion, and limited in attention. The heart often overrules the head, so customers need incentives to help them make the best long-term choices in life — especially when it comes to their financial lives. A great example of this principle in action at Capital One is CreditWise® from Capital One®, our free credit monitoring and protection tool which helps people build, improve and protect their credit. The CreditWise app looks to nudge users by removing barriers to embracing positive credit behaviors – barriers like decision fatigue. The app identifies the most important actions a user could take to make the biggest improvement to their credit score to strengthen their financial position in life.

By embracing these three tips, you’ll be better equipped to tap into your customer’s unthinking minds and — more importantly — understand them as people. At the end of the day, that’s the number one job of anyone building customer experiences. Because if we seek to understand our customers deeply, we can matter more deeply in their lives and create a lasting relationship, however technology evolves.

Katya Andresen is a Senior Vice President, Card Customer Experience, at Capital One. To follow Katya, connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Content provided by Katya Andresen

Photo courtesy of Capital One

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