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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.

Want to Cultivate Great Customer Relationships? Take the Road Less Travelled

Is there a secret to great customer service? Is there a secret to great customer experiences? Is there a secret to cultivating genuine-meaningful-profitable relationships with customers?  Is there a secret to authentic customer centricity?  I say there is. I also say that it does not lie in the places where almost all organisations are focussed on: data, analytics, process and technology.

Data, analytics, process and technology are content.  Think of these as the walls, floors and roof of a house.  What do they rest on?  The foundation. What happens if the right foundation is not in place?

Using an organic metaphor, I say that data, analytics, process and technology are seeds. What if they are being planted in a desert? If you want to genuinely connect with your customers and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships then you have to cultivate the right ‘soil’ for such a relationship to sprout.  What kind of ‘soil’ am I pointing at? I am pointing at the very ground of your being-in-the-world, the way that you automatically show up in the world.  Think of it as the presence and possibility that walks into the room when you walk into the room.

I am also pointing at the very ground of your organisation’s being-in-the-world.   I am not talking here about brand values cooked up by marketing nor about cultural values cooked up by the Tops or HR. I am pointing at ‘what is so’ in terms of your organisation’s people, priorities, policies, practices, products, processes and platforms.

I get that you are not likely to be used to my way of speaking. So allow me to give you a concrete example of what I mean by ‘the very ground of your being-in-the-world’.  Please read the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi:

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependant on us. We are dependant on him. He is not an interruption on our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider on our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.

I invite you to read it again. Now ask yourself, how true is each of these statements for me, for my team members, for my organisation?  Now take a look at the many organisations spending money on VoC, customer analytics, customer journey mapping, process redesign, and technology implementation in the name of customer focus, customer experience and customer-centricity. How true are these statements for these organisations?

I say that the access to great customer service, great customer experience, and authentic customer-centricity is empathy, generosity, and compassion.

I have a question for you to ponder. What becomes possible if you:

  • truly treat your customers as if they were the most important visitors on your premises?
  • showed up in the world in way that honored your customers and never treated them as interruptions to your business?
  • truly embraced your customers and considered them to be an intrinsic and essential part of your business?
  • focused on simplifying and enriching the lives of your customers in a way that contributed to their wellbeing?
  • treated the people who constitute your organisation with dignity and respect where each person was listened to as a person of worth?

Does all this sound unrealistic to you?  Would you rather be working on the getting access to the voice of the customer, talking about ROI, changing processes, outsourcing, and implementing CRM and other technologies?  That’s totally OK by me. You probably wasted a ton of money on CRM. And I am totally OK with you wasting another ton of money on Customer Experience stuff.  It is your money!

If, however, you have some listening to what I am pointing at here then I wish to share, with you, this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

Love is the subtlest force in the world.

Yes, I am a dreamer. I dream of a world that works for all, none excluded. I dream of you and I working together to co-create this world. And with that thought I leave you with this final quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

It is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine.

The vital importance of empathy and kindness to customer experience design and employee engagement

How far can you get in cultivating enduring customer relationships, delightful customer experiences, and ‘employee engagement’ without empathy?

What kind of world shows up when we put aside empathy?  What kind of world shows up when we put aside kindness?  The kind of world that arose as a direct result of the ‘age of machines’ – of the Industrial Revolution.  When our way of life is centred on and around machines, we worship machines, and we go about life asking and expecting one another to be-act like machines.  We have become great at showing up in the world as machines. And as result we have lost sight of kindness, generosity, empathy.

Why do I bring this up?  Because it occurs to me that our age is calling out for empathy, for kindness, for the injection of the human back into business and our way of life.  Also because, you cannot get far in cultivating meaningful relationships with customers nor designing customer experiences that delight customers, nor generating ‘employee engagement’ without grappling with these topics. Look you and I can make the world accessible, convenient, hassle free and fast.  And, if such a world is missing kindness, generosity, empathy, friendship and love then it is a world that is not fit for human beings.

Empathy is central to customer experience, customer-centricity, and employee engagement

With this context I share with you the following video that was brought to my attention by LinkedIn where Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO shared it:

If this video speaks to you, if it stimulates your interest in empathy then I invite you to take a look at the following posts:

What Does It Take To Generate Deep Contextual Customer Insight?

Customer Loyalty and Advocacy: what can we learn from Jonathan Ive and Zappos?

