Category Archives: Marketing
I get a letter
I got a letter through the post informing me that I was due for an eye test. Given that it has been several years since I had my eyes tested I welcomed the colourful reminder from Boots. I noticed that I could book an appointment online or by calling. At that moment I did not have a laptop handy so I chose to call. My call was picked up almost immediately and a helpful chap booked an appointment for me at the local Boots (Opticians) store.
How am I feeling? Happy. What kind of impression do I have of Boots? This is an organisation that has its act together: it has sent me a useful reminder, it has offered me several options, it has made it easy for me to book an appointment, and the fellow on the phone exuded human warmth.
I turn up at the store for an eye test
Several days later I turned up at the local Boots Opticians store. The store looks spacious and clean – I notice the whiteness of the store and I wonder if Boots is ‘stealing’ from the Apple retail stores. Walking up to the woman at the counter, I smile, I give my name and let her know I am there for an eye test. This is an opportunity for her to show up as a human being. She declines. In her best robotic voice, she tells me to take a seat.
Looking around the various stands housing the spectacles, I notice four seats in line. Two seats are occupied, two are free. As I approach the seats I notice that one of the seats is dirty – obviously dirty. The dirtiness of seat clashes with the sparkling whiteness of the store. And I notice that the seats (for customers) look crammed in comparison with the spaciousness of the rest of the store.
What does this tell me? It tells me that the star of the show at Boots Opticians is the product: the range of spectacles. How am I left feeling? Disappointed. Unwanted. What am I thinking? I wonder what the rest of the experience is going to be like.
The eye test happens
Shortly, and on time, a professional looking man comes out from the ‘back’ of the store, calls my name, and asks me to follow him. He shows me into a ‘tiny area’ which houses three machines. At one of the machines, a member of staff is testing a customer. I am handed over to a young woman. She proceeds to conduct an eye test. Whilst another member of staff takes my glasses to get those tested.
What am I thinking? I am asking myself how it is that there is so much space in the front for the spectacles and so little space at the back for conducting eye tests on customers. And I am asking myself if a lack of ‘human warmth’ goes with the opticians and/or the Boots brand. I am clear that for the staff, I show up as a ‘widget’ to be processed and not as a ‘flesh and blood’ human being.
Thankfully, the eye test does not take that long and the professional looking man is back. He asks me to follow him and walks me to a room that occurs as positively spacious-luxurious. Over the course of the next 10 – 20 minutes he proceeds to test my vision by inserting different lenses into the spectacles he has placed on my nose. His manner is professional. He shows up as knowing what he is doing.
At the end of the testing he tells me that my short-sightedness is slightly worse. And that I have started to become long-sighted too. He tells me that I can either have two pairs of spectacles – one for short sightedness and one for reading. Or I can go for one pair of spectacles that will cater for both needs. He suggests that I go for the single bifocal pair of spectacles. He then hands me over to another member of staff.
I walk out without buying spectacles
The new member of staff, a good looking lady with a smile, is keen to take me to the front of the store to pick spectacles. I decline. Instead I ask for my prescription, receive the prescription, make my way to the robotic lady on the counter, pay and leave.
Why did I not buy? I did not buy because I did not feel valued. I did not buy because it did not occur to me that I was consulted on my needs. I did not buy because it occurred to me that the focus of the staff in the store was to sell me spectacles. I did not buy because the people in the store and the experience lacked any semblance of humanity. Put plainly, I was looking for an ‘I-Thou’ relationship and what I got was an ‘I-It’ relationship – I was the ‘It’.
I look forward to the day, that an ‘Amazon’ like competitor puts the likes of Boots Opticians out of business.
Investments in CRM (including database marketing) are not likely to yield the desired results if the customer experience sucks! To generate ROI from CRM investments you have to pay attention to the customer experience.
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.
My primary interest is human beings. The value that I most value is empathy. I find myself moved by the kindness-connection-helpfulness that flows when empathy is present. I have noticed breakthroughs in relationship often generate breakthroughs in performance. Which is why I was happy to take up the offer to read-review-share Mark Ingwer’s book Empathetic Marketing.
Let’s start with a passage that gets to the heart of the challenge:
The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.
- Daniel Goleman, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self Deception
What is it that we fail to notice? I say that we fail to notice that human beings are not just automatons, computing algorithms, merely rational beings. We fail to notice that human beings are emotional-rational-social-embodied human beings. And this has consequences for how we treat customers, treat employees, treat suppliers, treat ourselves. It has consequences for the quality of our relationships and our performance.
Mark Ingwer says we fail to notice the nuances that make us human
What does business psychologist Mark Ingwer say? He says:
What we fail to notice is the powerful effect of our unconscious on behavior and personalities.… To truly understand why people say what they say and do what they do, we must look at the psychodynamic context surrounding consumer decisions.
…. when faced with many options and advertisements ….. we often decide what’s best for us by gravitating towards what feels right (or frequently away from what feels wrong).
Even when they claim to desire lifetime relationships with their clients and customers, many businesses tactically distance themselves from the humanity of their interactions. The systemic nature of marketing and business strategy inadvertently depersonalises their audience by using language that groups customers into market segments and targets. People are commonly referred to as “buyers,” shoppers,” “payers,” “non responders,” “early adopters,” and “eyeballs.” But too often what is lost is the nuance that makes them human.
