Welcome to 2018! We are excited about the sparkling opportunities and shining moments that lay ahead. We believe this year will be remembered in years to come as one in which people in the world of work embraced the spirit of transparency and honesty in customer service – consistently providing customers with a unique, unexpected and transparent customer experience throughout their journey with your organization.
Customers today are Picky–more cautious in their choices (and they have many more choices) and interested only in getting obvious value for their money. They are Fickle–much quicker to leave if unhappy. Customers today are Vocal–more apt to rapidly (and loudly) register concerns with their higher standards for value and their expectation of getting a tailored response.
This Picky-Fickle-Vocal moniker represents a dramatic shift in what is required to ensure customer loyalty–the stuff of growth and profits. That shift has resulted in customer requirements for value being very out-of-sync with the tried and true methods organizations have relied on for years. And now, for the big kahuna! Today’s Picky-Fickle-Vocal customers are also wired. Today, internet connections, whether blogs tweets or other forms of social media, have five times the impact of traditional word of mouth. Recent research from Customer Relationship Magazine states “68% of online users check out companies on social media before buying. That means customer reviews of your organization have a very significant impact on new customer buying decisions. Do you know what your customers are saying on social media about your organization?
Customers are favorably attracted to organizations when they get an emotional connection. This means organizations who build trust and ensure all customer interactions are heart-touching encounters filled with spirit, caring and a positive attitude. Whether in line, on-line or face-to-face, customers recall the experience long after they’ve forgotten you met their need.
The Delta regional jet was packed. As the flight backed away from the gate, the flight attendant began her ritualistic safety spiel about seatbelts, sudden turbulence and smoking. She ended by saying, “The flying time to Grand Rapids will be two hours…no, it will be an hour and a half…no, actually, I don’t know.” The cabin erupted with laughter and applause.
What jolted the half-asleep plane-full into cheering? Unscripted, raw honesty! We all loved her confident authenticity!
We grow up hearing “honesty is the best policy.” As adults, we hear half-truths portrayed as honesty. Politicians keep secret the number of paramilitary civilians fighting in a trouble spot to disguise the true size of the military engagement–a number the public would not tolerate. The super low price loudly advertised comes with fine print describing a rebate only claimed with a pound of paper work. And, when we hear the radio ad end with a super-fast talking guy rattling off all the exceptions and contingencies, we know we are not hearing raw honesty.
Customers love honesty. It shortens the distance between people. It frees customers from anxiety and caution. It triggers a connection with the humanity in each of us. And, in that space we are quicker to forgive, more tolerant of error, and much more accepting of, “Actually, I don’t know.” Honesty is not a “best policy.” Honesty is a “best practice.”
What are your customers telling other customers and prospective customers today about your organization’s integrity?
Best wishes for a fantastic 2018!
Chip and John
Portions of this blog adapted from Wired and Dangerous: How Customers Have Changed and What To Do About it by Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson (SF: Berrett-Koehler May, 2011).