We Are Your Customers: Experience Evolution

customer-experience-customers-evolution-changeCustomers want seamless experiences, especially if purchases are mandated by lending institutions and/or law enforcement.  

If we have to make mandatory purchases, fine. But once we’ve signed up, we don’t want to discuss it again unless the prices we’re being charged increase for no apparent reason.  Then we want to know why—immediately.

If we choose to buy products and services from you, we want to do it when it’s convenient for US.  And if we buy online, we want the same price we were quoted when the items are actually delivered. If your systems can’t make that happen, we’ll find a company that can.   

If we need something more than what we’ve already purchased, the people who will help us understand that are our relatives, friends, and co-workers…not a commissioned salesperson who sends 1000 mailers a month or expects us to “come in for an appointment between the hours of 9 and 5.”  We have a jobs, families, and social lives:   Just like you.    

Speaking of expertise, why should a customer have to call your office every time they have a question?  Why can’t you just tell them in simple language how to use what they’ve purchased?  Better yet, why don’t you post podcasts or video links on a blog or website?  Then, even if it’s 10 pm we can find the answer instead of thinking about it all night.  Customers do have smartphones, you know!  

As for additional purchases:  We prefer to research most things on our own.  When we have a good understanding of their features and benefits, we’ll narrow down our options.  Again, our friends and family bring things up because they’re concerned about us, but we’re not always in a financial position to do something at the moment.  If we trust that you understand and respect our choices, we’ll actually look forward to having you help us put it all together when we’re ready.  It’s not like we WANT to be in that position…  We’ve just been forced to adjust a few priorities.     

If we’re looking for a new company, we’ll ask friends and family what their costs are and how well they like their provider/representative.  Then we’ll do research within our own networked communities.  If they’re connected to someone we know, we’ll be more comfortable asking for an introduction.  

Researching you online means you need to BE online. And if we contact you for help, you’d better respond if you expect us to EVER talk to you again. If you’re not where we want you to be, you don’t exist.  We’re not going to waste any personal time looking for you.   

What are we looking for in a brand representative, anyway?  Well, if we share complementary world views and you’re empathetic to everything we just laid out, most of us prefer to have a personal (human) relationship. We’ll even add your number to our contacts as long as we can trust that the only reason you would contact us is to share something you think we’d find interesting or helpful.  On the other hand,  if you refuse to accept our way of doing things and don’t meet us halfway on some of these requests, we’re fine with getting our stuff online, even if it means we’re working with chat bots driven by artificial intelligence.  

The choice is yours.

Marketing to Phone Book Geography

Yellow PagesSome of us may remember when consumers used to be limited to buying from providers within their geography whether or not they knew, liked, or trusted them. If they needed a product or service and didn’t like anyone who sold it locally, too bad. Driving to the town 30 miles away wasn’t an option in 1972 for a couple of reasons: 1. There was an energy crisis. 2. People not only didn’t know how to find places outside of their own areas, they had no easy way of knowing what was even available when they got there. Phone books only used to be distributed by TOWNS within about a 10-mile radius of someone’s residence. If you wanted to run your fingers through the yellow pages of another location, you had to drive to the local library and pull them off the shelf. As if that wasn’t enough, you had to then find a map of the place you wanted to go. Even then, no one had time to waste driving up-and-down every street in an unfamiliar place looking for what they needed. We all know it’s not 1972. In many ways, it’s never coming back, yet in some ways it is.

When I was a kid, my dad used to spend every Saturday morning from 7am to Noon at the grain elevator lobby in our local town. He and a dozen other farmers got together to talk about anything anyone wanted to discuss. When I went along, one of the men always gave me a shiny quarter to buy an Orange Crush in a 10-ounce bottle from the Coca-Cola chest-cooler. Back then, I thought it was because he liked me. Now that I’ve been a father for 18 years, I’m pretty sure it was to keep me quiet so dad could socialize.

Why did I tell you this? How is 1972 applicable to today? People like my dad and his friends were all about community. Their sense of belonging made time stand still because they shared common world views. Today the Internet adapts those same desirable characteristics while diminishing or even eliminating the constraints of geography. Consumers’ options are longer defined by the yellow pages. Businesses, their products and services, and even their representatives, can be searched, researched, located, contacted, interacted with, mapped, and transacted with…no matter where they are in the world. What does that mean? If consumers are being served by a business, but don’t share complementary world views with the representative they are bound or assigned to, they can research and locate a more compatible provider. Doing so allows them to be part of a community instead of feeling like a prospect constantly being sold to. Second, they can regain control of their time. They will be able to confidently ignore a majority of the people competing for their attention every day, allowing them freedom from the continuous interruptions of representatives who “just don’t get it”.

So what are we doing now, marketing the phone book or creating communities?