Monday, September 23, 2013

Why Mobile is a Game Changer—for Research and Dunkin’ Donuts

By David Forbes, Ph.D.

One of the things we love best about using our MindSight® technology via mobile is that it lets us capture consumers’ emotional responses right in the moment, while they are still fresh.   Research in memory consistently tells us that the passage of time works to distort our memories, so that remembering something for the first time – right after it happens, may look very different from remembering it hours or days later, because our memories change with each act of remembering.

One implication of this is that getting feedback about customer experiences right after they happen can be very important. So, for example, in our recent work for a large Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee, we took to the field and got consumers to tell us about emotions using their smart phones.


This client was troubled by a few underperforming stores among his franchises. These franchises seemed very much like his high performing stores at first glance: they had identical offerings, were the same size and located in similar areas. They were even staffed by comparable crews.  And past measures of customer satisfaction indicated little difference between the stores.

To solve the mystery, we sent researchers to study the emotional experience of customers at a high-performing store and at a low performing one.  Over the course of the morning rush, we showed off the MindSight® “game,” and invited them to try it themselves on their mobile devices – what we learned was unexpected.

What wasn’t different between the stores were rational dimensions of performance like how long the line was, or how accurately the orders were filled.  Both stores did fine on those criteria.  What was different was the nature of the emotional experience in these two stores.

Both stores did well on some key elements of emotional experience – fulfilling a desire to feel empowered and achieved – to “start your engines and dive into the day.”  But the high performing store also did well in delivering another “softer” type of emotional experience — the desire to feel understood, and even a little bit nurtured.

At the high performing store, the crew greeted customers warmly, sometimes even by name. They frequently knew what “regulars” wanted, and would start on that hazelnut-light-two-sugars even before the customer had a chance to order it.

At the low-performing store, coffee transactions were less personalized and nurturing, more businesslike and anonymous. MindSight® images chosen by those coffee drinkers to capture the feeling of their customer experience made it clear that they didn’t feel nurtured here. They felt isolated, and in fact, they even felt incompetent (about their store choice.)  These results fit well with earlier work we’ve done in breakfast cereals, that shows us how people tend to be a bit infantile in the morning, and kind of vulnerable – almost as if they are “waking up like infants” and needing to be gentled.

The “no frills” satisfaction of timely, competent service reported in both stores did not reveal the important differences in service experience between the high and low performing stores.  Only a method focused on the emotional experience revealed the issue.  And a method using images to get “under the radar” was likely critical.  I doubt many of these consumers could have articulated the pleasure at feeling recognized and nurtured if we had asked —it’s like confessing that you wish your Mom could still cut your toast in little triangles and butter it just so.

Finally, a method that allowed us to get “in the moment” feedback was likely critical to the insight – measuring consumers emotions while they were still in that emotional mood of “morning vulnerability.”  Cognitive science tells us that memories of negative feelings tend to fade over time (the “Fading Affect Bias”) we suspect that feelings of incompetence, and of being isolated, during a morning coffee purchase are very good candidates to “fade” (as the day progresses).

Our client is in the process of coaching the staff in under-performing stores to add those warm touches, asking customers’ names and treating them like regulars. We’re betting that will be enough to turn those stores around, so stay tuned.

Want to learn more about this topic? Attend TMRE 2013 in Nashville, TN October 21-23. For details, click here:  http://bit.ly/1eV1G5q We hope to see you there!  

About the Author: David Forbes holds a Ph.D. in clinical and cognitive psychology from Clark University, and was a member of the faculties of Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry and the Harvard Laboratory of Human Development before beginning his career as a business consultant. He founded Forbes Consulting over 20 years ago as a strategic market research consultancy dedicated to creating business advantage through psychological consumer insights. He has since built Forbes into a major resource for scores of major corporations in the CPG, Financial Services, and Pharmaceuticals industries, domestically and internationally. David is the creator of the MindSight® emotional assessment technologies, a suite of applied neuropsychological methods for understanding consumer emotion and motivation, without the distortions of conscious editing and self presentation.  



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