Cognitive dissonance is the internal conflict people feel when they’re presented with evidence that contradicts their own beliefs.
When you cause someone to experience cognitive dissonance, it’s great!
It’s great because it’s the first step.
It’s the first time they’ve realised that there’s another side of the coin. There’s another world view. There’s something else to it.
It’s the first step to change and an important step to growth.
For those of you who do user research, you’ll be in the presence of clients having this feeling in nearly every meeting you have.
It’s when you tell them about a really bad customer experience and they tell you that “your sample wasn’t representative”, “that’s just one time” or they have an excuse for why it happened like: “we were short staffed that day”, “the system went down for half an hour” or “that customer’s just being difficult”.
I love it when this happens. Just love it. Because what happens next can be fantastic for both you and them. Fantastic, that is, if it goes the right way.
When your client has this feeling, they’ll go one of two ways:
1. They’ll stay in denial
They could stay in denial, bury their head in the sand and forget they ever knew about it. This is a natural human behaviour.
In the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman recalls working with investment advisors in the stock market. Those who made good investments got paid bigger bonuses and were more celebrated at the company.
Yet, when he looked at their data, he found that those who performed better were just lucky.
No one can accurately predict the value of stock in the future. In fact, a computer that randomly selects investments will perform just as well as a human who’s armed to the teeth with all the research she needs, and who’s trained and experienced in doing the same.
The company were paying big bonuses and heavily rewarding luck.
Can you imagine the reaction when Kahneman presented his findings to the company? Did they believe that their industry was rewarding pot luck? Did they change their bonus structure?
Nope. They continued with dinner as if the conversation never happened.
2. They’ll learn and grow
The other thing that can happen is that they’ll take an opportunity to learn, to understand, to expand their world view and change their perception.
This takes courage.
Not everyone will be able to do it. Sometimes they’ll need some encouragement and empowerment. Sometimes they’ll need time.
In the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, the author writes about never showing someone-up or making someone feel stupid publicly. This is one of those times.
Make sure your client knows it’s not their fault. Everyone did the best they could given the skills and resources and situation at hand at the time.
Things are the way they are because they are the way they are. It’s not your clients fault if the customer had a bad experience. It’s not time to point blame, it’s time to take out our emotional connection with the company and see things objectively for how they are. Then you can plug back into your emotions and zone in on fixing the problem.
If you can help someone overcome that cognitive dissonance, they’ll be a shining example of advocacy.
I’ve watched people go from dismissive, to denial, to acceptance, to advocacy in a single workshop and it’s fantastic.
Those people go on to be the driving force within the business. They spread the news and the excitement and the vision to the rest of their team.
To create breakthrough customer experiences, you have to be willing to breakthrough your own world view. Kane SimmsTweet this phrase
Getting offended is childish. Ignorance is stupid. Acceptance and action is difficult, but necessary.