By guiding the design of customer interactions, the principles of behavioral science offer a simple, low-cost route to improved customer satisfaction. A McKinsey Quarterly article.
Service operations seem a natural setting for the ideas of behavioral science. Every year, companies have thousands, even millions, of interactions with human beings—also known as customers. Their perceptions of an interaction, behavioral scientists tell us, are influenced powerfully by considerations such as its sequence of painful and pleasurable experiences. Companies care deeply about the quality of those interactions and invest heavily in effective Web sites and in responsive, simplified call centers.
Yet the application of behavioral science to service operations seems spotty at best. Its principles have been implemented by relatively few companies, such as the telecommunications business, which found that giving customers some control over their service interactions by allowing them to schedule field service visits at specific times could make them more satisfied, even when they had to wait a week or longer. Many more companies ignore what makes people tick. Banks, for example, often disturb the customer experience by altering the menus on ATMs or the interactive-voice-response (IVR) systems in call centers. They fail to recognize the psychological discomfort customers experience when faced with unexpected changes.