Why does this matter? It matters because when we do not keep ‘the nuance that makes us human’ at front and centre of our business decisions then we create products and services which flop. We spend fortunes in business to get people to buy our products – become customers – and then we neglect their emotional needs for the rest of the ‘customer journey’. This is what Mark Ingwer says:
I contend that emotions and resulting behaviours are the foundation for satisfying complex psychological needs…. And individual’s needs are satisfied when he or she is connected meaningfully to others, and through these connections comes to find his or her own unique value and identity. It is a ceaseless, evolving, lifelong endeavour.
.. businesses must have an intimate and conceptual framework for understanding these emotional needs and a passion for meeting them every step of the way.
The heart of the matter: putting full bodied humanity into business?
It occurs to me that Mark Ingwer is pointing at that which shows up for me as the heart of the challenge: putting humanity into business so that the one dimensional picture of human beings becomes alive in all of its many dimensions. There are three sentences in particular that resonates with me and I wish to share with you:
Physical needs create life and keep us living, whereas the emotional needs alluded to earlier are what make life worth living.
Meeting needs is not like climbing a mountain. It’s more akin …. to a lifelong game of tug-of-war.
We are beings in conflict, individuals attempting to engage with our many needs outwardly and subconsciously.
What are the fundamental needs that drive shape-drive human behaviour?
Which begs the question, what are these fundamental human needs that shape-drive human behaviour? Mark Ingwer calls attention to two needs in particular: individuality and connectedness. This is what he says:
Throughout life’s stages, we balance our primary needs for individuality and connectedness…… These two needs underlie most all human motives and serve as the polar forces of a needs satisfaction model, which I call the Needs Continuum.
Sitting on the left-hand side of the continuum, our need for individuality finds a way to sneak into almost all of our behaviour. Western society values the stalwart, self-reliant man….. We subconsciously take and borrow from every one of our relationships and connections in the world to arrive at a better sense of self.
Sitting at the opposite pole of the continuum, the need for connectedness moves hand in hand with individuality …… The need for connectedness motivates us to prioritise friends and family. We often want to buy higher quality goods and services ……. for them them than we do for ourselves. Connectedness …. defines our role as social beings. It’s impossible to live our lives without others with whom to share it. We must be cared for, loved, nurtured. We must be recognised. We must belong to something larger than ourselves.
We need to seek and achieve connectedness in order to thrive and truly know ourselves. Other people are mirrors through which we develop and sustain identity…..to be connected to others is to open the door to sustained personal growth and happiness.
On the continuum between individuality and connectedness are the following six core emotional needs: control, self-expression, growth, recognition, belonging, and care.
When approaching customers or prospects, a business must understand which of the six core needs its products or service addresses and then tailor its marketing and product development to best address that core need
In the next post on this series (based on Mark Ingwer’s book Empathetic Marketing) I will explore the powerful human need for control.
What is the word that best describes or points out the fundamental context/orientation that underpins business as usual? It occurs to me that the word is “taking”. Taking as much as possible from the customers. Taking as much as possible from employees. Taking as much as possible from suppliers, Taking as much as possible from the community. Taking as much as possible from the planet…..
From the context of taking you get personalised emails and direct mail that does not show up as personal. From this context of taking you get the incessant focus on replacing human customer service with self-service and the switch from skilled staff to unskilled and cheaper staff. From this context of taking you get the focus on upselling, x-selling, and increasing wallet share.
I have yet to find any meaningful and enduring relationships that are based on taking. Where the context of taking is present all that shows up is taking. And people coming up with ways of protecting themselves from being taken. This is not the case for giving.
Where actions flow from a context of giving then it is possible to arrive at symbiotic relationships. Symbiotic relationships are ones where each party brings something of value to the other such that both benefit. It occurs to me that the strongest relationships tend to be symbiotic. Symbiotic relationships start with one party giving – giving something of genuine value to the other party.
Why are so many companies struggling to generate meaningful-enduring relationships with their customers despite their investments in all kind of customer stuff? Why is it that a genuine shift towards a customer centred orientation is so difficult? I say it is difficult because all this effort and investment arises from a context of taking. Whilst this may not be obvious to the people in the company it is obvious to customers – our bodies can tell the difference between those who care for us and those who do not.
Allow me to share an example two example with you. Examples that will illustrate the difference between taking and giving. Let’s start by looking at the taking orientation.
This week I brought a training course. To make the sale happen the supplier offered a 10% discount amounting to £100 and threw in some extras. Given that it is summer and there is less demand for the course it makes perfect sense for the supplier. And it showed up as an attractive discount for me given that I was going to buy the course with or without the discount. Did this discount build any gratitude, any relationship, any loyalty? No. I am clear that the discount served the needs and interests of the supplier.
