Domino Effects on Customers’ Choices

Category: Behavior
Published on: April 4, 2023

When we are serious about customer-centricity, we want to to truly learn potential and current customers’ tasks, priorities, and decision making strategies. It’s not just what do they choose but why do they choose that and if circumstances change, will they choose something else.

As an example, I rarely say yes to speaking at conferences that don’t at least pay my expenses and preferably pay me something. But a conference at the top of my list accepted me, and wouldn’t you know, it’s one that not only doesn’t cover expenses but expects you to buy a ticket to attend. It seems like a form of extortion.

I mostly speak at non-CX/UX events, which means I experience some of the worst conference submission and registration systems out there. Perhaps it was more important to be “Agile” than to have something that works well for users.

So I registered. With my 50% off speaker code, it should have cost me €600, but the system told me it was €0. I thought perhaps they thought better of charging me, especially since they approved me for a half-day workshop. They’re going to need me there! Why not thank me with a free ticket. I checked out and thanked them for the free ticket. They were not happy that I wasn’t charged, and thanked me for finding the bug.

A week later, I received an email from the online system saying that I owed them €600, and I need to come back and check out again. This is frustrating and disappointing.

The Domino Effect

In this economy, I didn’t have much budget for this trip. I will lose money on travel and time I can’t bill clients. But I figured that I’d shop for non-stop flights to make sure I am there on time.

With the addition of 600 to the budget, I will need to look at flights with plane changes. This benefits nobody. The more flights it takes me to get there, the more likely I am to be delayed, cancelled, stuck, or just fatigued.

And once I cross this event off my “must do” list, I am unlikely to pay to go it again. If they are hoping that I will love it so much that I come back again and again, that is unlikely to happen. And what will I tell others when they ask if attending or speaking at [this conference] is worth it?

Conferences, pay your speakers and cover their travel, especially if you want to make sure they arrive on time and ready to be a face on your event.

Another Example: Waves Audio

Waves Audio manufactures plugins for DAWs (digital audio workstations, think recording studios or home recording). You purchase the plugins you want, and you can use that plugin forever. If you want updated versions, you would need to buy extended licenses, which are normally annually.

Waves appeared to see the benefit of people having access to their entire library of plugins for one monthly or annual price. Probably without doing any research, Waves emailed all of their customers announcing a new pricing model soon going into effect: everybody would need to be on this new monthly or annual plan, and would get all of Waves’  plugins (whether you wanted them or not). If you were buying single plugins, they will work until they won’t, and then you’ll need to get on the Adobe-style plan.

Roughly a week later, another email came saying that due to “concerns” (I read that as “backlash”), Waves would still release the new plan for people who want unlimited access to their entire library, but they would continue the individual plugin pricing and renewals that already existed.

It’s good that Waves fixed this before the pricing started and they saw the real domino effect. While Waves has some exclusive plugins, many of the plugins Waves sells have competitors or might be available through other distributors.

How does this play out for your customers?

How might a change in pricing without a change in available budget play out for your customers? Where is your domino effect? After a price increase, 

  • Did customers reduce the number of licenses they purchased?
  • Did customers buy less?
  • Did they buy less often?
  • Did they stop buying and choose a competitor?
  • Did they badmouth you more? Give you a lower NPS or satisfaction score?
  • Did they burn Customer Support time by calling, emailing, or chatting to complain? That utilization of resources costs you money.

Your changes can lead to changes in customers’ habits and reactions. You might say, “We know our customers,” but do you really? Without qualitative research (preferably observational), you might not truly know how they approach their own tasks and choices, and what choices they might make if pushed a bit.

Solid evidence from good research can also save you from a mistake that you have to apologize for or undo. Did Waves study how their users choose or buy plugins? Did they study who needs the entire library versus who is happier paying for individual plugins? Does Waves have typologies or user profiles for people who buy Waves plugins at full price versus who only shops there when things are on sale? There are so many questions that would be answered by deep qualitative research.

If you are surprised by what your potential or current customers do, you don’t know them. And you should be conducting CX/UX research. Market research might not ask the right questions the right ways. Stop surveying them and watch them completing their tasks.