I just read interesting academic research about how consumers make complex decisions. It turns out that satisfaction levels change based on how people think about their options. For simple decisions, people are happier making deliberate, conscious decisions. For complex situations, however, people are more satisfied when they use a “deliberation without attention” approach.
According to the research:
Consciousness has limited capacity, and only a fraction of the relevant information can be considered for very complex decisions. Moreover, conscious deliberation has been shown to inflate the importance of certain features at the expense of others, distorting the outcomes.
For unconscious thought to work effectively, it needs to be goal directed. People need to decide they are going to make a decision, focus on the specifics, and then think about something else.
My take: This research has wide ranging implications for customers, companies, and individuals.
- Customers: When companies make customers rush through a complex purchase, they face high dissatisfaction rates. A pushy car salesperson, for instance, is not the right approach to customer satisfaction. So firms should develop scenarios where customers can get some details about their options and then deliberate on it for a few days or more.
- Companies: For complex situations (and aren’t most strategies complex?!?), executives shouldn’t try and make a decision based on seeing an initial presentation of options. They should take some time working on other things and then make the decision based on what they think (or feel) is the right answer.
- Individuals: As with executives, individuals shouldn’t try and over-think complex decisions. Get the facts and then sleep on it for a while. But don’t over-analyze the details, pick the choice that “seems right.”
The bottom line: If you want to satisfy customers, don’t think about it