3 Tripping Points of the customer experience

And why customers are like cats

In the last blog post I explained Tripping Points.  (You can read it here). Tripping Points is a research method that lets us find out how customers react in real time to their experience. Whether that be in a shop, online, calling a contact centre.  Any channel.  This research method works equally well for B2B and employee experience research.  Afterwards a friend emailed me to ask, ‘What are the 3 most common Tripping Points?’
Good question.  Here’s my answer.  (And also, here’s why customers are like cats…)

1. Entering a new environment

cats customers

Any excuse for a cat picture

Think of a cat entering a new room.  It is wary and on guard.  It skirts round the edges of the room.  Its senses are heightened.  It looks for threats.  “Can I trust this place and these people?”   For humans, our most basic instinct is exactly the same.  It is about survival.  So when we encounter something novel, our first instinct is, “Is it safe?!”  Subconsciously we each have expectations about how a new situation is likely to unfold. These expectations are shaped by our previous expectations and our acquired knowledge.  New experiences are tricky because by definition we lack ‘experience data’.  So our expectations are less well-informed. This makes us wary and suspicious.  Just like the cat, we are ready to bolt for the door if things trip us up!

There are many examples of new situations we encounter as consumers:

  • Listening to a confusing list of contact centre IVR options
  • Entering a car showroom, as the sales guy (oh for a friendly female!) swaggers over
  • Opening the door of a travel agent shop and seeing everyone on the phone
  • Checking into a posh hotel
  • Walking into a restaurant when there’s no one immediately available to check our reservation

2. Being in a position of weakness

Think of the phone conversations you’ve had with an insurance broker.  Or your bank.  Or with a car salesman.  As the customer, we are often not in full command of the facts.   The employee knows more than we do.  So the customer feels in a position of weakness.  From a survival perspective, any position of weakness is dangerous.   It can trigger a fight or flight response. As customers we become nervous and uncomfortable.  We may change our natural behaviour.  For example, adopting an aggressive stance to wrest power back into our hands.
Here’s another example.  A contact centre employee who is looking at a screen full of info about the client and products.  The employee is viewing information the customer can’t see.  We feel ill at ease.  Again, it’s about our primitive human reaction to being in an unfamiliar situation. As the customer, we don’t know if we can trust what we see or hear.   We don’t know if our expectations will be met or not.   This explains why we are always so much happier to deal with a familiar person.  And we feel less stressed when the employee makes us feel comfortable and in control.  For example, a screen or tablet is shared, so both customer and employee see the same information.

3. Paying for things 

It’s quite an obvious one.  It’s a potential Tripping Point because this feels to people like a kind of irreversible, committing, moment.  There are often things that surprise people or run contrary to their expectations.  Such as price, the process, the awkwardness.  Do I tip?  Do I not tip?   Which card will work?  Groan, I have to queue.   B2b transactions have similar issues.


These 3 points are certainly not the same for everyone.  The more experience we have of any situation, the more tolerant we may be of Tripping Points.  Our individual response to Tripping Points is affected by all kinds of things:
  • Our previous positive experiences
  • How important our goal is to us
  • Our current motivational state
  • How hungry we are (we all know that empty stomach rattiness!)
  • The time of the day
  • The colour of the walls
  • The way the environment smells
  • The attitude of the person we are dealing with
  • Etc.  You get the gist.  And also, an individual person’s response will vary from day to day.

So, for organisations, improving experiences is a question of marginal gains.  It’s about identifying and removing as many obstacles as possible.  Which makes for a smoother customer journey.  (This is what our CX Lab methodology is designed to do).   Removing obstacles means increasing the chances of your customers buying from you.  It means increasingly the likelihood of customers spending more and coming back for more.

One final thought to leave you to mull over.  There’s a huge opportunity for Blockchain to be used to help eliminate many Tripping Points.  But that can wait for another blog post….