Everybody’s talking about Customer Experience. Customers still not getting what they need.


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Lots of executives, marketers, customer service folks say they work for a customer focused organization. They say they care about the customer experience. According to a myriad of research reports, blogs, tweets, podcasts, and whitepapers, I see an increased focused on customer focus, customer experience, customer engagement, customer intimacy, etc. etc.

This is undoubtedly the right direction, and frankly the only direction for corporate survival and growth, in my opinion. A key and often underrepresented component of developing meaningful and profitable customer relationships is TRUST. I’ve written more about that here.

So how are we collectively doing being customer focused? Do “what we say” and “what we do” actually line up?

According to the latest edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer, the Top 5 Trust Building Attributes between companies and customers are:

1. Offers high quality products and services
2. Listens to customer needs and feedback
3. Treats employees well
4. Places customers ahead of profits
5. Takes responsible actions to address an issue or a crisis.

In the latest CEO Survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 82% of the CEOs in the survey said they were going to spend time changing their customer strategies in 2013.

That’s good, because below is a chart from the Edelman Trust Barometer showing that the drivers of trust and the perceived performance of businesses to achieve that trust are miles apart.


Imagine that you walked into your individual performance review and you got 3s 4s, and 5s on a 10 point scale across the board. That’s essentially what we collectively just received from our customers.

Are you shocked? Surprised? Upset? Ready to take action? Perhaps you’re saying that “that doesn’t apply to us”.

Many of you are probably moving into action as you read this. “We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to ask our customers what we can do better!” Great. But before you build and send out that next customer survey, please consider reading the following from a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (emphasis added is mine):

The great majority of the decisions we make in our information-overloaded, distraction-heavy lives are made outside our conscious awareness, driven more by contexts than cognitions. As a result, asking someone to pinpoint what will influence them in the future is a bit like saying, “tell me how you will behave in the future when you are not thinking about what I have just asked you about?”

Behavioural scientists Wes Schultz and Robert Cialdini provide compelling evidence of why asking people to predict what will influence their future decisions and behaviors is so often ineffective. In one set of studies, they asked several hundred homeowners in California to predict which of four messages would be most successful at persuading them to take steps to conserve energy and reduce their overall consumption. The four messages were 1) conserving energy helps the environment; 2) conserving energy protects future societies; 3) conserving energy saves you money; 4) many of your neighbors are already conserving energy.

Those shown the message about what their neighbors were doing rated it as the least likely to influence their behaviours. Yet when meter readings were taken, the researchers discovered that this was the most effective message when it came to changing behavior even though this same message was rejected by most as having any sway. Even though most will deny its effect, our desire to keep up with the Joneses is both universal and automatic. For example, recent studies have shown that compared to the usual approach of threatening those who fail to pay their taxes on time with fines, it is far more effective to inform them that the majority of people in their neighborhood already have paid. By doing so, governments can realize many more millions in revenues.

Not only are we pretty poor at recognizing what will influence our future behavior, we’re not that great at recognizing what persuaded us after the event either. In one well-known study conducted at a busy New York City subway station, after counting the percentage of commuters who donated to a street musician as they walked past him, researchers made one small change to the situation: Immediately before an approaching commuter reached the musician, another person (who was in on the act) would drop a few coins into the musician’s hat. The result? An eight-fold increase in donations. When interviewed afterwards, those who donated universally failed to attribute their actions to the fact they had seen someone else give money first, preferring instead to provide alternate (and incorrect) justification for their actions. “I liked the song he was playing”; “I’m a generous person”; and “I felt sorry for the guy.”

Aside from showing the tremendous power of social proof, the above also provides a solid argument that understanding what will resonate most with a customer may often not be provided by the customer. There’s a great dialogue about this on Wim Rampen’s outstanding and thoughtful blog post titled “The Customer is Always Wrong”.

Cracking the code on your customer’s jobs to be done, their (intrinsic and extrinsic) motivations, their behaviors and habits have the potential to provide the real clues that we need to develop ongoing relationships of increasing value exchange.

So, how will we get better at serving our customers more effectively and building more trust?

The detailed answers to this are highly contextual and we don’t quite have time or room in today’s post. Many of us are indeed overwhelmed by the inertia of our own embedded behaviors, assumptions, and drivers, which by the way is one reason I would propose that we see such a significant disconnect in the chart above. But one often overlooked consideration I’d like to offer is to include the core motivators of all humans when considering what products and services to offer, and more importantly how we communicate with them.

Referencing the research done and presented by Australian psychologist, social researcher and novelist, Hugh Mackay, Naomi Simson offers the following as the core motivators for our (customer’s) decision making:

The desire to be taken seriously. We need to know we exist, that we’re valued, that we’re being listened to. This desire is why good listeners are so valued in the workplace. And why when you feel so bad when you realise someone is looking over your shoulder when you’re talking to them, rather than listening to what you have to say.

The desire for ‘my place’. We all need places that feel like ours, places that symbolise who we are. This is why, for some people, hot desks and open plan offices create a certain amount of disconnect and dissatisfaction at work.??

The desire for something to believe in. We all desire a framework of values in our lives, values we can live by. If the organisation we work for has integrity, it can form an important part of our value set.

The desire to connect. Not only do we feel connected to people around us at work through everyday interactions, we also use work to connect deeper to ourselves. For some people their work is an expression of their self. ?

The desire to feel useful. The one thing we least want to hear ourselves described as is ‘useless’. Wanting to be useful is fundamental to being part of society. This is the reason that people pull together in times of disaster to help complete strangers… to feel they are doing something useful.

The desire to belong. According to Hugh, we are both ‘herd animals’, and ‘tribal creatures’. We like to feel part of a group, as well as part of something bigger. The best workplace contains rich gratification through both a small herd (work group) and the sense of being a part of the company, the tribe.

The desire for control. Hugh believes this desire is the one most likely to get us into trouble. Humans are by nature uncontrollable. The only person we can control is ourselves.

Three Questions until next time

  • Are you REALLY investing in the customer experience, or does this just seem to be the next best wave to get what you want from customers?
  • How are you aligning your products, services, and customer communications with these core human motivators?
  • How are you weaving offerings and communication into the customer journey that help meet these desires?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Brian Vellmure
For more than a decade, Brian Vellmure has impacted hundreds of companies on their journey towards increased profitability through strategic customer focused initiatives. For more insightful thoughts and resources, please subscribe to Brian's blog by clicking here


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