Tea Milk Teabag hot tea tea cup

Are you taking customer decisions for granted?

Like many organisations, Prime Decision’s day pretty much revolves around the kettle. At the morning catch up, before a whiteboard session, or to herald a break from data analysis, someone is bound to suggest a cup of tea. We probably make it like you do; pouring the hot water over a tea bag and swirling it around with a teaspoon. Simple.

You’ve probably made so many cups of tea in your life, that you almost do it on autopilot. Think back to the last one you made; how many decisions were involved? First instinct might be to say one; making a cup of tea. Getting a little more granular, you might say three; switch on the kettle, prepare the cup, make the tea. Maybe four if you need to fill the kettle or add milk.

Actually, according to one study (Land et al, 1999) there are over 65 micro-decisions involved in making a cup of tea.

Graph taken from Land et al (1999)

Think of decisions as happening at different levels.

At the top is your main goal, and this can be broken down into multiple layers, which can be broken down even further. Even simple tasks involve many micro-decisions, which have to be taken before moving on in the process. Everything from checking the water level to flicking the switch is an individual decision, involving multiple movements and micro-processes. We can go more granular still; considering the orientation of the body, hand movements and eye movements. Something as simple as making a cup of tea is revealed as a complex journey involving multiple touchpoints, behaviours and interactions.

We also do it slightly differently every single time. Longeley et al (unpublished) found that a single person may make a cup of tea 19 different ways! Decisions are not necessarily set in stone, no matter how many times they’re repeated.

Why care about cups of tea?

Knowing how complex a cuppa can be, can you imagine what your customers go through when deciding whether to purchase a product, or move through your website? How about an omnichannel product experience? Or a lengthy B2B decision-making process involving several stakeholders?

Every touchpoint represents an opportunity to support and improve customer decision-making. While this can sound daunting, the trick is to decide which insights matter most. How granular you need to go depends on the behaviours you want to change.

  • For example, do we want to enhance the experience of making tea? To make it faster or more enjoyable? To waste less electricity or water? To make a better cuppa at the end? To get more compliments from your colleagues?

Once you understand the broad range of decisions being made, you can hone in – and ideally start experimenting. Approaches like Behaviour Mapping are really helpful in identifying which decisions have the most potential for positive change.

So next time you reach for the kettle, ask yourself whether you’ve got your customer journey sussed. For there is more to decision-making than meets the eye.


Professor Iain Gilchrist talked about the layers of decision-making during his recent Behavioural Meetup. If you missed it, check out the full SlideShare below. More about our team can be found here.