Satisfy Your Customers Subconsciously

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

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

2 thoughts on “Satisfy Your Customers Subconsciously”

  1. Hello Bruce,

    don’t you think it correlates pretty well with the conclusions of Malcom Gladwell in Blink ?
    Sometimes less information is better and more information leads to more confusion.


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