The fine art of choice architecture & Customer Success

Published in 2007 (and revised in 2008) Thaler and Sunstien's Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness explores how the science of choice can "nudge" individuals towards making better decisions. In their book they argue people will inevitably make decisions counterproductive to their best interests due to biases. They propose these biases are due to our own human frailty (emotional vs. economic based decisions), time constraints, and the complexity of our world. To combat these biases, they propose constructing an environment where a "choice architect has the responsibility for organizing the context in which people make decisions." This architect (or team of architects) should be empowered to create an environment that "alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. The author's conclude the outcomes of these effort will be better decisions made, and a more positive experience overall for the choice maker.


Here are the three takeaways any Customer Success leader or practitioner could leverage from the book:

  1. As Customer Success professionals, we "own" organizing the context in which our customers leverage our company's product(s) or service(s) to achieve an outcome. How we chose to structure the choices for our customers will impact the success they have. Incorporating structure and rigor to how the success organization does this will lead to happier, healthier customers and longer-term relationships.

  2. "Nudges" should lead with the positive to assure maximum effectiveness. The data clearly shows pushing with the negative is not as impactful in guiding customers to the best choices for them. Optimism and the "can do attitude" will increase customer trust and adherence to guidance provided.

  3. Provide the customer options, but always have a default selection given. Users with no guidance for multiple options will inherently select one aligned with their bias, consequently increasing the chance they've chosen something counterproductive to their goals. Options will give customers a measure of control in their destiny, a per-selected default will assure they're presented with the likeliest best option first.

Recommendation: Read | Review the Cliff Notes | Pass


Our take on Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness is we feel there is enough philosophical overlap with with Customer Success to make it a valued skim for the CS professional. Therefore, our recommendation is:


Review the Cliff Notes - while the book is loaded with examples that will help leaders think about the dynamics of how much to tell people what to do versus giving them the full freedom of choice, its broad approach means it's best for only most academic of CS pros.


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