Category Archives: Product Development

What Is The Access To Cultivating Customer Engagement and Customer Relationships?

My eldest son is in the process of buying a car, his first car.  He knows his budget (£6,0000. He knows the make and model of the car (Ford Fiesta).  Given this he knows that he will buy a used car – couple of years old.  His goal is to have this car in place by the end of this month.  His challenge is that he has never bought a car before.

What comes with this goal and challenge?  Concern. What is he concerned about?  He is concerned that he will get it wrong: that he will buy the wrong car – it is not sound; and or that he will pay too much for the car.  What does he want?  He wants help: he wants someone he can count on, who has his best interests at heart, to take the problem off his hands.  So he turned to me.

I have no experience in buying cars. My youngest brother is into cars, has bought-sold many cars, and so I have used his services.  So when my son asked me for help, I found myself telling him that I was not in a position to help him.  This was his reply:

“You’re not any help, are you!” 

It is the way that he said this that got my attention.  It was a voice of mild anger and strong disappointment.  Why?  Is relationship missing?  No, we have a strong relationship and this has been the case since his birth. Is engagement missing? No, we are engaged in each others lives – sometimes more than I’d like it to be and other times less than I’d like it to be.

Reflecting on that which occurred it hit me that we value those who show up as useful to us given our circumstances and the ‘projects’ we are grappling with.  Put differently, if you show up as useful to me then I am open to entering into a conversation with you. And through a series of conversations-interactions a relationship emerges.

Looked at this way, it hits me that all the talk of, and focus, on generating customer engagement and building customer relationships through a variety of tips, tricks and technology is misplaced.  It is misplaced. It is foolish. It is a red herring – distracting from that which matters.

So where should our focus be? On usefulness! It is when we show up as useful that the gate towards conversation and thus engagement opens.  It is only when mutual usefulness is present, does trading occur.  And it is on the basis of the repeated conversations-interactions-trading that a relationship emerges. Consider that when someone no longer ‘shows up as useful’ and they want to engage with you, have a relationship with you, they show up as clingy-needy. What is it that almost all of us do when this occurs?  We distance ourselves from these people. Why?  The simply do not show up as useful to us given our circumstances and our ‘projects’.

Please note that it is not enough to be useful as in have a useful product, service or solution.  It is necessary that one ‘shows up as useful’ to those whom we wish to trade with.  That means that an essential task is to cultivate awareness of our usefulness – to all who matter.  This was brought home to me in a recent conversation when the lady at the table said something to the effect “Where were you three months ago?  Why haven’t I heard of you? You should make sure you are on the Gartner report.”

In 25+ years of business life, I can only remember a handful of conversations where the people who matter in organisational life (Tops, Middles) grappled seriously with the question of usefulness: how can we be useful and show up as useful in the lives of our customers?

 

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.

Marketing and Customer Experience: The Six Core Emotional Needs That Shape Human Behaviour (Part1)

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.

Is this the most important question to live and operate from?

What is the most important question that one needs to grapple with when it comes to customers and the customer-centric orientation?  Is it:

  • how do we calculate customer lifetime value?
  • how do we get the right offer out to the right customer at the right time?
  • do we get just the basics right or do we deliver a wow experience?
  • should we be using social channels to message or provide customer service?
  • do we need a Chief Customer Officer to own the customer and advocate on his behalf?
  • how do reduce/manage the costs of customer service through channel shift?
  • how do we show an ROI from Customer Experience?
  • how do we make the omnichannel stuff work?
  • how do we get customers to stick around and do business with us longer?
  • should we focus on taking care of customers or our shareholders?

I say that it is none of these.  It occurs to me that the most important question is radically different. If you want to know what that question is then I urge you to watch the following video:

It occurs that if we all lived this question, then collectively we would build amazing relationships, amazing products, amazing organisations. And we would transform the quality of our lives and the world that we live in.

What is the question?  It is the question that is fundamental to generating relationships, loyalty, and joy in the world.  It is the question, if lived by us, generates a wonderful world for all of us.  It is first and foremost a social question.  What is that question?  It is so simple that it took a 12 year old to pose and live even in her dying days:

How can we help them?

- Jessie Joy Rees

7 Customer Experience lessons courtesy of the horse meat and Amazon scandals

What is the central insight that arises from the discipline of systems and systems thinking?  It is this

Everything is interconnected with everything else

You may be asking yourself, what has this to do with Customer Experience.  Everything.  For one it means that when one is up for architecting/designing/delivering the Customer Experience it is not enough to simply focus on the service delivered by Customer Services.  Nor is it enough to look at interactions, touchpoints, and the front office functions of marketing, sales and customer service. These are the two essential facts that are not adequately grasped, at best, for many, they are simply platitudes.  Let’s explore.

