6 Tips, From Anticipation to Afterglow, to Enhance the Whole Customer Experience

Use behavioral economics, neuroscience and psychology to tap into the joy of anticipation, the delight of the interaction and the warmth of remembering.


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All good entrepreneurs are focused on improving the customer experience. Unfortunately, much of that energy is wasted. Forrester found that while more than 80 percent of companies said they're making changes toward an excellent customer experience, only 8 percent actually achieved excellent customer experience ratings.

So where are we going wrong? By focusing almost exclusively on in-the-moment interactions, improving each customer touch-point from entry to checkout, we're missing moments when engagement might be more exciting and differentiated for customers. Research has found that up to half of someone's happiness is built in moments of anticipation and remembering. To deliver true customer happiness, companies must learn how to tap into the joy of anticipation, the delight of the interaction and the warmth of remembering.

Related: Why You Should Think Less About Sales and More About the Customer Experience

1. Anticipation

Anticipation is a huge and often-ignored source of happiness. University of Missouri Professor Marsha Richins found that consumers receive more pleasure during the anticipation phase of a purchase than during the acquisitio" phase. To maximize that pleasure, you can:

  • Tease. Jennifer Aaker, a happiness expert at Stanford, learned that the anticipation of a pleasurable experience feels as good as finishing an important task -- like a marathon or an exam. Brands must give customers something to look forward to before the experience even begins, like movie previews have been doing for decades.
  • Tempt. The flip side of tease. Robert Zajonc, the pioneering social psychologist, proved that mere exposure to unfamiliar things increases someone's favorability toward them. Brands should highlight the promise of an experience, like Bonobos does with interactive Guideshops. Customers walk through the line's current offerings to find the perfect fit -- but still go online to order.
  • Make it a treat. To understand Robert Cialdini's happiness of scarcity, consult your sweet tooth. Eggnog, candy corn, Peeps and Thin Mints know that if you create a crave-able product and then limit availability, customers spend the entire year looking forward to it. Brands can frame their moments as treats, too. Audible is great at re-framing everything from the long commute to lawn mowing as an opportunity for an audiobook escape.

2. Interaction

In an interaction, oftentimes the best way to make a customer happier is to intervene -- nudge customers toward the happiest path.

  • Immerse. Research shows that people are happier when they are more focused, yet we are notorious for being easily distracted. Brands can use subtle carrots, like immersive entryways, and unmistakable sticks, like a tech-free dining policy, to encourage immersion.
  • Direct. Consumers want to be in control but ultimately find decision-making agonizing. Successful brands give direction and personalized constraints, like Trunk Club, which makes clothing purchases on behalf of customers based on their stated style preferences.
  • Elevate. People are creatures of comparison and strive for superiority, even among our peers. LinkedIn accomplishes this by sending emails to customers in the top 1 percent / 5 percent / 10 percent most-viewed profiles. Brands that can tap into our pursuit of superiority win loyalty.

Related: At This Store, the Fitting-Room Mirrors Know All

3. Afterglow

How a customer looks back on an experience will determine if they will return, and our memories of experiences are far from perfect representations. Here's how to get memories on your side:

  • End Strong. "Endings are very, very important and," in the case of a person's memory of an event, "the ending dominates," says Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Finish strong. This can be simple. Spring NYC, the new shopping app, sends purchasers a thank-you e-mail from the CEO and follows up with a personalized, hand-written thank-you letter from a member of the Spring NYC team.
  • Surprise. Unpredictability spurs a rush of dopamine, which means surprises are more likely to be remembered than expected moments. Uber has systematized surprise, delighting transporters with everything from kittens to homemade lasagna.
  • Reinforce and rewire. Memories fire anew and rewire each time we conjure them up. This gives your brand an opportunity to reinforce your positive attributes -- and displace your negative ones. Flywheel provides post-ride calorie counts to remind guests why they endure sweat-drenched biking bootcamp. What's your benefit and how can you provide customers with an ongoing reminder of it?

For business results, emotions matter, and the way to happiness is through great experiences. Truly delivering impact requires going deeper into human understanding, realizing that happiness is built not just in interactions, but also in anticipation and remembering.

Expanding our conception of the customer experience opens up a whole new world of experience innovation possibilities. Companies that focus on the whole spectrum of the experience will uncover important new areas for improvement, driving long-term loyalty and business growth -- something we can all be happy about.

Related: Get Personal to Close the Customer Experience Gap

John Marshall and Dan Clay

Marketers at Lippincott

John Marshall is senior partner and global director of strategy for Lippincott. With more than 20 years experience, he has worked with some of the world's most recognizable brands including 3M, AT&T, Avaya, Brunswick, CA Technologies, Caterpillar, Clear Channel, Fidelity Investments, General Motors, Grainger, LL Bean and The Weather Channel.

Dan Clay is an associate in strategy in Lippincott's New York office. His expertise is in brand positioning, brand story, employee activation and consumer behavior and is proud to have worked on iconic brands such as Walmart, Caterpillar and eBay.

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