Customer experience is mentioned so often nowadays that it risks becoming a buzz word. Often enough, companies use digital tools to improve this as they employ targeted personalized marketing, surveys, detailed cohort analysis, split tests to confirm with numbers what is it that clients prefer etc. And yet Euromonitor International points out in its “Top 5 Digital Consumer Trends in 2020” report that “Trust is in short supply”.
As a consumer I feel like the weakness is in the fact that whilst experience is becoming more personalized it is made so by algorithms; it is personalized but it is not personal and often times there isn’t engagement. In my opinion, the companies looking for long term growth have to dedicate resources to actually knowing (some of) their customers by meeting them in person. As the saying goes, “numbers are people too” and notwithstanding the valuable insights brought by the detailed analytical tools available today, there is so much statistics can miss out.
As Martin Linstrom nicely puts it, “if you want to learn about animals don’t go to the Zoo. Go to the Jungle”. When talking directly to the customers you have the opportunity to understand their problems better, to hear what they value, to learn about how they get motivated and how they decide. You are likely to find commonalities that will help you in your product development, positioning strategy and in your marketing efforts.
There is a trick though: you have to be trained to ask the right questions, read ALL the clues and listen to what the customer is really saying. It is not uncommon to notice that customers might not know what is it that really determines to buy something. Neuroscience has been used to proven that and Neuro Linguistic Programming can also come to the rescue. The words one uses are not chosen randomly; it will give you clues as to how they process the information and it will show if one is for instance proactive or not, motivated by avoiding losses or by gaining something, taking decisions based on external motivators (eg influencers, experts’ opinions, reviews etc) or independent judgement etc Even if one will just shrug their shoulders and say “I don’t know, I just do it”, you might get useful non-verbal clues such as eye movements. Learn to read those and to follow-up with questions that uncover what are the client’s values, his/her beliefs around these values and his/her thinking patterns.
Companies can offer personalized services without knowing the customer whilst personal services necessitate an understanding of the human being who is you customer. Personalized marketing can surely support growth and yet getting personal comes with extra benefits: customers can become your ambassadors, relationships are built and loyalty is established as they experience more than the short-term satisfaction that comes from personalized service.
My advice as always, seek to understand before being understood.