The customer never buys what you think you sell. A tricky meaning to Drucker’s quotation? Not really. But understanding why customers buy your products and services is certainly not straight forward. You need to put these secrets of customer centric to work to fully appreciate why customers make the decisions they do.
The way we see it, there are three general categories of customer insights we can identify:
Unarticulated – the customer accepts the current situation and works around it
Underappreciated – the industry hasn’t seen the problem as important (yet)
Underleveraged – we can create a much better solution through our superior capabilities
Understanding your customers is very important, and it will lead to new ideas. But it isn’t enough to stimulate truly innovative ideas, is it? Not for me.
Where do great ideas come from?
In Steve Johnson’s book “where do good ideas come from” he tells of the British Coffeehouses and how they became a fertile ground for new ideas and innovation in the late 17th century.
The visitors that frequented these coffeehouses shared their opinions, insights, and ideas with one another.
The key to his story is that ideas were the result of “diversity of input” because the visitors all had different backgrounds, expertise, and experiences to share with one another.
Research by Edelman’s trust barometer indicates that buyers, customers, and consumers often will trust each other far more than they’ll trust employees, sales or company.
While factual information about product specs, pricing and usage will still be relevant on the corporate website, expect customers to do online research and consider advice from their peers before they make purchasing decisions.
In his book, The Hidden Wealth of Customers, Bill Lee puts it this way:
“After a customer completes a purchase, what is typically left on the table is a gold mine of ways that firms can increase both the value they provide for customers and the profitability customers generate for the firm.
With the new customer value proposition, you essentially reinvent your relationship, transforming customers into what I call customer advocates, influencers, and contributors.”
So … how much time do you and your business dedicate to gathering customer insights? Not enough is the answer we hear most often. What wasted opportunities in my opinion.
One way you can find useful insights is to examine research in social psychology. Here are eight insights we found, and that should provide useful for defining tactics with your customers.
Good Service Trumps Fast Service
Recent studies show customers cite rude, incompetent, and rushed service as their top reasons to switch brands. Almost 20% more often than slow service.
Recent customers who receive competent, knowledgeable and all-encompassing services are most likely to remember their experiences and tell friends about them.
Companies must maintain a clear and constant focus on the factors that represent the true health and sustainable growth of the company: the bond between the company and the customer.
Faster operations should only be pursued when they will result in stronger customer bonds. Anything else is a mistake, and one with lasting consequences.
In short, companies must bear in mind that “speed of service” contains two critical elements: speed and service. Don’t pursue one without the other, ok?
Money discussion makes customers more self-focused
When you prime people with money, they approach their social interactions in a fundamentally different way than they normally would,” said Nathan DeWall, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, who has conducted similar research on the psychology of money.
“Whereas when most people are presented with the possibility of having an interaction with another person, with anticipated rewards that accompany that, when you prime people with money, they just approach it in a socially disengaged and less rewarding manner. And this has profound consequences for their behavior.”
Research by psychologist Kathleen Vohs has shown that when people are primed with money issues, they become more self-focused. And less willing to assist others.
Businesses can use this fact in selling luxury items. The subject of money should be avoided however with promotions associated with doing things for others (i.e. like Mother’s Day for example)
Customer centric … customers favor personalization
In a study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers were able to increase the average tips that waiters received by over 23%, without significantly changing their service.
This was accomplished by having waiter’s follow-up with a second set of mints after they brought customers their check.
Waiters that brought mints but didn’t follow-up received an average of 7% less in their tips. (See our article: How to Influence Consumer Behavior through Personalization)
And from a different perspective, it pays to remember customers’ names and important information. It turns out that people are more attentive and interested when they hear their names. When working on building relationships, use names when appropriate.
Few sounds are as pleasant as hearing our names. And likewise, for example, nothing makes us feel less loved quite like a post-purchase email from ‘DO NOT REPLY.’
Check out our thoughts on customer focus.
Time more valuable than money in brand value
Most people see time spent as a better indicator of who they are versus how much money they spent.
New research from Stanford reveals that customers have more favorable feelings of brands they associate “time well spent” with.
Memories of a good time were more powerful than memories of great savings. That would have been my choice.
So, there is a reason that lowest price companies promote having a good time (such as “It’s Miller Time) rather than their lowest prices.
Forget Suze Orman. Time, Not Money, Is Your Most Precious Resource. Spend It Wisely.
Innovate through customer collaboration
MIT’s Eric Von Hippel conducted a study with the Institute of Management Sciences on the relationship of superstar customers and company innovation.
The result? Through a study of 1193 commercially successful innovations across nine industries, Hippel discovered that 60% came from customers. (See our article: Crash Course on Turning Customer Insights into Winning Ideas)
Surprise with acts of kindness
One of the most memorable and talked about customer experiences is a surprise act of kindness.
Zappos uses this experience with great success. Without so much as a mention on their website, Zappos regularly upgrades customers to overnight shipping free of charge. A great way to brighten customers’ days.
Loyalty programs can still be very effective
Consumer psychologists Dreze and Nunes were able to reveal just what makes a ‘sticky’ loyalty program, across all industries.
The researchers were able to show that customers are twice as likely to stay with loyalty programs if the programs if the programs appear to have already started. Tasks that seem to be underway are more likely to be completed.
See our article: How to Use Reward Card Programs Better for Enduring Customer Loyalty.
Customer centric … customers prefer stories
Storytelling is most persuading so shows the research by Greer and Brock. Their research reveals that a well-told story is one of the most persuasive forms of community. They concluded that stories have the ability to take us to another place, permitting the story to be a marketing message without the marketing.
Remember, this is your time to create remarkable experiences to create lasting customer relationships. Lead with initiative … own the moment.
It’s up to you to keep improving your customer engagement and relationship building performance and creativity.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Try. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy continually improving your customer service?
Do you have a lesson about making your customer relationships better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
More reading on customer service from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:
8 Ways to Create WOW Customer Service for Marketing Differentiation
How to Create Customer Relationships and Build a More Social Commerce
Who Else Would Like to Hear This Business Loyalty Story?
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8 Secrets of Customer Centric You Should Utilize In Your Business