In last month’s blog I talked about the brain being a a complex structure, processing information via circuits that connect various parts of the brain to each other. I also touched on the fact that the circuits in our brains have been created based on our own, individual experiences over time. And thus, no two brains think alike.
Delving further into the workings of the brain we learn that information is transmitted throughout the brain via neurotransmitters (types of chemicals) that transfer information between the billions of neurons in our brains. One of these neurotransmitters you’ve probably heard of is Dopamine. Maybe you’ve heard it described as the “feel good chemical”.
Dopamine is an important chemical and plays, amongst other roles, a significant part in our motivation, attention and emotional responses.
When something good happens, or is about to happen, we get a release of Dopamine. Dopamine feels good. Lack of Dopamine? Not so good.
Dopamine is particularly interesting when it comes to expectations. Dopamine is released not only when something good happens but also when we expect* something good to happen.
Let’s look at a sales and account management example.
Imagine you’re in a meeting with a new client discussing implementation of services. You advise a Go Live date in four weeks’ time. But the client says they really want everything up and running in two.
Here’s one way this imaginary situation might go.
You respond with “sure, we can make that happen”. The client is happy, there’s a big Dopamine response in their brain, and they leave the meeting feeling really good. *As noted above – Dopamine releases at the point we think something good is going to happen.
Two weeks pass and so does the Go Live date. You weren’t able to meet the new deadline. So the client doesn’t get that Dopamine hit their brain was expecting at Go Live. And, even worse, their Dopamine plummets because their brain didn’t get a “reward” it was expecting. They experience a very unpleasant feeling, much like physical pain.
When you deliver the services a week later, the client’s Dopamine hit is minimal, if at all. There’s no great pleasure in it. Throughout the process their Dopamine hits have been less than they’ve been expecting or haven’t happened at all. This downward spiral does not feel good.
You now have a new but rather unhappy client.
Now let’s imagine a different scenario.
You advise the client that if the team pulls out all stops you can deliver 90% of the services in two weeks’ time, with the remaining 10% to be delivered two weeks later. The client is okay with this, it’s a bit of a win and they get a Dopamine hit. The client leaves the meeting feeling good.
As promised, Go Live takes place in two weeks with 90% of the services up and running. The client gets another Dopamine hit. They’re feeling pretty happy.
Two days later you contact the client to let them know the team has made great progress and you’ll be able to deliver the rest of the services in less than two weeks, in fact in 2 days’ time. The client gets a really big Dopamine hit (*note this) and is very happy indeed. When the final services are delivered 2 days later, the client gets another little Dopamine hit.
*Notice the biggest Dopamine hit was when the client was delivered good news they weren’t expecting. Our brains like unexpected rewards even more than expected ones.
Overall the client is feeling great; throughout the process they’ve had continual Dopamine hits, including one really bit one, and at no point did their Dopamine plummet. They’ve been experiencing an upward spiral of Dopamine.
The moral to the story is that promising something and not delivering will bring real pain to your clients. And the knock-on effect may cause you and your business to feel longer-term pain. Future interactions and decisions may be biased and viewed through the filters created by the experience. “They don’t deliver on time”, “Not sure we can trust this sales person”, “They make promises they can’t keep” and so on.
Whereas, “under promising and over delivering”, not only mitigates pain, it can actually make the client feel even better than if you simply met their expectations. And, the feel-good experience builds positive biases for future interactions with you and your business.
What could you do to keep your clients in an upward Dopamine spiral?
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