If you took Psych 101 in college, you’re likely familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the notion that we are motivated to achieve certain low-level needs and when those are fulfilled, we seek to fulfill additional needs at higher levels. Think of these as the “Nice to Have’s” (e.g. happiness, wealth, prestige) above and beyond the “Need to Have’s” (e.g. air, water, shelter). [I might argue that happiness is a Need to Have, but you get my point.] Customers have a hierarchy of experiential needs, and what used to drive customer satisfaction has become, well, just satisfactory.
A good product at a fair price and a timely response to email/voicemail are basic consumer needs, and they are no longer good enough. “Good enough” no longer resides toward the bottom of the pyramid. Customers have come to expect you to meet their very high needs every single time they interact with you. Every. Single. Time.
You need to know what your customers desire from you and strive to over-deliver at the retail point-of-sale, during a customer service phone call, in your email communications, through printed marketing materials, social media, etc. All these touchpoints matter, and they matter all the time.
Here are five things your customers need at each point of connection with your brand:
Your message needs to be relevant. I’m not talking about making sure that your red-only-drinking wine club members never receive an email about Chardonnay – that’s segmentation, which stems from relevancy. “Why should my customers care about this?” is a question you need to answer with every interaction. Customers want to know what’s in it for them, and the challenge you face is figuring out what it is they care about in the first place. It might not be the same things you care about.
For example, a family-owned winery dating back several generations might wish to share its rich history through photos on the wall and stories told at the tasting bar, or through their emails and wine club newsletters. Maybe this winery even built its brand on the “family-owned” message in its early days and is proud of their success. But perhaps its customers don’t care about this. Perhaps they are interested in the winery simply because it’s conveniently located and has awesome bocce courts… and the wine is pretty good, too. The point is, find out what your customers are interested in, and be interesting to them.
2. Ease of Use
Instant gratification is what it’s all about these days. Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. We’re getting lazy. We no longer want to spend 5 minutes reading about something we can watch in a 30-second video. We don’t want to be faced with too many options; our decision-making process needs to be quick and painless. So your job is to make it (it being everything) easy for your customers. It should be easy to find you on Facebook and “Like” your page. It should be easy to find a product on your website, add it to my shopping cart, and check out. It should be easy to have a good time chatting with your staff and say “yes” when they ask me to purchase. It should be easy to tell my friends how much I enjoyed your product. Don’t lose me because you’ve made to the process overly complicated. Make it simple for me to take action.
Customers want quality. Quality of the product, yes of course, but they want to see quality radiating from everything you do, and in a consistent fashion. I’m a die-hard PC girl, but I own an iPhone and an iPad, so I’ve consumed at least some of the Apple “Kool-Aide.” Apple has quality nailed. They exude beauty, creativity, desirability, serviceability and innovation through their products, in their retail locations and online. You get the same highly personal and customized experience whenever you interact with Apple.
Customers want to know you are a quality brand – committed, honest, with values and integrity, and they are willing to pay for these things (a $600 phone?!). You have to make sure that when a customer uses all five senses to experience your brand, he or she is receiving the very best you can give.
You don’t have to be a “value” brand (read low-cost) to provide value. In fact, if you provide too many things for free or at a discount, your customers won’t respect you in the morning… You simply need to provide a feeling of “this is worth it." As Warren Buffet said, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” Value goes hand-in-hand with quality because customers are willing to pay – once and over and over again – for things that make them feel good. So what are you doing to make your customers feel good?
Be grateful. Be humble. Say thank you, and offer a smile. Look me in the eye. Customers want to be recognized and appreciated. They also want to be heard. They want to see that there are humans behind your brand, and that you see them as humans, too. Write thank you notes or emails. Conduct surveys. Respond to positive and negative reviews. Listen, whether you owe an apology or not. Take customers seriously – they may not always be right, but they [should] always come first.
#TakeAction: Pick one of your customer touchpoints and evaluate its relevancy, ease of use, quality, value and level of acknowledgement. My guess is you’re probably not optimizing at least one of these areas.