Human Science, not Rocket Science

Jess Mahendra • 4 min read



Improving customer experience can seem like a broad and abstract task. Although a seamless and pleasant customer experience is something that feels almost like a necessity in this day and age, many companies often struggle to consider all the different factors at play.

When considering how to design a seamless and pleasant experience, starting with Behavioural Science is a great first step to take.

The process of designing an optimal experience is definitely not easy - it requires a careful analysis of different elements interacting together. But if we strip this down to the core, understanding why people do what they do is key. It allows us to look at things from a different perspective - a human one. Because most of the time, the reason why people don't do what they set out to do is because it feels hard.

The emphasis on the word feel is important. Often, it's not even that the task itself is hard. If a task is actually easy but has been made to look and feel difficult, that's enough of a deterrent.

These are three useful things to remember when designing for a more pleasant and human experience:


1. We like things to be easy

This means people need to know exactly what they're doing, how to do it, and how long it will take. It is also very helpful if they don't have any barriers to overcome to complete the task at hand.

A classic example is: why do people who have signed up for gym memberships fail to go, and knowing this, why do they not cancel their memberships and continue spending money unnecessarily every month?

When signing up for a gym membership, we think that everything will be smooth and easy. What we forget to consider is the reality of waking up at 5 in the morning, or of having to go to the gym during your lunchtime or after work when you're hungry and all you can think about is food. Overcoming these things is hard.

So why don't people just cancel their membership? Cancelling a membership can sometimes be annoyingly difficult. You have to go through a certain process that may or may not be made complicated intentionally. Even if the process itself is not difficult, the act of cancelling a membership is an active choices that requires action and effort - this is often enough to stop people from doing what is more rational for them.

Instead of giving you a tip to make cancelling a gym membership easy, here's a tip to make going to the gym easy. One thing that some people find effective is sleeping in their gym gear, so when they wake up in the morning, all they have to do is get up and go. Maybe it sounds a bit silly, but I've done it before, and let me tell you, it does help a lot.


2. We want to be heard

Recognise that people have emotions, and that they want to be heard. When we go to our friends to vent, sometimes all we need is just for them to listen and acknowledge what we're going through. When we feel like we're being heard, our mood changes. This nice positive feedback makes us feel more validated, and it makes us feel important.

Conversely, when we feel that our friends are not listening to us, or fail to give us the reassurance that we need, we start to feel negative emotions. This is because of the lack of acknowledgment and validation.

The same thing often applies in your customer journey. When customers complain about something, it can be difficult to take responsibility for something that we're not directly responsible for. If you didn't do anything wrong, why would you apologise and take ownership of that mistake?

This is a valid point, but not being able to accept fault can make customers think that you're shifting blame to someone else, which will in turn make the experience feel more negative.

Important thing to take note of: having to deal with complaints day in and day out can be exhausting and make you burnt out, so it's always a good idea to find balance.


3. We like to feel good about ourselves

Although this sounds superficial, it's true. And it's true for everyone. This is very closely related to the previous point - we want to feel heard because it makes us feel good. In a similar vein, we tend to overestimate our positive qualities and underestimate our negative qualities.

An example of this is how we often feel that we are immune to fraud and scams. We think that only other people fall for scams, not us. We know better than that. But if everyone thinks like this, we know it doesn't make much statistical sense - just like how it doesn't make sense for 87% of Stanford MBA students to rate their academic performance above the median.

Because of that, we are more susceptible to statements that appeal to our ego. If we reassuringly tell your customer "I'm sure you know about this already, the reason we're doing this is for other customers who aren't as savvy as you", it will be much easier for you to get through to them.


If you forget everything else about this article, then the one main thing to remember is that it's human science, not rocket science.

Think about the fact that you have emotions, and about the kind of experience you would like to have. Because like we say here at Cowry, the aim should always be to make business as human as humanly possible.



Beshears, J., Choi, J. J., Laibson, D., Madrian, B. C. (2009). The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes. Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment.

Zuckerman, E. W., & Jost, J. T. (2001). What makes you think you're so popular? Self-evaluation maintenance and the subjective side of the"" friendship paradox"". Social Psychology Quarterly, 207-223."

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