I have a favourite saying which I have stolen from Barry Oshry: customers are surviving in a world of neglect. And this neglect is becoming more so , not less, despite all the talk of customer service, customer focus, customer experience and customer centricity.
So it is with interest that I read the latest report by Razorfish: Liminal. The report identifies 6 Engagement Elements (Valued, Efficiency, Trust, Consistency, Relevance, Control) that matter to customers. Now the interesting thing is that these needs are fundamentally human needs – they arise out of our existence as human beings in an increasingly complex and some would say ‘inhuman’ (artificial) world.
These 6 Engagement Elements can help jumpstart customer experience efforts as they set out the lens through which all business policies, practices and platforms can be viewed and redesigned. Now onto my take on the 6 Engagement Elements:
1. Valued (you care about me, wow!)
What is the fundamental human need? Are you surprised to read that it is feeling valued? This is how one person put it: “It’s something as simple as calling a person, having them listen, and talking with them. Just feeling as though they are out there, working on your behalf, that you situation has not been discarded, you are not just another passenger. It’s the personal touch that makes the difference. ”
Now I ask you how is it that companies that profess to be working on the customer experience are taking out exactly the elements that tend to make people feel valued? Survey after survey shows that customers value caring helpful staff. Yet, what are many organisations doing ? They are reducing their investments in these staff – whether that is in the retail stores or the people on the end of the line in the contact centres.
Why are people (and the personal touch) being replace with technology? During my weekly shopping I enjoy talking with the cashiers and I love the ones that smile and chat with me. Yet, I now find that these cashiers are being replaced with self-service scanning tills.
2. Efficiency (save me time and effort)
What is one dimension of making customers valued? Are you surprised to learn that it is a respect for the customers time and energy (physical and psychic) – promptly addressing his needs? Customer prefer to do business with companies that make it easy to do business: to get the job done easily, quickly and ideally without any thinking .
A great example of delivering on this need is the airlines. They have put in place self-service tools that allows passengers to check in and print boarding cards at home. And to use self-service check-in kiosks at the airport.
Banks are another great example. By allowing customers to do many of their banking transaction over the web they have cut out the hassle of visiting the branch, waiting in the queue for 20 minutes or so to get served mainly because there are only two cashiers on duty despite the fact there are four cashier desks.
3. Trust (can I count on you?)
The need to feel secure in an uncertain world is a fundamental need – the people who have failed in this dimension do not tend to leave offspring. So it is no surprise to hear customers say, “I need to believe that they’ll stand by what they are giving me. If something goes wrong they will correct it. I’ll take chances with trusting a company so long as I’m sure they are there for me to correct any problems.” Put differently, customers are more willing to walk the tightrope if they can see, feel, touch the safety net you have put below them.
What does this mean for companies? It means that they cannot just rely on the established practice of big budget advertising to build familiarity and trust. It means actually delivering the promise: putting in place policies, practices, processes, people and platforms that deliver what the customer expects and was promised. Any gap between the advertising (the promise) and the delivery is soon broadcast to the whole world on the internet.
4. Consistency (no unpleasant surprises!)
If the world behaves consistently (even if we do not like the way it behaves) then we feel secure; we know what to expect and how to behave. Inconsistency wakes us up from our slumber, it puts us on the edge because we have to figure out if danger is present. And we do not like being disturbed from our slumber.
It is no different when it comes to customers and shopping. Customers need to feel that the companies that they are doing business with are consistent. Consistent in terms of the layout of the stores, the products, the staff, the attitude, product qaulity, the communication…….
5. Relevance (know me, offer me what I am interested in)
If you value me then you will only offer and engage me in stuff that I find interesting; do not waste my time with the irrelevant. Notice, how relevance is also related to Efficiency (above): relevance respects the customers need for Efficiency. For example when a retailer offers personalised offers on products and services that they know are of interest to the customer.
Razorfish write “..it is noteworthy that in “the consumer is in control” era, Control was the least important of the six Engagement Elements we identified.” So how did they define control? “Control is manifested when the customer can determine if, when and how a company will communicate with him or her.” That may explain it. Do you really need to control the communication received if you can delete it with a keystroke or put it in the bin without even opening the envelope.
Yet, the acting of inviting the customer to the conversation around control and allowing her to decide what she does and does not want to control delivers on the more fundamental needs of feeling Valued. And it can build Trust.