Still Delighting Customers? Try Making it Easier Instead

A rather clever and interesting experiment, led by Michael Treadway at Vanderbilt University, sheds light on what we, perhaps intuitively always knew.

Humans hate effort.

The experiment is an insight as to why we humans hate effort. What exactly does happen in our brains as we tussle, hem and haw between effort and indulgence? The study in summary shows that the human brain, when faced with unpleasant effort, generates a response in the insula (for the scientifically inclined, the insula is a fold of the cortex hidden deep in the brain, between our frontal and temporal lobes; signals of the internal state of the body- heart rate, temperature, pain are received here) akin to real pain. This is the “response cost” of us going through and suffering unpleasant tasks.

And yet day in, day out, we put our customers through enormous effort. Effort that most of the times could be avoided, adds nothing to the overall customer experience and certainly not to engendering a sense of loyalty amongst our customers.

In a seminal research at Harvard Business School, Mathew Dixon et al in their 2010, research paper titled “Stop trying to delight customers”, had an interesting statistic. The paper researched that 89 of the 100 customer service heads surveyed, indicated that their main strategy was focused around exceeding customer expectations, thus delivering on customer delight. Despite the enormous efforts and the presumably the associated significant costs, 84% of surveyed customers indicated that their experiences were nowhere close to the promised customer delight scenario envisaged.

What then is the challenge?

Most organizations focus on seeking customer insights through a program known as the C-SAT, the customer satisfaction score or the VOC (Voice of Customer). These studies focus on understanding areas of dissatisfaction amongst customers through a declarative survey mechanism. The challenges are two-fold. The design of the study seeks insights that are geared towards enhancing customer delight and the operational fixes that go along with that objective.

Secondly, declarative insights run the risk of being biased on multiple factors. Cognitive biases, scoring biases, authority biases or simply plain old ennui.

Which brings us back to Treadway’s Vanderbilt study. Why not measure the pain the customer goes through when s/he interacts with you? Why not focus on reducing that pain or better still eliminating it? Why not measure the pain using a research tool that has the possibility to deliver unbiased non-conscious response?

Advancement in applied neuroscience now makes this possible.

It is now possible to measure customer effort across processes, touch points using a combination of declarative and non- invasive browser based tools rooted in neuroscience that deliver implicit, non-conscious and transactional insights.

Better still, you can now break effort itself down into it’s constituent components of Time, Physical and Cognitive effort and measure these independently alongside their associated emotions.

The implicit design of the tool means the research in itself is akin to a picture sorting task, making it engaging and eliminating data entry by the respondent. A recent research conducted amongst farmers in Maharashtra in Marathi delivered some powerful insights on effort, the impact of the effort on buying behaviour and on loyalty.

Measuring delight is ephemeral, whilst on the other hand measuring effort and managing it is far more focused and more productive.

Your customers will thank you for taking their pain away.

The Ease Economy is here!

Watch ​Terragni’s unique traditional qualitative + neuro-science driven platform for Effort Assessment!


  1. This is a good approach. And perhaps aligned with Apple’s idea that you don’t have to ‘survey’ customers to find out what they want. Just remove the pain of working with the existing solution.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.