What does it take to generate ‘employee engagement’? (Part IV)

Is this the access to profitable revenues, loyal customers and enduring success? (Part I)

Is kindness born of empathy fundamental to cultivating customer loyalty and employee engagement?

I say it is. What kind of kindness am I speaking about?  I am speaking what Werner Erhard refers to as “ruthless compassion”.  If you want to dig into this a little more then check out this talk.

I want to leave you with a quote of a hero of mine, Albert Schweitzer:

Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.

A Final Word

I am putting together a course on communication-empathy-relationship. And there is one slide that I wish to share with you:

Being Empathic Listening.jpg

What does it take to generate deep contextual customer insight?

Do you know your customers?

Is it possible to know your customers simply through ‘at a distant’ listening methods like NPS, post transaction surveys, social media, text mining customer call records etc?  I get that many of you are convinced that you do know your customers.  You are that you know what matters to your customers.  You are that your VoC listening programmes provide you with insight into your customers.

If only it were that simple.  Insight, deep contextual insight, is not that easily gathered. What am I pointing at?  Let me share a story with you, a story that Irvin Yalom, an existential psychotherapist, tells in his book The Gift of Therapy:

“Decades ago I saw a patient with breast cancer ….. been locked in a long, bitter struggle with her naysaying father.  Yearning for some form of reconciliation …. she looked forward to her father’s driving her to college – a time when she would be alone with him for several hours. 

But the long-anticipated trip proved to be a disaster: her father behaved true to form by grousing at length about the ugly, garbage littered creek by the side of the road. She, on the other hand, saw no litter whatsoever in the beautiful, rustic, unspoilt stream. She could find no way to respond and eventually, lapsing into silence, they spent the remainder of the trip looking away from each other.

Later, she made the same trip alone and was astounded to note that there were two streams – one on each side of the road. ‘This time I was the driver’, she said sadly, ‘and the stream I saw through my window on the driver’s side was just as ugly and polluted as my father had described it’.

But by the time she learned to look out of her father’s window, it was too late – her father was dead and buried.”

Please note that the daughter did not get access to her father’s experience until she physically sat in his seat and travelled the same route that her father travelled.  Or put differently, that little distance between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat made all the difference!  Are you still convinced that you understand your customers and their experience, that ‘at a distant’ VoC listening programmes give you the requisite understanding of your customers?

What does it take to generate this deep contextual insight?  Empathy

I say that if you want to excel at the game of service, of customer experience and/or customer-centricity, you have to get deep insight into the lives of your customers.  I say that if you want to design great customer experiences you have to get deep contextual insight into the lives of your customers.  I say that if you want to cultivate a customer-centric organisation then you have to get deep insight into the lives of your customers AND the people who work inside your organisation.  And I say that you cannot get this deep contextual insight through ‘at a distant’ listening programmes. I say that to get this deep contextual insight you have to cultivate empathy.

How do you cultivate empathy for your customers and the people working in your organisation?

The short answer is go beyond ‘at a distant’ VoC listening programmes. Get out of the office and get on the front line.  Put on the shoes of the front line employees and interact with, sell to and serve customers.  Go further and put on the shoes of the customers, sit where she sits, and travel the path that she travels. If you have the patience for the longer answer then I recommend setting aside 20 minutes to watch the follow informative video: http://youtu.be/G9jC1ThqTNo

The 6 habits of highly empathic people

Here are the six habits of highly empathic people as set out and discussed by Roman Krznaric in the video above:

  1. Cultivate curiosity about strangers
  2. Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities
  3. Get into extreme sport – extreme sport of experiential empathy
  4. Practice the art of conversation
  5. Inspire mass [empathic] action and social change
  6. Develop an ambitious imagination

Final words

The price of deep contextual insight into the lives of our customers and the people who serve them is to travel the path travelled by George Orwell and Patricia Moore.  You will get what I am pointing at if you watched the video.  There are no short cuts.  I say that it is only once you have that deep contextual insight that you will be in a position to even know what questions to ask on VoC surveys, what to listen to on social media, and how to make sense of the that which shows up on VoC listening posts.

Travelex: 7 lessons for service excellence and the customer experience

Recently I had overseas friends come over and visit us.  It just so happened that they had a big problem and thus had to make contact with Travelex to get it sorted out.  How did things play out?  What was their experience?  And what can we learn about the customer|company interface/interaction/’relationship’?    Lets use the job-to-be-done approach and work our way through.

