Talking with Anja Jamrozik-Otto, Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Researcher on People Experience

Kendall Pennington

Understanding the psychology of how a company can interact and optimize the way customers interact with their product is a core component of customer experience. In this episode, Anja Jamrozik-Otto, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive science, takes us through the science and methodology behind how customers interact with surveys, the way psychology plays a part in discovering personalities, and how certain experiences fostered her relationships and opinions with other companies.


How Anja Got Here

A researcher with a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and post-doctoral work in cognitive neuroscience, Anha knows a good bit about how people think, the reasoning process, and what she calls “the nitty-gritty of thought”. 

Interestingly enough, she finds herself just as passionate about design and has spent a lot of her time reading and learning about aesthetics. 

Looking for a way to merge these two passions, she began focusing her research on the way the digital and physical environment interact as is related to the human experience, and how this can be improved.


The Secret Sauce to Effective Consumer Research

Anja makes a point of noting that empathy plays a major role in consumer research and design, and thereby should be factored into creating the customer experience.  Whereas one might think research is all about the hard data, there’s most certainly a human component as well.

Empathy is crucial when it comes to crafting surveys, designing experiences and effectively utilizing obtained data.  Anja uses an example of how something as simple as the order in which something is listed in a survey can result in completely inaccurate information.  For instance, cognitive science tells us that generally speaking, human beings perceive the right side of something to be good, or better, and the left side to be bad, or worse.  If a brand were to ask a survey question and have this the opposite way, the information received would likely be fairly compromised.  

Taking our understanding of human behaviors and how different design factors affect decisions is extremely important when crafting an experience for potential customers.


The DNA of an Experience

 When working with a brand marketing or strategy team, Anja says one of the first things she does is to try to really understand the demographic personality, as people tend to prefer products that fit into their distinctive personality, or at least how they’d like their personality to be perceived.  

Oftentimes those building or marketing the product are not necessarily representative of the type of person who would be interested in purchasing the product. Knowing that your company is selling a product for a specific type of person, (who is probably not you) is important when putting together a brand strategy. 

Understanding how valuable a sense of human connection can be when marketing a product is also useful. “People like feeling that someone is making something for them.” Add the human touch whenever possible.


The Consulting Process

Typically, Anja can apply already-existing research when attempting to help a business solve a problem, but sometimes conducting new research is needed. Given the current state of tech, a.k.a. most industries now, the dynamic nature of most spaces is requiring more and more specialized research to help companies constantly evolve to stay competitive.

In Anja, (and Joe’s) experience, business teams will often become overly reliant on one particular type of data or require too much data to make decisions, and that’s not necessarily a great thing. 

A lot of science involves making solid predictions without a ton of data. This could involve integrating evidence from prior studies, looking at your customer feedback, and sometimes just simply looking at what’s worked for other companies in a similar space. The data a company is using must be solid, from diversified and trustworthy sources, but after that, it's often best to “shoot from the hip,” at least a little bit.  


Her Crystal Ball

In times of crisis, people rely on habitual behaviors. Brands that can evoke any sense of nostalgia or can have consumers recalling times of comfort are going to do well in the year ahead, and new or up-and-coming brands may try to tap into that sense of stability as well in terms of brand storytelling or how they create a narrative around their product.

With many people right now just trying to get through the day, whether that be due to financial stress, trying to balance work-home life, or just general pandemic-related anxiety, they likely do not have the energy to exert a significant amount of effort into decision-making. Anything brands can do to alleviate some of that pressure and simplify a buying process is going to be a major win for both themselves and their consumer’s experience.

Listen to the episode here.

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