Small Business Customer Insight Research Secrets

How much time do you and your business dedicate to gathering customer insights? Not enough is the answer we hear most often. One way you can find useful insights is to examine research in social psychology. Here are 8 insight secrets we found and that should provide useful for defining tactics with your customers.

Good Service Trumps Fast Service

Recent studies show customers cite rude, incompetent, and rushed service as their top reasons to switch brands. Almost 20% more often than slow service. That is a surprising insight, isn’t it?

Recent customers who receive competent, knowledgeable, and all-encompassing services are most likely to remember their experiences and tell friends about them.

Companies must maintain a clear and constant focus on the factors that represent the true health and sustainable growth of the business: the bond between the company and the customer. Faster operations should only be pursued when they will result in stronger customer bonds. Anything else is a mistake, and one with lasting consequences.

In short, companies must bear in mind that “speed of service” contains two critical elements: speed and service.

Money discussion makes customers more self-focused

When you prime people with money, they approach their social interactions in a fundamentally different way than they normally would,” said Nathan DeWall, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, who has conducted similar research on the psychology of money.

“Whereas when most people are presented with the possibility of having an interaction with another person, with anticipated rewards that accompany that, when you prime people with money, they just approach it in a socially disengaged and less rewarding manner. And this has profound consequences for their behavior.”

Research by psychologist Kathleen Vohs has shown that when people are primed with money issues, they become more self-focused. And less willing to assist others.

This fact can be used by businesses in selling higher priced items. The subject of money should be avoided however with promotions associated with doing things for others (i.e. like Mother’s Day for example)

Customers favor personalization

In a study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers were able to increase the average tips that waiters received by over 23%, without significantly changing their service.

This was accomplished by having waiter’s follow-up with a second set of mints after they brought customers their check.

Waiters that brought mints but didn’t follow-up received an average of 7% less in their tips.

And from a different perspective, it pays to remember customers’ names and important information. It turns out that people are more attentive and interested when they hear their names. When working on building relationships, use names when appropriate.

Few sounds are as pleasant as hearing our own names. And likewise, for example, nothing makes us feel less loved quite like a post-purchase email from ‘DO NOT REPLY’.

Is time more valuable than money?

Most people see time spent as a better indicator of who they are versus how much money they spent.

New research from Stanford reveals that customers have more favorable feelings of brands they associate “time well spent” with. Memories of good time were more powerful than memories of great savings.

So, there is a reason that lowest price companies promote having a good time (such as “It’s Miller Time) rather than their lowest prices.

Forget Suze Orman. Time, Not Money, Is Your Most Precious Resource. Spend It Wisely.

Innovate through customer collaboration

MIT’s Eric Von Hippel conducted a study with the Institute of Management Sciences on the relationship of superstar customers and company innovation.

The result? Through a study of 1193 commercially successful innovations across 9 industries, Hippel discovered that 60% came from customers.

(See our article: Crash Course on Turning Customer Insights into Winning Ideas)

Surprise with acts of kindness

One of the most memorable and talked about customer experiences is a surprise act of kindness.

Zappos uses this experience with great success. Without so much as a mention on their web site, Zappos regularly upgrades customers to overnight shipping free of charge. A great way to brighten customers’ days.

Loyalty programs are still very effective

Consumer psychologists Dreze and Nunes were able to reveal just what makes a ‘sticky’ loyalty program, across all industries.

The researchers were able to show that customers are twice as likely to stay with loyalty programs if the programs if the programs appear to already have started. Tasks that seem to be underway are more likely to be completed.

See our article: How to Use Reward Card Programs Better for Enduring Customer Loyalty

Customers prefer stories

Storytelling is most persuading so shows the research by Greer and Brock. Their research reveals that a well told story is one of the most persuasive forms of community. They concluded that stories have the ability to take us to another place, permitting the story to be a marketing message without the marketing.

Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he consults on and writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.