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Closing the Gap Between Explicit and Implicit Market Research - Increased Cross-sell and NTB Business

By Ana Iorga & Anil Pillai

The stakes are high for banks to deliver the right customer experience, therefore their engagement strategies must allow them to differentiate their proposal from the competition. Studies show that, at a global level, more than 37% of clients switched bank providers during the past 6-12 months alone. Such results are the consequence of budgets being spent on inefficient engagement strategies that are not creating a seamless, fast, and a uniquely great experience for all clients. Moreover, in the past three years, 58% of clients have done business with more than two banks for the same reason: no single provider could offer them a completely satisfying customer journey. So clients kept on searching.

Traditional research that uses only declarative client satisfaction surveys or in-depth interviews, is no longer enough to provide accurate insights that allow the development of engagement strategies that will increase customer retention. To this end, by adding the neurometric layer, represented by implicit response testing, into the research mix, one gets more depth by looking at customers’ non-conscious emotions and attitudes.


The objective of the study was to create a differentiated customer experience across the customer journey. Consumer behavior and emotional insights required to create such a differentiated experience strategy were obtained via both declarative tools and implicit response testing. These results were then compared to better understand if one of the largest banks in India was engaging with its personal loan customers as expected, and to determine how the bank could further drive differential customer engagement for such personal loans customers.


The study integrated data insights (statistical modelling), declarative (secondary research, surveys, in-depth interviews) and non-declarative (Affective Priming & Semantic Priming) instruments. This was chosen in order to overcome the limitations of a single-approach design, allowing us to explore the phenomenon and address the research questions at different levels. The first step was to carry out a customer portfolio analysis, then conduct a declarative customer insights survey, after which one-on-one interviews were performed to get an in-depth view of specific aspects, closely followed by the Affective and Semantic Priming tests which evaluated the brand, touchpoints, experience attributes and loans’ emotional valence.

Some of the study figures:

  • The quantitative analysis was done using three years’ worth of transactional data (4TB);
  • 508 personal loan customers completed the online customer satisfaction survey;
  • 35 in-depth interviews were carried out;
  • 111 personal loan customers participated in the four online implicit studies

The implicit studies were designed to deliver insights which reflected the attitudes and emotions that bank clients have at a nonconscious level, regarding a number of issues:

  • The banks’ perceived trustworthiness as compared with its primary competitor
  • The degree of friction perceived when interacting with different touchpoints
  • The importance of certain attributes in enhancing or detracting the bank experience
  • Emotional valence deeply associated with taking debt

Results and business outcomes

The overall study results uncovered four experiential customer segments based on desired experiential needs, three of which were completely unknown and untapped by the bank prior to this research. Moreover, the results showed that the bank’s engagement strategy was too focused on delivering Customer Delight (a focus on creating a pleasant overall experience) and that it needed to shift towards reducing Customer Effort (a KPI that was integrated in the experience delivery evaluation). The results revealed that certain touchpoints that were expected to deliver positive outcomes, on the contrary, dragged the overall experience down and thus had to be improved or eliminated. The last step was to develop an employee matrix to push customer-centric decisions down the chain. The Affective and Semantic Priming tests contributed to the final research insights with pertinent arguments that confirmed and supported some of the declarative findings and with new details that put existing data into a different perspective. 

Thus, results showed that there was a stronger positive connection between the respondents and the bank’s brand in comparison with its primary competitor. The findings were supported by a faster reaction time when primes of positive valence were paired with stimuli representing the Indian bank’s logos. Furthermore, we concluded that not all customer touchpoints were equally easy to interact with, and sorting them helped us red fl ag those that dragged the overall customer experience down. 

Another implicit study highlighted the attributes that respondents were primarily sensitive to when it came to their relationship with the bank. Also, Affective Priming identified an emerging trend in customers’ attitudes towards taking debt. Whereas in India popular wisdom indicated that, culturally, consumers have had an uneasy relationship with debt and loans being considered only as a last resort, our study showed that participants’ emotional reaction was rather neutral, with no noticeable differences between the positive and negative primes. Implicitly, respondents were not as reluctant to take a loan as one might be tempted to believe, based on declarative attitudes in the general population. 


By using a mixed research design, a more complete picture of the consumer emerged – one that measured both self-reported behavior and nonconscious or implicit emotional and attitudinal underlying psychic frameworks. Even more, researchers were able to explain, confirm, and predict consumer behavior with more accuracy than if they had only one type of data available. Affective and Semantic Priming has given valuable insights about how much clients actually trust their banks, the level of easiness or friction associated with touchpoints that are vital to the customer journey, the importance attached to specific client-bank defining attributes, and a surprising snapshot of how non-conscious beliefs about loans can shape future decisions.

Undeniably, customers that both consciously and non-consciously trust their banks, and are aligned with the behavior exhibited by the bank, find it easier to interact with it across various touchpoints. When they are given the exact type of benefits they value the most, they grow as satisfied customers and are there for the long haul. Companies have much to gain from taking into account implicit attitudes and emotions when designing their customer retention strategies. For complex business pain points, a tailored approach that integrates big data, declarative and implicit tools, delivers superior and long-lasting results.

This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook. Order your copy today