Are there any companies that excel at giving? It occurs to me that giffgaff, a mobile network provider, is one such company. Earlier this month I got a email from giffgaff letting me know that the best tariff for me was the £7.50 tariff. By providing me this information giffgaff gave me the choice of switching from the £10 tariff. I didn’t switch tariffs. Nonetheless, I am delighted with giffgaff – I am delighted that giffgaff is practicing what it preaches, that the folks at giffgaff are living their values.
Let’s take a moment to look at my experience upon receiving the email. First, surprise. Second, delight. Third, gratitude. Fourth, satisfaction in having chosen giffgaff. Fifth, loyalty validated and cemented. Sixth – advocacy as in writing this post. Put differently, giving by giffgaff has called forth giving by me. I should point out that it is not just me. My wife has been telling a similar story to her circle of friends and colleagues.
The lesson? I say genuine-meaningful-enduring relationships are built upon mutual giving. I say you cannot build such relationships from a context of taking – the context that underpins business as usual. I say that as human beings we are always on the lookout for people and organisations that are trustworthy and on our side – looking after our best interest.
It occurs to me that if the people in companies pursuing customer experience, customer-centricity, even customer obsession, were to focus on giving and not clever ways of taking then they would have more success in fostering customers who are genuinely loyal.
What do you say?
If you are regular reader of this blog you may remember that I set-up a business bank account with Barclays Bank and shared my experience:
- Barclays Bank: what are the customer experience folks up to?
- Barclays Bank: what are the customer experience folks up to? (part II)
If you read those posts and come away thinking that my experience was one of disappointment then you’d be correct. So where do I stand today with regards to Barclays Bank?
Barclays Bank: a customer experience that leaves me delighted and grateful
Recently, I changed the name of my consulting company to Bold Intent. Given this change I was expecting to have to get together various documents, make an appointment with a Barclays Bank branch, and then take in the paperwork to get the account name, cheque book, and credit cards etc changed. Being human, I thought about doing it when the official name change document came through the post. And I put off doing it as it just showed up as too much hassle.
A few days later I got a letter from Barclays Bank. Upon opening it I found myself surprised and delighted. Why? Barclays Bank had worked out that I had changed the name of the company and issued me with a new cheque book and a new paying-in book – both reflecting the new company name. What did I say to myself? “Wow, this is great!” A few days later I received another couple of letters. These letters contained the updated credit cards. How was I left feeling? Actually, a better question is how do I feel towards Barclays Bank, right now? I feel grateful. Why? Because Barclays Bank helped me out – saved me time, effort, concern – without me even asking them to help me out. They anticipated a need and met it.
So if you want to delight your customers then do the unexpected. Anticipate and meet customer needs in way that simplifies-enriches your customers lives. Take actions that generate gratitude and invite reciprocity. Like Virgin Atlantic did when they upgraded me from Economy to Business Class many years ago. Like Halfords did when they made it easy for me to return a product to the local store when I had bought it online. Like my local garage did by not charging me the quoted amount when the found the fault was simply a loose wire – which they fixed at no charge…..
Sky TV: how to use marketing to interrupt and disappoint a customer
I used to buy a landline, broadband, and TV services from Sky. Some time ago, I stopped subscribing to the Sky TV ‘product’. Why? Because Sky TV insisted on doubling the price. And this gave me a great excuse for not buying Sky TV. Thus, helping me obtain two objectives. First, giving me greater access to the lounge. Second, helping me ensure that my children watched less television (in the lounge).
Is Sky celebrating with me? No. Sky continue to send me direct mail with a view to enticing me back as a customer. At the start I used to open this mail just to see what the offer was. Now, I don’t even do that, the direct mail arrives and I put it in the waste paper basket. Whilst, I can live with this as it is not that intrusive, it is a different matter when it comes to the regular calls. What calls?
Clearly Sky has an outbound tele-marketing team and members of this team ring me regularly. Each time they have a special offer for me. Each time I tell them that I am not interested. I even spell out why I am not interested: I don’t watch television and when I did have Sky TV my children did nothing but watch Sky TV! Does this stop the outbound tele-marketing team from calling me? No. I continue to get calls. I continue to be made aware of a product that I do not want. I continue to be told about offers that I don’t care about.
What broke this camel’s back and prompted this post? This Monday it was Early May Bank Holiday here in England. I was outside doing some gardening in the glorious sunshine. Who calls? Sky! What does the young lady want to talk about? A great offer about Sky TV. I say, “Do you know that it is a Bank Holiday? How is it that you are calling me on a Bank Holiday?” I was expecting an apology for being interrupted once more about a product that I do not want, on a Bank Holiday. Did I get the apology? No!
The young lady clearly had a mission and a script. She ploughed on with the pitch/script. So I told her what I had already told her colleagues: I don’t want Sky TV, it is a blessing that it is gone, I cannot be tempted to buy it even if you offer it to me for free. Finally, she got the message. She ended up by wishing me a great holiday. That would have been a great way to end the conversation if she had come across as sincere. She didn’t. She came across as inauthentic: what was clear from her tone was her disappointment that I had not taken up her offer…..
So that is how you disappoint a customer and rupture the bonds of any relationship: ignore what matters to your customer; ignore what your customer has told you; continue sending direct mail even though you have had no response to many mailings; and back up that with intrusive tele-marketing calls that create no value for the customer!