Thursday, April 17, 2014

Customers Are Like Children... Really?

My oldest turned 3 a few months ago. I was reflecting on how she has grown and her behavior changed over the years. Well, lets say that parenting has become challenging as years go by. As I pondered over the principles of parenting that are commonly known, I came across the notion of thinking of a customer in the same light as your "child".

Before I start, let me say I am not in any way talking about customers being children and thus being treated like them. What I am indicating is that there are stark similarities between parenting strategies and what we can apply to customer management.

First, lets look at the similarities in customer behavior and children (those of you who are parents should be nodding your heads as you read on. )

1.  You can't bind them with rules 
Children don't consider themselves bound by any rules you set as a parent. They eventually learn that they have to follow the rules, but would rather go their own way. You see this more prominently in younger children. Customers have a similar trait. They do not consider themselves bound in any way to what your organization sets as service limits or product features. They always are looking for what they consider their needs are.

2. You don't know what they are thinking 
Children have their own way to thinking and processing information. This is further unique to every child which is determined by many influencers including the social and geographical environments. Furthermore, as a parent, you are always left guessing and trying to understand or judge the child's perspective. Sound familiar? Sales, Marketing and Product Managers alike will relate to this with their customers. One of their daily challenges is to understand the ever elusive customers' perspective. And like the uniqueness among children, these customer perspectives are also influenced dramatically by social and cultural factors.

3. Sometimes they amaze you
The frequency may change from child to child, but there are times that children just outright do the unexpected and leave the parents dumb-faced. Whether it is something they just intuitively understand quickly or something that they just won't get even after repeated enforcements. The fact of the matter is that they are just unpredictable by nature. You can say pretty much the same about customers. Can you really predict what a customer will do? You will come across those customers who just love your product and services for reasons you do not know and others who are just "too demanding". This leads to a wide gap in the customer experience and adds to the challenge of managing them.

I am sure by now many of you have started adding to this list. There are many similarities in the traits if you think about it.

In my next post, I will talk about how we can learn from parenting strategies and apply them to customer relations. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts about how you think customers show similar traits to children. If you think otherwise, I will be glad to hear from you too.

Keep thinking!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Value is in the Eyes of the Customer

The Subjective Theory of Value states that value of a product or service is based on the subjective importance of it to an individual. You can read more about the details and economic theory behind this on the link here.

Lets look at this theory in the light of customer relationships. There is evidence all around us that the value of certain relationships is different from customer to customer. Where one will value a social network presence of an organization more than visiting their physical office, others will have a different opinion.

So by implication, when dealing with customers, we (as an organization) are dealing with the subjective importance they have given to us at that time. It is important to mention time here as well. At this point of time while on my laptop, I assign higher value to self-service online tools as opposed to when I am near my bank for example. How often have you gone to an ATM and thought I am going to use my mobile app to check my balance? (If you said anything but "never" here, I want to hear from you!!!)

This all makes sense... but how can an organization control the perception? What can an organization do to remain high in importance for the customer?

We have been taught that you need to segment your customer base and address each customer demographic's need, whether it is by providing better service, individualization, or other techniques. It has been ingrained in us that the way to delight the customer is to go above and beyond what they expect from us.

Well, that has some truth to it. But what is the "above and beyond"? Who sets the bar?

Guess what... "The customer".

The value of any engagement is a subjective matter which as an organization you have no influence on. As an organization what you can do is facilitate the engagement, make it easier, make it memorable. But it that was enough is something that you have to leave to the customer to decide.

So the beauty of your organization lies in the eyes of your customer. What will you do to attract them? Marketing you say? Does marketing have a big influence on the "beauty" of your customer engagements?

Think about it....

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Making Customers Smile

A lot of us know that we do our best work when we are happy. If there is stress or tension, we generally either try to avoid the situation or choose the least challenging avenues to get the work done. Those are not always the best pieces of work, they are generally just mediocre.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Is your organization "human"?

Relationships are personal. Some more than others, but none-the-less quite personal. Similarly, buying decisions can be personal. It is not necessary that I will go out and purchase the cheapest and most positively reviewed product. I may spend a few more dollars to get the product from a local store, or a store where I like to visit, or an online store that accepts my PayPal account. The reasons are un-ending, the irrationality behind the reasons is constant though. But I digress, I will surely touch on this in more detail in a later post.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Golden Rule and the Customer

Recently, I read a post from Don Peppers, talking about what it would take to make a genuinely trustable airline.  In his post he refers to the Golden Rule, "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you." That sparked a thought in my mind about how we treat our customers today.

Do we really follow this rule? A bigger question is, do we need to?

Monday, August 5, 2013

How Close are Tomorrow's Gadgets?

Today, I am going to talk about something slightly different to the regular Customer Management related posts.

I recently read about two completely different technological innovations coming into the market which got me thinking about gadgets of the future. The first was Leap Motion's recent launch to the consumer market. The second was a discussion about screen sizes on smartphones and tablets.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Customer Experience Innovation: Does Innovation Require a Framework?

Recently, I shared an interesting article, on one of the social network sites, that I had read about Customer Experience Innovation. Among the comments that I got, one was regarding organizations going about customer experience innovation by requiring employees to simply "do it". Without a framework or a business plan or strategy behind it.