Consumer behaviour: the study of the elements that influence individuals’ purchasing decisions.
A clear understanding of consumer behaviour should affect how you provide customer service.
Rather than treating customers in a way that ‘feels’ right, knowledge of consumer behaviour allows you to understand the consequences of customer interactions. When familiar with the science of consumer behaviour, you can provide a better customer service experience and convert more customers.
And this is true from the decision-making CXO level, right through to the customer service frontlines in the contact centre or in retail.
But first, you need to know where to begin. With that in mind, then, here are the key factors influencing consumer behaviour – and how to apply them to customer service.
A key facet of consumer behaviour is the study of the psychological forces that drive customers to do certain things and act in certain ways. And perception is a huge part of these psychological forces.
How a consumer perceives a certain brand or company will inform their decision to purchase. (Or not purchase.) For example, a Rolls Royce Phantom may be far less reliable than a Toyota Camry. But many consumers aspire to own a Rolls Royce because of how the brand is perceived.
Conversely, another psychological driving force is the consumer desire to purchase the best product available. (I.e., best quality, best reliability, best efficiency, etc.) In this case, if a consumer believes that a brand’s product is the best, then they will be willing to spend more money to buy it.
The following personal factors affect how a consumer behaves and what they choose to spend money on:
- • Age: Generally, statistics show that those in different age groups spend money on and consume different things. They also respond differently to various forms of marketing. For example, Instagram ads may be more conducive for selling to a teenage consumer. A newspaper ad, meanwhile, may be more conducive for selling to an older adult.
- • Cultural background: Statistics show that people from different countries and regions tend to value different things depending on where they are from.
- • Gender: Gender is another personal factor behind purchase decisions, but not the most important one. For example, US studies have shown that women make the most purchasing decisions in typical households. But not every campaign, product, or service is suited to targeting towards women. It’s also worth noting that in recent times, younger people are responding well to marketing campaigns that don’t cater to traditional gender roles.
- • Sexual orientation: A customer’s sexual orientation can also have an impact on how they respond to various marketing campaigns and service offers.
- • Personal interests: Consumers are willing to spend more money on their personal interests.
So, what do the factors influencing consumer behaviour have to do with customer service? Customer service teams can benefit tremendously from understanding the different types of consumer buying behaviours.
- • Complex buying behaviour
This particular type of consumer buying behaviour involves consumers doing thorough research before making a purchase. So, they are highly likely to reach out to your customer-facing teams before committing.
Complex buying behaviour often correlates with purchases of expensive things, or complex business products and services. The significant nature of the commitment causes consumers to want certainty about their purchase before making it.
- • Dissonance-reducing buying behaviour
This type of behaviour arises in consumers when they fear that they will make the wrong purchasing decision. Often, this occurs when the consumer is spending a significant amount of money on an item that they don’t have specialised knowledge about.
For example, a contact centre manager is charged with investing in a contact centre automation solution. They may experience dissonance-reducing buying behaviour because they don’t know what specifications they should be looking for.
- • Habitual buying behaviour
Like it sounds, this type of buying behaviour arises from habit. Typically, consumers will habitually buy a certain product, such as paper towels. But, they will have no allegiance to a certain brand. This makes this a great space to apply strong marketing tactics in order to sway customers. (Who will usually purchase whatever is most convenient.)
- • Variety-seeking buying behaviour
This buying behaviour occurs when a consumer is intent on exploring a new brand of a product that they already use. For example, they may want to try new shampoo options and decide to test a new brand of shampoo.
Applying consumer behaviour insights to customer service
So, how can you actively apply your knowledge of the factors influencing consumer behaviour to customer service?
- • Keep perception in mind
Understanding that brand perception will influence a consumer’s purchasing actions can allow you to craft a customer service experience that reinforces positive brand impressions.
- • Remember that personal factors are important
When interacting with consumers in a customer service capacity, it’s important to remember the influence of personal factors on their willingness to purchase. Bearing this fact in mind, you can tailor how you provide customer service depending on the particular consumer.
For example, an older customer might prefer you to support them over the phone. A website user browsing your range of trainers might appreciate a chatbot message with current deals on athletic-wear. Etc.
- • Decipher buying behaviour
It’s important for customer service representatives to be aware of different consumer buying behaviours.
For example, a customer engaged in dissonance-reducing buying behaviour would benefit from proactive support. You could, perhaps, reach out with a live chat message offering assistance if you see them stuck on your help pages for a while. A customer engaged in complex buying behaviour will likely need omnichannel support, spread over several sessions and channels. And so on.
By understanding the factors influencing consumer behaviour, you can take your customer service to the next level. Developing an understanding of consumers is paramount to converting customers. And, in turn, bolstering sales.
By becoming familiar with consumer behaviour, you put yourself in a position to provide superior customer service that improves interactions and benefits your brand’s image.
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within a wide range of industries including information technology, healthcare, and AI. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs in the technology and healthcare space.