Why You Need To Beat Confirmation Bias To Win Your Customers

By Christina Molt Wengel, CMO of Milestone Systems

Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret information in a way that is always consistent with existing beliefs. Simply, it occurs when someone views information in a positive, affirming light, even though the information could be telling a drastically different story.

While confirmation bias can often be chalked up to human nature, in a business setting, failure to adequately evaluate and respond to information can be a legitimate issue for a company, and particularly its marketing team.

As most marketing pros will tell you, effective marketing comes down to adjustments, based on what customer data is saying. The best marketers are obsessed with data and go to great lengths to understand customers’ motivations and behaviour. However, the real test of a marketer’s mettle is what they do after collecting data, and how they adjust their campaigns to better align with their customers.

This is not as obvious as it may sound. When you e.g. are in a position of growth, why would you then challenge existing believes? That was the exact dilemma we faced at Milestone Systems. We “make the world see” through our data-driven video technology software and had experienced constant growth for 20 years straight. But for most of that period, we actually didn’t “see” our customers. We didn’t know much about them to be honest. And we could see how this lack of customer insights could become a problem in the long run because if you don’t understand your customers, do you then truly understand the task at hand?

This is where confirmation bias can be dangerous because it’s easy for brands to assume customers view the company through the same lens they do and have a similar opinion of the company, but this isn’t necessarily true.

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How do you beat confirmation bias?

To beat confirmation bias, it’s vital for brands to face reality when measuring the success of their campaigns and gauging customer brand perception. Why? Because better customer relationships and better marketing can have a tremendously positive impact on the bottom line. In fact, according to a study by the Economist, 59% of executives who prioritize customer experience believe that it directly increased their revenue growth in comparison to competitors. Additionally, 63% of them believe that this prioritization ultimately results in a more positive customer experience.

Of course, to better connect with prospects and improve profits, it’s essential to get the customer feedback first. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways businesses can get the first-person customer perspective and gain a strong idea of how consumers view their company.

1. Measure

First, marketing teams should be continuously connecting with customers to get their unfiltered perspective of the business, what’s working, and what isn’t. As a marketer, it can be easy to fall victim to simply measuring customer behavioural data (like click-through rates, ad engagement, unsubscribes, etc.). However, the best marketing teams lean on an outside-in perspective to improve customer experiences and create a better brand reputation. Brands that go above and beyond to gain first-person customer perspectives (rather than only reviewing potentially misleading data) will be forced to face the reality of their consumer feedback and implement stronger changes.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is through surveys, both with existing customers or prospects. Surveys are a powerful way to gain honest, unfiltered insights which marketers can utilize to not only improve customer experience, but the business overall. Direct customer feedback is a great way to defeat the potential for confirmation bias because marketers must address what consumers are directly telling them. Of course, the survey questions a company asks will vary  based on brand and need, but generally, according to Boast, a few great questions to ask are:

  • How did you discover (company)?
  • Do you have a positive or negative association with (company)? Why?
  • Were your expectations met, unmet or exceeded and why?
  • How could we make this product more efficient for you?
  • What features do you wish we had?

2. Learn

Additionally, marketing teams would be wise to connect with potential customers who did not convert. They will be most able to point out the pain points in a marketing campaign that are dissuading buyers. It’s just as important to ask consumers why they didn’t interact with a brand as it is to ask why they do.

On the other hand, if a long-time customer decides to leave, an exit survey is a strong strategy to understand the shortcomings of a product or service. This is arguably the most direct way for marketers to face confirmation bias because they will be presented with direct, negative feedback. Of course, there are a variety of questions that could be asked, but key questions typically include:

  • What prompted you to end your contract with us?
  • Are you choosing to purchase a service or product through a market competitor? If so, why?
  • If you have already been working with a competitor, how have they been meeting your expectations?

Obtaining these insights allows marketers to gauge specifics into how their competitors are beating them out, and conversely, how they can improve their product and boost customer retention.

Another way to gauge customer sentiment beyond just the data, is to ask for their feedback via email or text. With over 5 billion people (approximately 65% of the world’s population) having the ability to send and receive SMS messages globally, as well as an increasing rate of email users worldwide, text and email are two mediums that marketers can leverage to meet customers where they are at.

3. Adapt

Once data is gathered, modern marketing technology can automate the process and help brands to develop a continuous feedback loop. While there’s no guarantee of a response, a well personalized email or text will show customers that a brand cares and values their opinion and is dedicated to improving. Not only will it help marketing teams and brands to enhance their operations, but it will develop deeper relationships with consumers. At the end of the day, customers want to know that their feedback is valued and has the power to drive change. Companies that choose to neglect customer feedback are prime examples of the dangers of confirmation bias.

It doesn’t matter how marketing teams or their company define success, it’s up to the customer. For example, in industries like video tech and security, where the community is extremely tight knit, marketing teams must have a deep understanding of their audience’s business needs to have any chance of selling to them. Brands that understand consumer perception and needs, will be able to personalize messages to their target audience and create a more positive customer experience. By gauging and adapting to direct feedback, marketing teams can avoid the dangers of confirmation bias, and make wholesale changes that will turn customers into brand champions.

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