Brain culture is a hot topic in the media, business and government as we try to make better sense of human behavior through neuroscience and behavioural economics. The hype is exciting – both Barak Obama and David Cameron are advised by behavioural economists – but how does this apply to today’s pressured contact centre?

Behavioural Economics (BE) is beginning to be used in contact centres to help organisations to steer consumer behaviours and improve sales and customer service. For those of you unfamiliar with the subject, here is a brief outline. BE shows that behind every customer decision there is a gut feeling, intuition and rule of thumb. Our decisions are heavily influenced by how information is presented to us and the situation we’re in. People often don’t behave rationally. Which suggests if customer service and sales issues are presented or addressed differently using BE techniques, then consumers can be steered or nudged in a particularly direction for mutual benefit.

For example, making the ‘bridge’ from a customer service issue to a sales or retention pitch often fails. The agent hurriedly says “While you’re on the line can I interest you in…?”. BE can be used to re-shape scripts and phrases for powerful impact. Leveraging concepts such as loss aversion [offer which finishes at midnight], social norms [over 50% of our customers find this add on saves money] and commitment bias [‘Can I ask if you would consider this offer and send you some details?’] and discounting the future and the power of now [want it today and don’t worry about tomorrow].

Four ways to use Behavioural Economics in customer contact today:

1. Customer experience journey design

    Amazon and other online stores have improved their customer service using mental chunking. This eliminates the customer’s ‘no man’s land’ feeling by emailing or texting to let you know when your order has been processed and when it has been dispatched, reassuring us and also increasing the sense of anticipation leading up to our parcel being delivered. Alternatively, supporting customers at particular places in a buying journey can ensure they don’t suffer from high customer effort and drop out altogether. These psychological hot spots are important as getting the process right.


2. Designing scripts, guides and real-time prompts

    Scripts and guides need constant review to maximise the impact of customer communications. One of the core BE constructs is anchoring, as mentioned in the HBR above. In contact centres, an example of anchoring may be applied to the way an agent resolves a complaint: “The standard solution (that we and our competitor’s offer) for your problem is X, but I am going to see if we can go one better and do Y” the resultant customer feedback will be better.
    Another core BE area is framing when a change of presentation, to the same information, can lead to radically different results. As an example, ’10 out of 100 people who stay in this hotel never come back’ will produce a different response from ’90 out of 100 people will return due to the service.’


3. Drive self-service by creating great online and IVR architecture

    Social norms can be used to help consumers feel less frustrated when interacting with IVR by explaining how others are using the service. Presenting self-service options as the norm rather than the exception can drive take up. “X% of our customers choose this option”. Another example of building customer confidence is “X% of customers rated our service as excellent.”

    Some companies offer discounts for renewing or servicing by self-service. BE’s loss aversion techniques can be used to drive take up by switching the proposition to customers. Instead of “You can save 10% by renewing online” reposition the phone offer as a loss. Customers who renew by phoning an agent will be charged an extra 10%.


4. Building quality through Analytics and QM

    Using BE techniques can be a really powerful way of analyzing the quality of conversations and dialogues in your contact centre. For example, customers often close a sales call with ‘I’ll think about it’. Analysing the most successful big finish from many advisor responses can shed light on what makes the customer feel more confident about their choice. Exploring patterns in successful conversations is helping create feedback loops to create more powerful customer experience design.


BE made easy
Contact centre are high pressure working environments where behavioural economics will deliver value. Delivering hypothesis for what might work, what could change and what has worked in other situations is the key contribution of BE to contact centres. Ultimately, the goal is to understand our complex, irrational customers and help them make better decisions.