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How to form lasting habits

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne Axelsson
April 6, 2022
How to form lasting habits

Missed our Global Frontline Experience Summit 2022? It was pretty awesome :-) but don’t worry, all of the powerful sessions are available right here! 

Successful service brands like Disney, Uber, Starbucks and the Ritz-Carlton all operate around a set of daily habits to focus and motivate their frontline employees to deliver awesome customer experiences. But how do we actually go about forming those habits? Roxana-Maria Barbu is a Cognitive and Behavioral Experience Researcher, and at the Global Frontline Experience Summit she  provided a glimpse into the fascinating psychology of habit formation and how to facilitate it for both your customers and your frontline employees.

Watch her whole session above or enjoy reading the summary below.

The journey of habit formation

Roxana takes us through the journey of habit formation. It starts off with motivation. This can either be intrinsic, meaning it’s motivated by internal rewards, or extrinsic, meaning it’s motivated by external factors. For example, working hard because you enjoy being good at something is an intrinsic motivation, and working hard because you want to earn a bonus is extrinsic motivation. While in an ideal world everyone would be intrinsically motivated, it’s important we design our products, services and technologies to cater to both forms of motivation. Who doesn’t want a bonus, right?

After motivation, comes chaotic performance. This is just as it sounds, a trial and error period of learning, failing, trying against and refining. Once the process is nailed, it becomes repetition, before eventually hitting the transition point. The transition point describes the time at which a habit goes from being a conscious repetition, to an automatic behavior that requires low cognitive effort.

Think of a product or service brand you choose every time without thinking. Maybe it’s the airline you fly with or the type of milk you have in your fridge. If you choose the same brand everytime, you have successfully passed the transition point and have formed a habit of buying and built loyalty towards a brand. The end goal of course for all experienced brands is to gain this level of customer loyalty.

Make it last

How many times have you tried to form a habit and failed? Maybe it’s a health related habit, a work related habit or even a spiritual habit. If you’ve failed, you’re not alone. The reality is, habit formation is really darn hard. So, in the context of frontline work, how can we help our frontline employees to form habits easier?

Roxana says we should turn our focus to user research and experience. When we’re talking about forming habits for customers, this translates to customer research and experience, and when we’re talking about forming habits for frontline workers, it translates to employee research and experience. Whether you're designing a service for customers or employees, it’s important to consider the following steps.

  1. Strategy

    Understanding the service and its goals in relation to people, the business and technology. For example, the goal of the AskNicely frontline success platform is to provide everything frontline teams need to delight every customer, everytime.

  2. Scope

    Defining the service in relation to people, the business, and technology. What are the opportunities and pain points? What does the end user’s journey look like?

  3. Structure

    Designing the structure of the experience to meet the people, business and technology goals. For the AskNicely frontline success platform, we identified the 6 areas service businesses need to thrive: customer feedback, frontline coaching, employee feedback, insights, recognition and workflows.

  4. Skeleton

    Design the details of the service to meet the people, business and technology goals. This is about detailed interaction design, user feedback and development implementation.

  5. Surface
    Finally, define the visual and interaction details to support the people, business and technology goals. This considers visual design and testing.

Susanne Axelsson

About the Author

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne is the Frontline Community Evangelist as well as the author and researcher for Frontline Magic Handbook. She believes happy customers are born out of great experiences. Great experiences are delivered by motivated frontline people.
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