When Nudge acts as a Catalyst of Customer Experience


Marketers have been, for decades, consumer oriented and quite aware of consumer psychology. They use its teachings whilst building a customer experience. How can nudge help them to do it even better?

A nudge is “any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates”.  It helps people to make decisions in line with their own objectives. Originally used to improve the efficiency of public policies, nudge is now used by private organizations, in marketing, and specifically to enhance customer experience.

Behavioral sciences, at the heart of the nudge approach, taught us that customers only remember the peak and/or end of an experience. This is why marketers should erase negative peaks/ends and create delightful ones, and this is where nudge can help. Just as the catalyst does not appear in the balance sheet equation of a chemical reaction, the nudge is not a visible part of the customer experience strategy, but its presence changes everything.

When nudge removes the pain points of a customer experience

One way to improve customer experience is to remove the pain points which significantly diminish the overall satisfaction. This is what the Aéroport de Paris Group has successfully done.

The Group is perfectly aware that the cleanliness of the toilets has a strong influence on the passenger’s satisfaction. As a first step, the toilets have been completely renewed. Even if much better, the results have not reach full expectations. There is still room for improvement.

Nudge has been added to the strategy, in order to change user’s perception of cleanliness and make them more respectful of the area. Amongst other nudges, a picture of the cleaning staff has been held at the toilet entrance. Introducing the passengers to the staff in charge of cleanliness is a way to suggest respect for their work and therefore cleanliness. Applying several nudges allowed an increase of 0.5 points in satisfaction, from a of 3.1/5 score to a 3.6/5 score. Moreover, 33% of the users declared that the toilets were better than expected, which is 20 points more than without the nudges.

This experiment shows that nudge is a great complement to an overall customer experience strategy, while removing pain is a challenge. It can also inspire marketers to create a delightful peak within the experience.

When nudge creates a delightful moment in the customer experience

Let’s take an example from retail: a brand has long wanted its in-store franchisees to offer a particular yet free expert service to its customers. Brand managers have already strongly communicated that this service meets customers demands and that they usually make a related purchase to prolong the experience provided. A win-win situation that improves the customer experience and the turnover of the franchisees, who are also reassured of their expertise. If they were rational, they would offer this service systematically. This is not the case, however, as it first takes the franchisees time, before it leads to a reward. The brand’s new marketing strategy consisted in combining the B2B vision, by addressing its franchisees, with a B2C strategy, by ensuring that customers themselves demand the service from the franchisees.

This strategy has been implemented through two sorts of nudges in addition to a new tool facilitating the free service. Some nudges were designed for franchisees, in the back office, reminding them of their expertise which can be reinforced by providing the free service. Some nudges were designed to encourage customers to ask franchisees for the free service. The nudge approach helped to better define where and how to communicate to staff and customers in the shop. Communication was, amongst other things, built on social norms and ego identified as strong levers of behavioral change by behavioral science.

This nudge approach had two effects. Firstly, it increased the number of expert services offered to customers, and sales. Secondly, it encouraged enthusiasm amongst staff, who considered this expert service an annoying addition imposed by the brand. The attractiveness of the nudge concept played an important role here. A WhatsApp group was created by the staff to share the nudges deployed into the stores: none of the previous WhatsApp groups created to engage the staff had been such a success.

A nudge strategy as a support to the customer experience strategy

These examples illustrate the major contribution of nudge to customer experience: it increases the effectiveness of the customer experience strategy, without replacing it. Nudge acts as a catalyst. In chemistry, a catalyst is a substance that increases the speed of a chemical reaction. It is part of the reaction but not part of the products or reagents. Just like a catalyst, nudge increases the effectiveness of the customer experience, being part of it without being visible. It is the invisible part of the strategy, which may seem insignificant, but which is key to driving changes in customer experience.

Nudge helps to increase the speed of the diffusion of the customer experience strategy. Marketing defines the strategic plan, nudge accelerates it. Using nudge and behavioral science is definitely a strategy to enhance customer experience.

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