The job to be done: get access to the holiday money

My friends had an issue – they had loaded all of their holiday money onto two cash cards and they were not able to use one of these cards.  And that showed up in their world as a big problem that had to be sorted out .  Why were they not able to use the Travelex cash card?  Because they could not remember the PIN.   Why did this issue arise?  A random PIN had been issued with the cash card.  This PIN was not meaningful to my friends so they forgot it and were not able to reconstruct it through trial and error using meaningful dates/numbers.

Given this problem, my friends had a job for Travelex: sort out their issues so that they could use the card, get access to the money that was ‘stored’ on the card.  This job showed up as being particularly important – they were  at the start of their holiday and would need the money sometime during their holiday.  Probably soon.

Website: time-consuming and not useful in addressing the issue

Having access to the internet, my friends turned to the website.   They looked around the website and they did not find any useful information.  They looked around for someone to talk to / help them out on the website.  No luck – there is no LiveChat facility on the Travelex website.  At least they were able to get the phone number for Customer Service and so they were hopeful.

Call-centre:  your call is important to us yet not important enough to answer!

Struggling with getting help via the website they called Customer Service.  And then they waited and waited and waited.  Every so often they were told that their call was important to Travelex.  Five minutes went by, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 20 minutes.   How did they feel?  Frustrated.   What frustrated them the most:

  • the gulf between the reality of their experience and the voice which kept repeating that their call was important to Travelex…..;
  • not knowing where they were in the queue and how long it would take for Travelex to answer their call;
  • not being presented with the option of leaving a contact number and have Travelex call them back.

After 20 minutes my friends hung up the phone as time was running by and they had to get going if they were to deliver on their promise to their boys and make a day of it at Thorpe Park.

What can we learn from this

1. Companies generate wasted effort and poor customer experiences by failing to think things through from the customer perspective and designing accordingly.   If  Travelex had required my friends to come up with their own pin for the cash card then it is likely that they would have used a PIN that was memorable to them.

2. The cause of many service failures (and poor customer experience) is often zero empathy for customers as real human beings.  Travelex could have foreseen and adequately catered for two critical scenarios.  First, the customer is on holiday and loses his cash card.  Second, the customer is on holiday and has forgotten her PIN.  What makes these critical?  The customer is likely to be in a foreign country, no friends nearby, uncertain and thus stressed about not having access to their money.  Money that shows up as essential to the well being of the customer.

3. In a digital world, service failures hurt the company as well as the customer.  I know that my friends feel ‘unloved’ and are thinking twice about using cash cards and Travelex, in particular. And here I am sharing their story with the world.  Just this morning my wife avoided seductive sales talk (even though she is keen to buy the service offered) by googling and reading reviews by other customers.  In the digital world you cannot escape your reputation – how you treat your customers.  Your reputation acts like an accelerator for making sales or it acts as a brake – your choice!

4. Solutions are often not hard nor costly.   How difficult is it to allow  cash card customers to get access to their PIN via the website?  I say not difficult at all.  Travelex can provide the required  functionality through its website: customer logs in; security check takes place; customer gets to reset PIN on the card.  That is the basic structure – more sophisticated options can be built in. 

5.  Providing this type of critical functionality can help you attract more customers, make more sales – you show customers that you have thought about them, the worst case scenario and you have the right solution in place.  Thus you deal with the barriers, the skepticism, in the way of customers buying.

6. Call-centres and customer service needs radical rethinking and redesign.  What frustrated my friends the most?  Uncertainty.  “Where am I in the queue?  How long before someone answers my call?   Should I hang up or hold on?  If I hang up then when is the best time to call back?”   What would have worked great?  For the call-centre to have picked up their mobile number and rang them back.   Service is not just about the time it takes to answer a call nor about first time resolution.   Customers are multi-dimensional and context sensitive unlike the Customer Services function which seems to be context blind and two dimensional at best.

7. If calls are being deflected onto the self-service channels then these channels have to be designed for real human beings and they have to work.  I suspect that some companies are deliberately under staffing their call-centres to drive customers to use self-service technologies including the web.   The issue is that websites are often in the hands of the folks that want to do brand marketing or selling.   The service dimension is often not given enough importance, is not seriously grappled with and then acted on.  Furthermore, many companies suck at great self-service design.  Airlines, check-in, selection, electronic boarding cards – example of great self-service design.  Grocery stores and self-service checkouts are great examples of atrocious self-service design/thinking.

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