That’s Not Customer Engagement, That’s Frustration

By Ben Harris| 9.18.17

We predominantly deduce feelings or behavior toward an experience not through words used, but through body language, according to Albert Mehrabian's 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication.


In a physical setting, customer-facing staff have the luxury of body language to gauge customers’ satisfaction. In the digital realm, many marketers have becoming adept at using digital body language to gain a picture of a customer’s experience. Marketers can use this insight to make improvements at every point of engagement, which is essential in an environment where user experience can make or break the bottom line.


Decoding digital body language has become more complex with the proliferation of customer touchpoints. But in our digital world, where websites and apps are often the gateway to a brand, it’s critical for marketers to understand exactly how their audiences interact with their brand’s digital channels and then optimize those experiences.


Traditional metrics that marketers use to decipher customers’ digital body language are no longer enough. Action-based metrics such as website visits, information downloads, keyword searches, and email responses require a significant time investment to determine why user behave a certain way. It's the online equivalent of hearing what someone says, but not seeing the expression they make while saying it.


For a full view of the customer experience, marketing teams need to track metrics that better represent the nuances of their users’ digital body language. These signals, which get so granular as to include actions such as mouse movements and device rotation, offer a more accurate and sophisticated representation of digital body language.


Here are the top six digital body language behavioral patterns marketers can monitor to better understand and improve the customer experience, and just as important, what those patterns actually signal.


1. Multiclicking (frustration)

When users rapidly click on or tap an on-page element, aka multiclicking, they’re frustrated. Marketers alerted to sessions that contain multiclicks have an opportunity to swiftly uncover and eliminate the cause, which will smooth the user journey.


A major airline that tracks digital body language discovered a problem with a slideshow of hotel photos by being alerted to multiclick behavior. When users clicked "next" on the first photo, the "previous" button appeared in its place, leading users to unintentionally return to the first photo instead of moving on. Users' multiclicks became increasingly frenetic as they attempted to skip the images; the poor user experience caused visitors to leave the site. Once aware of the issue, the airline’s IT team quickly resolved it.


2. Bird's Nest (confusion and frustration)

We’ve all been there: the web page with no indication of where to go next. Your annoyance builds as you rapidly dart your mouse around. Bird's nest behavior is the online equivalent to a frustrated customer not finding what they want in-store. Only the most determined customers will continue through to a purchase; most will bounce. As with multiclick behaviors, it’s essential to set up alerts that will direct digital marketing teams to bird's nest behaviors so they can quickly pinpoint where to make improvements.


One e-commerce company alerted to bird’s nest behaviors discovered users struggling with a lengthy, confusing form in the payment stage of its checkout process. On clicking submit, some users would be directed back to the start of the form with no clear indication as to why they couldn’t proceed to the next stage, leading to a bird’s nest jumble of frustration and confusion. After investigating the situation, the digital team designed a new, streamlined delivery form that was much less demanding on the user, and led to a surge in conversions.


3. Reading (engagement)

Users following on-page content with their mouse, aka mouse reading, is the digital equivalent of customers picking up and interacting with a product in-store. Reading behavior—even if it's just a line or two and not an entire paragraph—is a useful metric for measuring how customers respond to different messaging and for identifying what they immediately notice on a web page. A fashion brand, for example, has a reading behavior alert set up on any new product page to track the type of content that captures user attention.


4. Scrolling (engagement)

Scroll engagement—users scrolling down in a smooth, regular rhythm—is an important metric for measuring how people are engaging with content, and typically signals engagement. Many publishers no longer measure the success of an article based solely on how many hits or shares it receives. They also track the scroll engagement for each article, which demonstrates how much content has been read.


5. Device Rotation (engagement or confusion)

Device rotation could indicate either a positive or negative experience. For example, it’s common to rotate a device to landscape mode to get a better view of a video, signaling engagement. Conversely, multiple rotations in a short period of time signals that a website may be unresponsive or not performing optimally for the user.


Tracking device rotation behavior is essential—especially for conversion-critical parts of a website, such as checkout. Too often while checking out on mobile, for instance, a pop-up will totally cover the screen, rendering users unable to complete their purchase. Despite their frantic, desperate rotations, the pop-up won’t budge, there’s no way to close it, and sales are lost.


6. Select & Copy (engagement, research, or fraud)

Select & copy can indicate a few different behaviors. It could be that a user is researching a product or comparing it with a competitor, indications of the consumer’s interest. In this instance, it represents an opportunity to personalize communication (e.g., present a discount code).


On the other hand, select & copy could indicate an issue such as poor language translation. If a user is copying text, losing focus, and switching tabs, he may be using an external site for translation—not a great user experience. Worse, copy & paste could mean fraud. Understanding the motivation for copy & paste, which should include setting copy & paste alerts for web pages that contain sensitive information, can lead to a quick fix that improves the customer experience and protect sensitive data.


Digital body language may not be new, but how marketers analyze and respond to it must be. Detecting these six key behavioral patterns is a significant first step in making digital experience data useful and actionable—in near real time—and, ultimately, delivering a customer experience that turns promiscuous customers into loyal ones.

About the Author

Ben Harris is CEO and founder of Decibel Insight.

Having started a London-based digital agency in 2002, Ben became increasingly aware of the gap between traditional web analytics and the ability to make informed decisions to improve website performance, so, he and software architect Timothy de Paris set about creating Decibel Insight. Ben's vision for Decibel Insight is to make customer experience a science; reinventing the ways companies create, measure, and optimize digital experiences in ways that are obvious, compelling and actionable.

Ben has worked for over 20 years in the delivery of digital projects for clients including Microsoft, NYSE, Nestle, Nokia and Citrix.

Find Ben on LinkedIn and at @DecibelBen