Operant Conditioning: What is it and How Does it Apply to My Business?

By Bo Mekavibul for iamthetrend.com

This is the first in a series of articles that will delve into one concept or theory in the field of psychology and explore the ways in which it applies to your business. Because the knowledge that we have gained from psychology is based on general human behavior, it may be applied to the population at large and used to better your company and the relationships with your customers.

One of the most well-known theories of psychology is that of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning applies to the process of learning and describes how reinforcement or punishment modifies an individual’s behavior. A behavior increases in frequency if the outcome of performing this behavior is positive, a reinforcement. In the same fashion, a behavior occurs less often if the result is negative, a punishment. Now this all may seem like common sense, yet there are still companies that provide subpar goods and/or customer service. For example, if someone purchases a t-shirt from your online store, only to receive it and see that the design is unintentionally off-center and the seams have fallen out, they will regret their decision to buy from your company. These defects in the shirt can be seen as a punishment, since the individual spent his or her money and basically traded it for something that was simply not worth it. Likewise, if a customer comes to your company with important concerns and your customer department staff member is rude and unhelpful, he or she will feel a sense of bitterness and frustration (I am quite positive everyone reading this article knows exactly what I’m talking about). Before you know it, these customers will no longer want to have anything to do with your company because they fear the disappointment of losing their time, their money, and even their spirit when they rely on your company.

On the other hand, if you and your company go above and beyond with your products and customer service, you will see much better results with your business! Receiving a t-shirt that you’ve purchased and having it be what you expected for it to be is good, but opening up a package and seeing that the contents are 10 times better than you predicted is even better. Although you may have spent a good amount of money on this product, you may end up feeling rewarded because you got more for your money than what you had anticipated. We all know this feeling. This rewarding feeling as a consequence of purchasing from your company is a reason for consumers to want to stick with your company to fulfill their need for the type of product that you offer, whatever the product may be.

Not giving customers what they truly deserve for their money’s worth is a big no-no. If you punish your customers with bad products and services, they will indubitably shop elsewhere, especially if their first purchase from your store or their first time contacting your customer service representative has left them with a second-rate product and/or negative emotions. As consumers, we like getting what we pay for and having our purchases meet or exceed our expectations. No one likes to be let down. Treat your customers as though you are building a relationship with them. You cannot build a relationship if you do not put in the effort to earn the other party’s trust and respect. Since you are building a symbiotic relationship with each consumer, your company benefits from having customers purchase your goods, and your customers benefit from receiving products that fulfill their needs. Do what it takes to please each and every one of your customers, because these relationships need to be mutual and reciprocal if you want your customers to keep coming back for more.

In short, you should always focus on your customers and their needs in order to reward them for taking an interest in your company. This reward is a reinforcement that will help you secure a community of consumers. More consumers means more business, and more business means more profits. Never forget that by rewarding your customers, you, in turn, are rewarding yourself.

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