Horse meat scandal: Supermarkets battle to regain customer confidence

By now you must have heard that there is another scandal which started in the UK and now spans Europe.  It is the horse meat scandal. According to the Telegraph, a pro business newspaper:

A hard-hitting report by MPs on Thursday said that the scale of contamination in the supermarket meat supply chain was “breathtaking”. The cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said that consumers had been “cynically and systematically duped”, as “elements in the food chain” had pursued profits by substituting beef for cheaper horse meat.

And if that is not enough, the same piece goes on to say:

Although blame for the contamination lies with suppliers rather than retailers, one long-serving senior supermarket executive described the situation as “pandemonium”. “I was around for foot-and-mouth and BSE and this feels like it’s on that scale,”

Think about the Customer Experience.  Has the experience of customers been affected negatively by the scandal? Here is what the Telegraph newspapers says:

Shoppers already appear to be voting with their feet. Meat sales in independent family-run butchers and farm shops have risen by 75pc in some areas while analysts believe sales of cheaper processed meat in supermarkets have fallen sharply. A survey found that almost half of all shoppers will avoid buying processed meat from affected supermarkets.

Ask yourself what has changed?  Specifically, what customer interaction, touchpoint, and experience at that touchpoint has changed?  It occurs to me that from a functional touchpoint view nothing has changed. So how is it that the Customer Experience has changed?  From a customer viewpoint everything has changed. They have found that they cannot trust the supermarkets.  And as such the Customer Experience of supermarkets, at least when it comes to buying meat, has been impacted negatively.

What specifically does the horse meat scandal unconceal for us?  I say that it unconceals the importance of the supply chain in so far as it impacts the ‘product’ that is offered to the customer. Hold that thought.

Amazon scandal: using neo-Nazi guards to keep workforce under control?

Can you exclude examining the supply chain, as a part of your Customer Experience effort, if it does not impact the quality of the product which touches the customer?  The obvious answer appears to be yes.  I say you might just want to think again. Why?

I am an Amazon customer and up to now I have been neutral about the values/impact of Amazon.  As such I have bought a lot of stuff from Amazon over the years.  Now, I am conflicted.  Over the past few days the desire to buy several products has shown up and yet I have not found myself able to buy. Why?  Because I have been given a glimpse into the supply chain practices of Amazon. And what I stand for in this world conflicts with what Amazon is up to in its supply chain.  According to this Independent article:

Amazon is at the centre of a deepening scandal in Germany as the online shopping giant faced claims that it employed security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers.

Germany’s ARD television channel made the allegations in a documentary about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe to work at its German packing and distribution centres.

The film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms, boots and with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. “Many of the workers are afraid,” the programme-makers said.

7 Customer Experience lessons

I say one should not waste the insight that comes from these scandals. So I offer you 7 lessons that show up for me as result of these scandals and my work on Customer Experience.

1. Clearly Customer Experience, as a construct and as a discipline, is more than simply the service delivered by the Customer Services function.

2. Customer Experience is more than individual, or even the sum of, customer interactions with the company at touch points via specific channels.

3.  Customer Experience is the delivery of the promise (value proposition) and the fulfilment of customer expectations across the complete customer life-cycle.

4. The product or service that draws the customer to purchase is a core/critical part of the Customer Experience and cannot simple be taken for granted and ignored.  I wrote a while ago that the Customer Experience folks cannot simply ignore the product. 

5. The supply chain matters as it impacts the Customer Experience, as such it cannot simply be ignored by those of us working on the Customer Experience.

6. Everything is connected to everything else. This means that what happens in the ‘back office’ or ‘out of sight’ of the customer, including HR practices and technology decisions, indirectly impacts the Customer Experience.

7. To excel and compete at Customer Experience one needs to get that Customer Experience has to be the organising doctrine for the whole organisation-  it has to be a way of life for every person, every part of the organisation including its supply chain and channel partners.

And finally

It occurs to me that it is worth sharing this lesson. It is lesson that is not appreciated nor heeded especially by the Tops.  It is a lesson that comes from the nature of systems:

One cannot escape indefinitely the long-term consequences of short-term orientated behaviour. Or as my father taught me at the age of 5, if you ‘steal’ then expect to get caught sooner or later.

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