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4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding

Last week I spoke about five of the most important actions you can take when starting your journey to improved customer centricity. If you missed it, you can read the post  here; it will be good background information to build from for this week’s ideas and suggestions.

In this post, I would like to continue to support your efforts with some suggestions on an area that many struggle with, that of connecting with and underst anding your customers.

I believe that one of the main reasons for this, is that the target customer segment has been poorly defined. Perhaps it is too wide, such as all category users, or only superficially described just in terms of demographics. C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template, free to download in the members area, will provide a simple way for you to complete a more detailed description of your customer. Once you have that, you can then start to connect with them to deepen your underst anding of them.

1. Retail connections

There are numerous ways that an organisation can connect with its customers. If you have a retail presence, then this is as simple as going to a few of them  and then talking to the customers present. If you yourself don’t own the outlet then you will need to ask permission of the owner, but since retailers are also interested in getting to know their customers better, they will usually accept in exchange for your sharing any learnings with them. (>>Tweet this<<) Customers are more sensitive to value than price

Another opportunity to connect with your customers in retail is through promotions, demonstrations and sampling activities. These have the added benefit of being able to speak with customers who are already interested in what you have to offer, because they have stopped beside your st and. They also are generally more willing to take the time to talk to you even if they are busy, something which can be a struggle if you are just walking up to customers in the store. (>>Tweet this<<)

In addition, I have found that both these exercises can be a great way to improve your image with the retailer and may even warrant special treatment for your br and.

2. Secondary connections

If you don’t have the luxury of meeting your customers in person, then there are still ways to learn more about them. If you have a call centre, then why not listen in or even spend time answering calls? It is both a rewarding and useful exercise to do. This is why many organisations such as Zappos, make their new employees do just that in their first few weeks after being hired.

Market research can make you more customer centricMarket research projects are also another easy way to observe and listen to your customers, although in general you will be a silent observer behind the interviewer, who is asking the questions. Some people prefer to follow focus groups or in-depth interviews, even from behind the two-way mirror, since they will have the opportunity to impact the discussions by feeding questions to the moderator.

A third way for you to make these less direct connections is by following social media discussions. These can either be on the major platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram, or your company’s own panel if you are lucky enough to have one. In either case, I would encourage you to observe and not get actively involved in the conversations. There have been many infamous embarrassments caused by under-qualified people responding to heated customer conversations on social media. DiGiorno (Nestle) and Progressive are just two of the more recent examples; this post gives many others that can heed as a useful warning should you be tempted to get personally involved.

3. Website connections

Today, most organisations rely on some form of online presence, to be available wherever and whenever their customers would like to connect with them. Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. 

Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. Click To Tweet

The first place to ensure you are supplying the right information is on your contact page. Are you requesting customers to complete an online form where you request many details from them? If so, it is definitely worth checking if everything you are dem anding is really necessary for that first connection. Name, email address and perhaps telephone number if you plan to call them back, should be sufficient, together with the reason they are wanting to contact you.

Connect with customersSecondly check that you are giving your customers multiple ways for them to contact you. (>>Tweet this<<) The form mentioned above is a rather anonymous connection, since there is no way for the customer to follow up, other than by sending a second completed form. The vast majority of consumers hate such forms with a vengeance and prefer to chat directly, or at least to be given alternative contact choices. Therefore you should provide your email address, telephone number and ideally a postal address. How many times have you been interested in a company only to find that you don’t know in which country they are based? Frontiers today are more linguistic than geographical, so your customers have the right to know whether or not they can visit your offices in person.

One area where this becomes vital is in online purchasing. Ensure that you make it as easy for customers as possible to shop your website. Enable them to check-out as a guest if they want, rather than imposing the completion of a long form of their details. Kissmetrics wrote a great post on this topic, with good and bad examples, which is worth a read if you are selling online.

Finally you should check the performance of your website; how many visitors do you have, where do they come from and what are they looking for in terms of information? This underst anding could be a whole post topic on its own, but since there are many already available, suffice it to say that if your website is getting few visits or your customers are bouncing away quickly, then it is not serving its purpose of building a relationship with your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Sharing connections

Meeting and getting to know your customers is probably one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences an organisation can have. (>>Tweet this<<) There is so much you can underst and about your current category and br and users by talking to them, that everyone should find ways to do so on a regular basis. As already mentioned, this could be by speaking with them directly whilst shopping, during a market research project, or over the internet. Share experiences when you connect with customers

You won’t be able to speak to everyone, so you will also rely on your colleagues to make such connections, or even external hostesses. This is why it is important that you get a full debrief, ideally in person, whenever you can.

It amazes me every time I speak to demonstrators, that they just go home at the end of the day with rarely any sort of debrief back to the client. On the rare occasions when they do tell their supervisors something of interest that they discovered, they are generally met with a lack of interest and enthusiasm. What a waste of intimate knowledge about the customer, their likes, dislikes and unmet needs and desires! Therefore share whatever you learn with your colleagues and ask them to do the same.

