As of right now, a number of structural changes have become institutionalized in the business world that have forced companies in every sector to reevaluate the way they view the customer. As Robert H. Bloom points out in The New Experts, “the seller’s new role is customer engagement.” That means that those who can provide customers with substantial interaction and involvement will have the most success. That is, in some measure, because consumers constitutionally distrust corporations.
The New Relationship Dynamic
These independent and inter-informed buyers support each other in the pursuit of good companies and the persecution of bad or terrible ones. And they don’t respond well to aggression or arrogance. They prefer sellers who are uninvolved and passive. And, they aren’t interested in lifelong friendships. The new consumer demands clarity, transparency, expertise, and service when it benefits them most—and that the seller will anticipate their needs.
These benefits can take many forms.
Consumers are not merely drawn in by financial benefits. They want meaningful and conscientious solutions that directly relate to their wants, needs, aspirations, apprehensions, concerns, and fears.
The fundamental question to address is one of trust. Do I like and trust this seller more than I like and trust other sellers?
The Rules of Engagement
With this corporate undoing, there are new rules and trends that have emerged which can help sellers navigate the uncharted waters to the benefit of consumers.
The first step is to reframe all transactional interactions, and remember that attention-giving is indeed a transaction.
- Engagement is not the consumer’s job.
- Engagement doesn’t happen. It must be made to happen. It is the yield of practiced discipline, strategies, and training.
- Other business issues, customer involvement, or distractions must not hinder engagement. Anything squarely outside of engagement must be dealt with independently, or risk compromising the interaction between customer and company.
- Engagement is backed up by a written promise.
- Engagement from a senior executive is of the highest value in trust building.
The point of all this engagement is to build trust as to assuage the distrust and uncertainty endemic to considering whether to purchase a product or service. Once you have succeeded, your work has only just begun.
You must maintain and cultivate the logic behind decision-making, or risk making the customers feel deceived and dissatisfied.
Holding Onto Trust
You’ve managed to develop a trust relationship with your customer. That means they’ve paid for your product or service and have used it—or plan to. Whatever the case, your customer is relying on the product or service in some way. This is the best time to reinforce the customer preference you tapped into during the initial transaction.
To reinforce the customer preference, there are three objectives you should aim toward:
- Ensure that your customer is benefiting from your product or service, check-in about performance expectations and verify whether they are being met, and, confirm whether any promises you made during the engagement phase are being met too.
- Communicate with the customer on a regular basis to ensure that your brand stays at the forefront of their mind and to demonstrate your personal commitment and involvement in their life.
- Lay the groundwork for your customer to be a repeat customer and advocate.
Failure to follow through on these objectives at this critical juncture in the customer journey will cost you potential to generate revenue that accrues from repeat purchases and referrals.
Unlearn Habits of Deceit
I know “deceit” is a dirty word, but that’s what the old marketing and business paradigm condoned, if not demanded. Nowadays, that paradigm has eroded and consumers have grown allergic to the residue.
Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott say that, “Successful companies focus on buyers and the best ways to reach them, and they develop compelling content and programs accordingly,” in their book, Tuned In.
This has a number of entailments. For one, marketing is no longer about pitching but rather about providing concrete and honest information that addresses real concerns and questions. You don’t know what those concern and questions might be? Ask your customer. All of your company material—including material that isn’t customer-facing—should be created from the customer’s perspective.
To make matters simple, here are five bad habits of unlearn that linger from the old paradigm:
- Unlearn the practice of interrupting people with messages. Instead, publish online content they want to consume.
- Unlearn vacuous and trivial phrases that convey nothing substantive about your product or service.
- Unlearn spin. Now. Unlearn it. It inauthentic and non-transparent.
- Unlearn forcing consumers into actions. Your terminology will reflect this master-slave mentality.
- Unlearn that you have to buy access. If you create content that people want, they will flock to it.
If you haven’t delved into any one of these practices, it means that in addition to unlearning many things, there’s a lot you have to learn about the Internet and Internet culture. Take notes.
Be User-Experience Centered
The above points apply to the physical experience that consumers have in your store as well as the digital one. Many brands have adopted experiential models to provide added value and craft a memorable in-store experience. Doing so reinforces your digital strategies and harnesses innumerable conduits inaccessible to you online.
A memorable and valuable physical experience starts with the five senses.
- Crayola uses color in its store to draw attention and evoke emotions in space. Sight
- Abercrombie & Fitch carefully selects its music to match the tastes and preferences of the target market. With sound, it created a soundscape that customer are delighted to return to. Sound
- Bath & Body Works relies almost exclusively on fragrance to keep customer coming back. Smell
- Apple’s stores are designed to encourage physical interaction. They want people to walk away with a tactile experience. Touch
- Costco is famous for its manifold samples. Some analysts have premised its success on just that. Taste
These are shopper experience strategies that work. They define the store, make each memorable, and provide value that furthers user experience and the product.
Relinquish the Notion of Control
You don’t control consumers. You don’t control the market. You don’t control buyer decisions. You can exercise varying degrees of influence that spring from a number of factors and intersections however. In this sense, the word “control” appears hyperbolic, and words like “guide,” and “influence,” seem more apropos.
Guidance and influence can fall into one of three macro-categories.
- Framing Effects: Framing the presentation of a product deliberately and strategically.
- Choice Context: Creating a context of differently priced items to spur comparative assessments.
- Task Effects: The manner in which consumers are asked to evaluate the offer.
However, there is a vast stumbling block to the effectiveness of these tactics. We are now sunk in an information ecosystem of unprecedented proportions that produces noise, deafening and distracting noise. You must fully acknowledge the ecosystem that you are operating within to defuse its unwanted effects.
The best place to start is by asking yourself: “What would happen if everything went exactly right?” This is the heart of the Ultimate Customer Experience (UCE)®, according to Scott McKain in Create Distinction.
When you deploy this stratagem, the questions must start from the first interaction you envision between the company and the customer. Then consider details like how many times would the phone ring before it was answered? What percentage of your calls should be fielded by a live person instead of via digital technology? What sensations would be experienced by customers when they walk into your store? What would the temperature be? What would customers hear? What would the store smell like?
The single most important factor here is to keep drilling down to the smallest aspects of your interactions with customers and prospects. Constantly push for what would have to happen for that contact to be exactly right.
You must examine your interaction with your customers and prospects with extraordinary precision in order to get it exactly right. That’s the point of all this.
That in order to build trust you must be customer-centered, think from their perspective, think about their values and preferences and what your product or service adds to their life.
Only then, you will position yourself to build relationships that are mutually beneficial and reliable.
Source: Anurag Harsh – Management & Digital Guru (BlogBrain.org)