Sep 5, 2020
Why What We
Believe Is Sometimes Just Wrong!
Many sports fans will tell you their team is the
best. However, only one of the sports teams wins the championship
and is definitively the best. Moreover, many organizations that
never get close to the championship have fans who would say these
teams are the best. For this last lot, the claim that their team is
"the best" creates some serious conflict compared to
The sports fan situation I described is an example of
Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance is a universal concept
for the behavioral sciences that describes how we can hold a belief
contrary to reality. Moreover, the idea explains why we feel
uncomfortable when confronted with the facts and will often seek
irrational ways to resolve them.
This episode of The Intuitive Customer takes a deeper
dive into the broad idea of Cognitive Dissonance and the many ways
we try to resolve the discomfort it causes.
Cognitive Dissonance is everywhere. It is best to
think of it as a behavioral science concept that is like a giant
umbrella with many more specific forms of it that fall underneath.
Here are a few things to remember about this essential concept:
- We all have contradictory beliefs that we
hold to be true at the same time. Continuing with my
sports fan example, I think the Luton Town Football Club is the
best team in the English Football League. But, the truth is I know
they are not. They are only in the second or Championship level of
the four tiers of the league and probably should be playing in the
third. Since the best teams play at the Premier level, which is a
level up from Luton Town, they can't be "the best."
- Contradictory beliefs cause us
discomfort. Having conflicting feelings bothers
us. They create tension that we want to resolve by dropping one of
them, but we can't. So, the pressure remains.
- We resolve the discomfort in different
ways. Eventually, we will either change our
beliefs to match our behavior or change our behavior to match our
ideas. However, when we cannot do this, we resort to irrational
methods of resolving the conflict, like finding ways to change our
perception of the conflict (i.e., rationalizing our actions).
Sometimes we minimize the conflict by making excuses for the
behavior. Other times we change our recollection of the story to
line up better in our heads with what we believe.
- Cognitive Dissonance happens at an
organizational level, too. Sometimes the brand promise and
the actual Customer Experience create the Cognitive Dissonance for
customers, creating problems for your customer-facing team. They
are left trying to reconcile reality with what the customer feels
the marketing promised them.
Wanting to reduce the feelings of Cognitive
Dissonance is universal. From a Customer Experience perspective,
you want to help ease your customers' uncomfortable feelings about
it. Here are a few suggestions on how to manage it in your
- Understand Cognitive Dissonance and how it
makes people uncomfortable. Customers are often
dealing with trying to resolve what they believe with reality, even
as customers. When customers have these conflicting feelings, it
can affect their behavior. Customer-facing employees should
recognize when it is happening and be prepared to help manage
- Employ Cognitive Dissonance reduction
strategies. It would be best to find ways to help
customers feel less discomfort during their buying decisions.
Giving your Customer-Facing team the tools they need to help manage
customer emotions to a positive outcome is critical. For example,
use humor to recognize the situation and ease the customer's
tension. Another way could be to point out ways features or
benefits that appeal to the customer's strongly-held belief that
appears to them to conflict with the reality of your
- Recognize that sometimes customers don't
understand what they want. People can't always tell
you what they want. It's up to you to dig deeper and discover what
motivates their behavior. We have Emotional
Signature® Research that takes into account the
difference between what people say is important to them and
what actually is.
To discuss this further contact us at
Beyond Philosophy help organizations unlock
growth by discovering customers' hidden, unmet needs that drive
value ($). We then capitalize on this by improving your customer
experience to meet these needs thereby retaining and acquiring new
customers across the market.
This podcast is produced by Resonate Recordings. Click here
find out more.