Is the access to building meaningful relationships with customers merely a matter of improving the customer’s experience of your organisation by making it easy for the customer to do business with you?
The temptation to orient oneself this way and thus the pull of approaching the matter of customer loyalty as an engineer / economist is strong. With the engineering approach the focus is on: improving access say through digital channels; making it easer for the customer to self-serve; putting in more interaction channels; tweaking and automating business processes; standardising way customer scenarios are handled…. As an economist the focus is on generating / extracting value from the customer and all decisions are about ROI – I give if and only if I am guaranteed to get back more than I gave.
What the engineer and the economist both lack is humanity. In the worlds of the engineers and economists there is no room for that which lies at the core of human. What am I talking about? Think about a genuine smile. Or an authentic warm greeting. Or generosity. Or the act of touching one another even if it is a hand that touches you lightly either through a handshake or a light tap on your shoulder as an expression of thanks / gratitude ….
What is it that I am getting at here? Allow me to explicate it by relating a recent true story.
I was working in my study. My wife came in and grabbed hold of file from one the shelves. Then left. A little while later she returned to put the file back on the shelf. In the process she dropped an A4 lever arch file (full) on to the desk. The file landed on my right hand and the keyboard of my MacBook Pro. Both my right hand and the MacBook Pro were damaged.
Noticing that I was more upset at the broken MacBook keys, my wife took it upon herself to get the keys replaced. I forewarned her it would cost her to get the repairs done: the MacBook was outside the warranty period, and in any case the damaged was a result of our actions. I also pointed out that she should not expect the repair to be cheap; Apple is not in the cheap marketplace.
A few days later she popped into an Apple store to find out what it would take to get the keys replaced. The folks at Apple were friendly and directed her to go online and book a time to get the work done. They also told her the work could be done in the store and in about an hour. So later that day my wife booked an appointment with Apple for when she was next going to be in town.
On the appointed day-time, my wife handed over the MacBook Pro for repair. And hour later, as promised, the MacBook Pro was like new. My wife thanked the helpful Apple employee / engineer and asked: “How much do I owe you?” The answer was that there was nothing to pay, the work had been done free of charge. My wife walked out of that store delighted. When she came home she told me the story. And then went on to tell me how unusual it is to experience that kind of generosity. She ended up by saying Apple products are not cheap and they are worth every penny. I find myself in agreement. So that is my wife’s experience of Apple.
What is my experience? I am also delighted with Apple. Why? Because the folks at Apple treated my wife well. My wife knows nothing about technology. If the folks at Apple had told her the cost was £150 or so, she would have paid that. She was determined to restore my MacBook Pro to its pristine condition; I look after my stuff. My wife is someone that really matters to me. As such Apple’s generous treatment of my wife occurs (to me) as Apple’s generous treatment of me. And importantly, vindication of my decision to do business with Apple. Paying a premium for Apple products occurs as a good decision. A smart decision. Even a wise decision.
I say to you that the path of customer effort reduction / minimisation will lead you to the customer’s heart. Yet it is your generosity towards your customers that will open up the customer’s heart and allow you place in that heart. When you/your organisation make life easier for me, I experience an ease of doing business with you. When the folks in your organisation treat me with friendliness-kindness-generosity I experience cared for, even loved. And that makes all the difference. Let me say that again: there is world of difference between the experience of ease and the experience of being cared for / loved.
When it comes to your work on customer experience and/or customer loyalty you can settle for cultivating the experience of ease or the experience of gratitude / love. Your choice. In making that choice I invite you to consider that when my wife recounts her Apple experience, the ease of doing business lies in the background of her story. The friendliness / helpfulness of the folks in the Apple store lies in the foreground. And right in the centre of the foreground is the generosity.