These are four ways for you to get a deeper underst anding of your customers  and which are probably already available to you today. How many are you using on a regular basis? Which have you found to be the most useful or inspiring. Please share your experiences below; it would be great to hear about your own successes.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

For Greater Customer Satisfaction, Should Marketers Answer Their Needs or Desires?

In 1943 Maslow proposed his theory about people’s needs in a paper entitled “A theory of human motivation”.

He used the terms Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence to describe the pattern of needs that motivate people. At the time he didn’t present it as a hierarchy, nor as a pyramid, but that has become the accepted representation these days.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

While the hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology, management training and psychology instruction, it has largely been supplanted by attachment theory in clinical psychology and psychiatry. However since attachment theory is concerned with how people respond to hurt, separation and threat within relationships, it has less relevance for marketers.

All br ands, products and services should be designed to satisfy their target’s needs, so Maslow’s hierarchy seems a good framework to use, when defining on what your offer will be based.

If this interests you, and it should especially if your business is global or geographically spread as I will explain below, then here are the three steps for doing so.

1. Satisfying: Firstly identify which of the five needs your br and or service is looking to fulfill. Remember different br ands within the same category can play to differing needs, especially in terms of their communications. Whilst it is generally accepted that the lower needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be addressed, there are exceptions.

Think of consumers in poorer countries who will buy a TV over proper shoes and clothing for their children. In such cases status and in particular consumer emotions are playing an important role, but more of that later.

2. Resonating: Next develop communications for your target audience by incorporating solutions to their relevant needs. These will obviously resonate more quickly and easily with them than pure product or service information alone. They may also be more emotional and will therefore have greater impact on them.

Here are some good examples that I have seen in recent years of easily identifiable needs being addressed through advertising.

Knorr’s packet soup in the UK, based on needs of food, safety and love. See video

Cartier’s corporate campaign from last year, which marked its 165yrs, was appropriately named “L’Odyssée de Cartier” and is clearly based on esteem and self-actualisation.

 – Omo washing powder, one from a long series entitled “Dirt is good”, based on safety and love. See video

Peugeot car, based on self-esteem and status: See video

UK back seat safety belt buckle-up campaign, based on safety. Warning, the ending is violent! See video

Interestingly, all these are examples from a few years ago. Although newer examples are available, they are not as obviously based primarily on need states as are these ones. I believe one reason for this is the increase in the level of pure emotional content of current advertising. In fact all the above examples use emotions as well in addressing the needs they are looking to answer, which is perhaps why they performed better than many.

We find much more content today that addresses primarily desires rather than needs. One reason for this is that marketers have finally realized that people often buy out of desire and not because of a need alone. However, what makes it difficult for marketing to respond, is that people find it easier to speak about their needs or what they don’t want, than their desires.

Henry Ford apparently already knew this when he said:

“If I had asked people what they wanted,

they would have said a faster horses”

He resonated with them by providing a solution to their need of travelling more quickly, but in an exciting new way. A more recent quote with a similar sentiment comes from the late Steve Jobs of Apple. People often claim that he was against Market Research, but that was not true. He was in fact only against market research in which questions were simply being asked of consumers, an nd marketers were then responding directly to the answers given without further thought. As he was quoted as saying:

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups.

A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” (>>Tweet this<<)

I believe he understood that it was better to respond to a consumers desires than to their needs. Look at Apple’s advertising; it has almost always been resonating emotionally rather than merely rationally with its target customers. As a typical example, check out their ad from last Christmas, a real tear-jerker called “Misunderstood“.

http://youtu.be/nhwhnEe7CjE

However, I know that many good examples of needs-based advertising do still exist. If you yourself have any representing identified human needs, then it would be great if you would share them in the comments below.

3. Going Global: Another advantage of using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to position your br and / service, is that the same needs are felt by all human beings. That is why these communication ideas are often referred to as “Human truths”. This means that you are more likely to be able to successfully roll out such a campaign regionally or even globally, than if you were basing communications on local specificities alone. The examples above, although mentioned as being from certain markets, were actually all regional or global campaigns.

So coming back to the question asked in the title of this post, the answer is BOTH. To guarantee satisfaction, your customers must feel that you really care about them, truly underst and their needs and that your offer also resonates with them emotionally. If you are successful in doing that, then your communications will be understood without any effort on their part. It will be so obvious to them and they will simply identify themselves with what is being shown. Furthermore, an emotionally charged ad is more likely to be shared with their friends on social media. An important additional benefit that is particularly appreciated today.

If you believe that your communications are not appropriately addressing your target customers’ needs AND desires, then please contact us. We have some great case studies from some well-known br ands that we can share to inspire and support your own improvements. You will also be excited by the unique methodology we use to underst and the meaning your customers take away from your ads.

This post is based on a much shorter one that was first published on C³Centricity in September 2011.

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

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