‘Why don’t we have a special men’s day?’ I am often asked by my male counterparts when the entire country enjoys a public holiday on 9 August every year. Apart from the global drive to accelerate gender parity, in SA we have an additional reason to celebrate women’s courage and strength. Our history contests to the event leading to change through the united march of women to petition against unfair legislation around the requirement for black South Africans to carry a pass.
During the month we celebrate National Women’s Day we are consistently reminded of the role women play in society. I’ve also been pondering the role of gender in the experience economy. Do male and female customers experience interaction with brands in the same way? Do their typical responses in extreme cases, differ?
Women are often regarded as the more expressive and emotional of the genders. Is this substantiated in customer experience studies? How will the findings of such a study affect the design and measurement of customer experience?
According to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience called Sex-Dependent Dissociation between Emotional Appraisal and Memory: A Large-Scale Behavioral and fMRI Study (2015, Spalek et al), men and women do not only react differently to visually emotive stimuli, but they also process and recall information in divergent ways:
- Women typically evaluate negative and positive pictures (but not neutral pictures) more emotionally arousing than men (with increased brain activity detected through fMRI scans).
- In free recall activities, women outperformed men on all stimuli (positive, negative and neutral images).
- Women were able to remember positive images with greater accuracy.
What does this mean in the customer experience arena? Potentially that women react with more intensity and that they can remember more content and detail of their brand interactions. It also suggests that women could be better brand advocates because of their expressive recall of positive experiences.
To uncover the answers, the CPL team decided to compare the research findings to our own ongoing customer qualitative experience tracking. Our approach to measuring and tracking customer experience provide us with insights into the emotional response to experience, as many CX thought leaders agree, that emotion, is the most important aspect in measuring experience.
We were particularly interested to see if women
- place their overall experience more towards the far ends of either positive or negative emotional scales
- are more likely than men to request action after a customer experience failure (i.e. to raise red flag alert to clients of their sentiments).
Here is what we discovered when we segmented gender specific responses to customer experience, using two categories to test the Spalek et al findings:
1. New customers vs Loyal to brand/repeat buyers
2. After-sales experience
[Sample of 180 interviews during 2018]
Finding 1: Female customers who were new to the brand had a more positive overall experience (89.24) than their male counterparts (86.67) +1.06 [females made up 38% of the sample].
This supports the findings that women are initially more impressed (i.e. emotionally aroused) with a very positive experiences, than their male counterparts. They tend to remember the emotional aspect of the interaction more vividly and share it in more detail.
Finding 2: Women were more prone to ask for action to be taken when experience failures occurred. Through the journey of buying a new car, the after sales contact produced a highest percentage of red flags (issues requiring attention or improvement). Women raised more red flags when purchasing a new car (new to brand): 75% compared to the 73% in men, and it was also higher when compared with existing customers.
This supports the findings that even though women had more positive experiences during the purchase of a new car (new to brand), they are also more likely to raise areas of concern when experience failures occur.
Finding 3: Male repeat or loyal customers had more positive experiences (89.44), once they are “locked” into the brand, and are more forgiving than females (88.38) (+2.57 points) [females made up 24% of the sample]. These male existing customers raised more red flags than women (27% vs the 25% of women) hinting to the same behavior as females buying into a brand for the first time, with experience failures.
Finding 4: When looking at after-sales experience in a sample of 1,442 interviews, women were more critical and raised more issues (14% vs 11% in men). These issues were mostly raised around their experience after the service of their vehicles. Females are also more likely to express their experience in extreme negative (4%) compared to males (3%). When they had very positive experiences, women were less expressive (40%) than males (44%). Males expressed their overall experience as more positive (85.88) than women (84.04) (+1.94 points) [females made up 26% of the sample – see graphs below].
This means that while women are more excited and enjoy the experience of buying into a new brand, though they are slightly more critical or rational after they have made their initial purchase. Women do respond more severely to negative and positive experiences and are more expressive than males.
Our findings therefore support the Salek et al research. Women do respond more severely to negative and positive experiences. When asked to place their experience on a scale, they are far more expressive than males (very negative experiences 4% vs males’ 3%, or very positive, 40% vs males’ 44%).
Our research team also noted additional insights from their customer experience interviews:
- Younger women are less forgiving when it comes to negative experiences compared to more mature customers (male or female). The hypothesis is that they are more emotionally engaged and loyal to the dealership, hence the disappointment is far greater.
- Women shared their positive experiences with greater ease and provide more detail throughout the conversation. Generally, men only articulate positive experiences once they have placed a value on the experience (via quantitative representation on an experience scale). It appears they are more likely to recall the details of an enjoyable experience once it has been rationalized.
Do men lack the ability to articulate their emotions, or do they merely not respond in such an expressive way? Further exploration is required to unearth the true reasons for this behavior. It does however seem clear that women are the more articulate customer voice.
They experience engagement more intensely (both positive and negative) and they can recall their experiences in more detail and share the information more freely than men. Very positive experiences will transform them into powerful brand advocates. True to the courage and strength celebrated on Women’s Day, women will also mobilize change in the consumer space by voicing their discontent as customers.
How can your company harness the expressive power of female customer experience, and turn it into your secret weapon for customer experience victories?
1. Invest in a well-crafted customer experience strategy that incorporates this understanding of women being more vocal brand advocates into your competitive differentiator.
2. Design gender-specific personas and customer journey maps to address the unique way women and men react to brand interactions.
3. Source staff training that equips your team to ignite brand loyalty in your female customers.
4. Measure and track the experience of your customers by gender through ‘Voice of the Customer’, interviews by seasoned psychologists, surveys, immersions, focus groups and qualitative customer experience tools.
The Consumer Psychology Lab is a customer experience consultancy with extensive know-how of measuring emotion. Our highly skilled psychologists interview customers about their experience and provide our clients with deep insights into consumers’ experience and behaviour. We are also passionate about equipping companies with the most suitable CX tools and skills. www.consumerlab.co.za