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Customers: Least Likely to Know How they Feel

Posted on  7 December 11  by 


PsyBlog recently posted results from two surveys that show the impressive power of a stranger’s knowledge of us.  One of the experiments recorded two estimates on how much respondents would enjoy a cookie:

  1. The respondents imagined themselves eating the cookie
  2. Other participants guessed based on the respondents’ facial expressions as they first see the cookie

Scarily enough, the strangers had a more accurate estimate of the respondent’s pleasure eating the cookie than the respondents themselves estimated.  This seems to underscore observations many of us have recorded in the world of market research: what (well-meaning) customers tell us and what they actually feel and end up doing don’t always match.

We first wrote on this topic more than 8 years ago with a brief on qualitative and social research techniques.   As the years have gone by, we’ve seen research seek to understand unarticulated opinions and needs with new technology.  From emotional and observational research to using social media for market research, our struggle to understand hidden behavior drivers is getting more and more technical.

It could be that the next stop on our trip toward better customer understanding will take us right to neuroscience’s door.  A recent poll question on our discussion forum found that although the majority of researchers are not yet using technology like facial coding and brain scanning, there is a growing interest in the field.

So what do you think?  Are you concerned about articulated versus un-articulated customer opinions?  If so, how do you work to dig deeper with your research?  And do you think that understanding how customers actually feel will really help you change customer behavior?  We’d love to hear about your thoughts in the comments section below.

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