Have you heard about Aristotle’s seven causes of human action? They are certainly an interesting study of customer understanding!

A little background first.

In his book Rhetoric, Aristotle said:

So, let’s think for a moment how that applies to customer experience. I bet you don’t have to think about that for too long, since Rule #1 in customer experience is “understand the customer.” Understanding the customer includes listening, creating a customer journey map, and using other tools that will help you understand who they are, what their needs are, what jobs they are trying to do, what their pain points are, and how you fit together. If you know customers well, it’s much easier to meet, and especially exceed, expectations.

Aristotle also notes that all actions are due to either emotion or reasoning. I think we’re familiar with that thinking in the world of customer experience. Reminds me of the left brain and right brain and how we need to engage both in order to gain executive commitment for our customer experience efforts.

Oh my. Perhaps Aristotle is our founding father! (Or not.)

He does go on to say, in not so many words, that target demographics are superfluous and if we focus on the seven causes, that’s all we need to do. Think he knew about personas and/or jobs to be done?

Let’s go back to the seven causes of human action, and I’ll run through each one. They are seven interesting ways to look at why customers make the decisions they make.

Chance

The things that happen by chance are all those whose cause cannot be determined, that have no purpose, and that happen neither always nor usually nor in any fixed way.

Perhaps the customer stumbled upon your product or service and decided to give it a try. There is no rhyme or reason for the decision/action.

Nature

Those things happen by nature which have a fixed and internal cause; they take place uniformly, either always or usually.

In this instance, the customer makes a decision or acts because of some force of nature (e.g., he’s hungry) or simply because of human nature (i.e., it’s what I do). A different type of force of nature might be your approach to corporate social responsibility. The causes that your brand supports are those that the customer supports as well – instant alignment.

Compulsion

Those things happen through compulsion which take place contrary to the desire or
reason of the doer, yet through his own agency.

Some irrational behavior drove customers to take this action, make this purchase. It was just so easy to do. It might be an impulse move/buy.

Habit

Acts are done from habit which men do because they have often done them before.

This one is probably pretty straight forward. I purchase from X because I’ve always purchased from X. There is comfort. security, and trust in consistency.

Reasoning

Actions are due to reasoning when, in view of any of the goods already mentioned, they appear useful either as ends or as means to an end, and are performed for that reason.

This means that people have a rational motive to do something. Oftentimes, the company has given them a reason or told them why they need the product.

Anger/Passion

To passion and anger are due all acts of revenge. Revenge and punishment are different things. Punishment is inflicted for the sake of the person punished; revenge for that of the punisher, to satisfy his feelings.

Some emotional response has triggered the customer to purchase or to interact.

Appetite/Desire

Appetite is the cause of all actions that appear pleasant.

In the absence of reason, appetite (or desire) takes over. I want, I want, I want. Just ask your kids! It’s about the feeling that the purchase elicits.

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In order to deliver a great customer experience, we must first know who the customer is and what job/task he is trying to achieve/do with the organization. And why. If we understand what motivates him, we have a better chance of delivering a customer experience that is relevant and memorable.

Additional categories: Customer Experience