Customer Experience and Dopamine

The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Customer experience is the ultimate competitive advantage. Think about it… Everything else can arguably be copied — your features, your product, your business model, and your strategy. But experience is different. It’s an emotional reaction that results in stronger bonds between you and your users that ultimately leads to higher retention & positive word of mouth. People talk about experiences that are remarkable. They come back to them; perhaps at the most basic level to experience those good feelings again — the dopamine. Its similiar to why we enjoy and continue listening to our favorite music. It’s a pleasurable experience because of dopamine. For example, researchers have shown that our brains are flooded with dopamine 15 minutes listening to a favorite song. Both experiences give us pleasure and we want more of it. Another article, “Dopamine is _____ Is it love? Gambling? Reward? Addiction?” sums it up nicely:

…many people like to describe a spike in dopamine as “motivation” or “pleasure.” But that’s not quite it. Really, dopamine is signaling feedback for predicted rewards.

Rewards could be the benefits of from using your product, the time it saves users because it has exceptional user design, or because your team has delighted and surprised them with something they weren’t expecting. But ultimately, something positive causes dopamine to be released. It causes them to crave coming back for more.

Dopamine has even been shown to predict how much someone is willing to pay for something. A National Geographic article describes a study that measures the amount of dopamine compared to what users were willing to pay for a song. There was a direct correlation:

The program was set up like an auction, so participants would choose how much they were willing to spend on the song, with bids ranging from $0 to $2…The brain scans highlighted the nucleus accumbens, often referred to as the brain’s ‘pleasure center’, a deep region of the brain that connects to dopamine neurons and is activated during eating, gambling and sex. It turns out that connections between the nucleus accumbens and several other brain areas could predict how much a participant was willing to spend on a given song.

Finally, dopamine has also been shown to regulate motivation:

It was believed that dopamine regulated pleasure and reward and that we release it when we obtain something that satisfies us, but in fact the latest scientific evidence shows that this neurotransmitter acts before that, it actually encourages us to act. In other words, dopamine is released in order to achieve something good or to avoid something evil.

Naturally, we’re motivated to go back to something if we have a positive experience. It’s also why we recommend services to our friends — we want them to experience those same good things. The more positive the experience, the more dopamine is released. Imagine experiencing teleportation. How unbelievably incredible would that be. The dopamine wouldn’t stop. Well, Uber is the closest thing to that and it has changed the way we travel. It’s the most delightful experience in the world compared to hailing cabs. No wonder that a new user signs up for every 7 rides that are completed. Unicorn successes like Uber, GitHub, and Slack grew fast because their users love their experience and recommended it to others.

Dopamine could be the ultimate metric. Forget A/B testing… just hook people up to brain scans while you implement user testing, design your product, or monitor reactions to the full range of experiences they have with your company. It’d help predict their motivation to come back, how much they’re willing to pay, predict how useful your product will be to them, and ultimately result in more dopamine to fuel the feedback loop. That scenario is a bit scary to about.

The next best thing is to focus on creating the best customer experience at every single interaction. I love what I have seen from Driftt so far — it looks like the platform will be the easiest way to have a unified view of the customer experience. Another example is a professional developer learning startup called Outlearn. It’s an elegant and more enjoyable way for developers and engineering teams to upskill through customizable learning paths. The experience is different.

Should there be a new term for all this — perhaps “experiential marketing?”… a dedication to enhancing and crafting delightful experiences for your customers.

What is your customer experience competitive advantage?