Marketing and Customer Experience: 6 Core Emotional Needs That Shape Human Behaviour (Part 2 – Control)

If you read the first post of this series you may remember that Mark Ingwer in his book Empathetic Marketing asserts that there are 6 core emotional needs of customers: control, self-expression, growth, recognition, belonging, and care.   In this post I share my thoughts and Mark’s assertions-insights regarding the primary emotional need: CONTROL. 

Satisfying the need for control provides the best access for building customer loyalty

Mark Ingwer is bold in his assertion when it comes to the need for control and the access it provides the smart business:

satisfying the control needs of the consumer, more than any individual need discussed in this book, holds the most potential for a company to build loyalty to a brand, product, or service through intrinsic motivation, which is the internal sense of satisfaction with the purchasing process and the resulting purchase.

Through the iPod and iTunes, Apple handed control of music over to the music listener.  Through the iPhone, iPad and the apps store, Apple handed over much more control over these devices to the user such that each iPhone, each iPad, can truly be customised to the user by the user.  Please notice the genius here. By handing so much control over to the user and making it easy for the user to exercise this control, Apple has created a context where each iPhone, iPad is unique and thus irreplaceable.  Hence, the value if iCloud.

Why is the need for control such a vital need?

Think for a moment about the last time that you did not have any control over an important aspect of your life. What showed up for you in your body? What emotions surfaced? Was it a pleasant experience? An experience you want to repeat?  If you are human then it is likely that this experience was a deeply unsettling one when it occurred. Here’s what Mark Ingwer says on this matter

The need for control fuels our motivation in every aspect of our lives. Positioned near the individuality pole of the needs continuum, control is essential to our every day functioning. We see how this need influences our lives most profoundly when we’re not in control. Some of life’s worst and most stressful predicaments are colored by feelings of helplessness – events in which we are unable to prevent or alter the inevitable. 

I invite you to consider the direction of human progress. Is this progress, as in increasing control over that which showed up an threatening for us or made life uncertain or merely difficult?  Do you doubt that our ideal, even if unstated, is to have complete dominion (control) over that which shows up on planet Earth. And then our galaxy and eventually the universe.  Why might this be?  Here’s Mark Ingwer again:

Many situations that fall outside the purview of personal agency hit us in the gut. We feel insecure. We feel small. We fear losing control. And we strive to regain that control. Not only does that loss of control prevent us from achieving our specific outcomes, but it is also often wrenching evidence that signifies our relative insignificance in a large (and largely random) universe.

When we feel in control of external events, in control of ourselves, and in control of our core relationships, we have a broader and more satisfying feeling of contentment and confidence …. we can’t grow as individuals without attending properly to this need.

Customer service and the power of control

Why is it that I do most of my shopping online and do all of my banking online? Because I experience being in control of the shopping process, the banking process. Why is it that I dread having to call up most call-centres? Because, even before I pick up the call I expect a long-tedious-unpleasant experience where I am at the mercy of the IVR, long waiting times, call-centre agents who lack the expertise-will-freedom to actually help me …..  Here is what Mark Ingwer says on the matter:

Nothing reveals the power of control – and the destructive power of lack of control – than customer service situations. Companies that sell services or routinely interact with their customers in service settings must pay special attention to a customer’s sense of control.

Poor customer service results when proxy control is ineffective. If the proxy does not behave as the customer desires, the customer loses control of the situation.

If you are wondering what proxy control is then think about wanting to do your banking online and finding that the website is out of operation. Or imagine needing cash, turning up at the ATM and finding that it is out of order and there are no other ATMs available. Or imagine, ringing up the call-centre and coming face to face with an call-centre agent who speaks with an accent you find hard to understand. Or imagine going to the restaurant with the family, having eaten your meal, finding your young ones tired, looking for a waiter to pay the bill, and the waiter seems to take forever to come back to take your payment. You are desperate to go home and yet cannot do so until the waiter comes over to you and takes your payment.

What advice does Mark Ingwer have for marketers and customer experience specialists?

What I like about Mark Ingwer’s book is the practical suggestions that he provides at the end of each chapter. Here is his advice for marketers and customer experience specialists, as it shows up for me:

1. Review your core marketing message. It should say to customers: you can be in the driver’s seat – assuming products and service can deliver.

2. Examine the customers’ experience. Are prospects and customers in control throughout the path to the final sale and afterwards?

3. Simply after-sales processes. 

If you want to learn more about these practical recommendations then you will have to buy the book and read it as I do not want to give away Mark’s secrets and deprive him of readers for his book.

If you remember only one sentence then remember this one

It occurs to me that when it comes to the end to end customer experience then this is the one sentence that captures it all when it comes to the human need for control:

From start to finish, customers must never sense that they are at the mercy of a company or product. 

The last time I was in such a situation I walked out of the cinema, choosing not to watch a film that I really wanted to watch, rather than be at the mercy of the cinema and its staff.

In the next post, I will cover the human need for self-expression.  It occurs to me whole industries are based on this need. I thank you for your listening.

Posted on October 1, 2013, in Customer Loyalty, Customer Service, Marketing, Product Development, Sales and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Adrian Swinscoe

    Hi Maz,
    Thank you this. Interesting and thought provoking post.

    My question is this: Do we really want control or do we want certainty? Or, both?

    Adrian

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    • Hello Adrian,

      Clearly control and certainty are linked-related. Yet, it occurs to me that they are not the same. Most of us do not want certainty as certainty makes life dull. Control on the other hand is the opposite of helplessness – it is our ability to steer our lives. Let’s think about this using a car and journey.

      If I am going up to see my parents, three hour journey, I do not need to be certain of the route nor the time that I arrive. Yet, I do want control over the process of getting there. So if en route I come across a traffic jam. It disrupts my journey and my response will depend on the degree of control I can exercise. If I can steer the car off the motorway, on to a side road, bypass the traffic and get back on course then life shows up as pretty ok. If I just have to sit there not being able to do anything, not knowing how long it will take to clear etc then I will be frustrated, angry, even anxious.

      I hope that makes a contribution to your question.

      Maz

      Like

  2. Maz, a fascinating post.

    Sometimes things are blindingly obvious when you se them, but they need to pointed out in the first place.

    James

    Like

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