Can you trust your behavioural support?

9th April 2019

In the 1st world, we place an excessive amount of value on education. In the US, one of the first questions someone will ask you when they meet you is “where did you go to school?” The culture isn’t far removed in the UK. Consider the last job interview you went to; without a degree, you’d be lucky to get through the door.

Most business jobs want people to have higher education and, often, they want people to be skilled in certain subjects. Particularly now with the increasing need for psychologists and data scientists. Companies want these skills so they can show that their people can deliver over and above their competitors.

Why then, when we place so much emphasis on education, do we choose sub-par services to support our businesses. How often do companies check if those businesses have the actual skills required to give them the best results?

Are you choosing the best partners?

Many consultancies offer methods that can achieve a difference, but these methods aren’t necessarily grounded in real psychological evidence and approaches. These can be damaging for employees, customers, business and brands. Some particular approaches cause us concern:

Behavioural approaches without depth

For decades, psychologists have been trying to decipher the difference between emotions such as ‘pleasant’ and ‘agreeable.’ These psychologists are people who’ve had years of training in human behaviour. Sentiment decoding systems claim to be able to make these distinctions without any psychological intervention.

If psychologists can’t decipher the sentiment behind certain words and phrases, how can an engine without any training in psychology do so?

Another issue with this approach is that the engine doesn’t place the words in any context. The sentiment decoding system will pick up on the fact that the person used the words ‘mad’, ‘frustrating’ and ‘annoying’ = unhappy customer. This isn’t always the case. Consider the following example:

“The experience I had made me mad. I found it really frustrating that I had no proof of identity on me and I had to spend over 25 minutes waiting to sort it all out. I guess they have to do it securely, but it was annoying”

In this case, the customer may have been to blame for not bringing their ID. The decoding system believes they are frustrated at the brand. In reality, they are irritated and embarrassed about their own error and perhaps even appreciate the high level of security protecting their journey.

The issues don’t stop at sentiment decoding. Many agencies claim to offer behavioural insights, psychology work, behavioural change, eye tracking, and facial recognition approaches. All of these situations present similar challenges when people working in these areas don’t have the right skills.


Lack of trained psychologists

Many companies talk about offering psychology based solutions, but they only have one (or zero) psychologist(s) on their team. This is unethical and risky for clients to have non behaviour specialists undertaking their sensitive employee and customer behavioural work. It’s a bit like an electrician saying – “well, pipes are a bit like wires so I can do plumbing too!” When you uncover insight into human behaviour, you need trained psychologists to help you to work out appropriate ways forward.


Focus on one dimension

Psychology is like medicine. It has lots of disciplines – cognitive, social, consumer, individual differences, organisational health (to name only a few) – and needs representatives from each of those disciplines to create a multidimensional view of a situation. A one-dimensional point of view or method (eye tracking/facial expression/sentiment decoding) will only provide you with a one-dimensional solution. You need a holistic solution to speak to the needs of multiple customers, employees, and strategies. Such single points of application are not ‘pure psychology,’ and a one-token method or psychologist won’t bring brands the value for money they deserve.

What difference do organisational and consumer psychologists make?

As a psychology consultancy filled with people who are trained in organisational and consumer psychology, we are concerned when we see non-psychologists ‘helping’ brands with their employee and customer needs. Psychologists bring a different kind of value than marketing and HR professionals. Marketing and HR professionals have a depth of knowledge in what and how people operate in organizations and purchasing scenarios, and they can design systems, processes, stores, and campaigns to meet those needs.

Psychologists understand the reasons why people act in the way they do. This depth of behavioural knowledge means they can uncover the reasons why specific approaches may not bring the desired outcomes. Then they suggest new ways to tap into what consumers and employees truly require to meet their needs.

We don’t only uncover the data and leave you high and dry. We work with you to design the best intervention strategies for your business. From brand and communication strategies to talent management approaches. Diversity and inclusion strategies to employer branding. We uncover the hidden insights and support your business to drive those insights to better engagement, higher productivity, and more sales.