Customers should be treated as people, not process

While knowing your customers’ preferences, buying habits and idiosyncrasies is important, some would argue that it’s missing the point. Judd Marcello, EVP of Global Marketing at Cheetah Digital makes the case in Forbes.com that “The Customer Journey Doesn’t Exist … So Stop Trying To Manage It.”

He points out, “Today, customers have more power, more access to information and more mediums than ever before. It’s nearly impossible for marketers to understand every single step for thousands or millions of customers. There are essentially an infinite number of steps and journeys that customers can go through. This has obliterated the idea of a single customer journey.”

Marcello adds: “Today, marketers are still trying to design the experience in a step-by-step fashion. If you are taking this approach, you are setting yourself up for failure because you are trying to predict exactly where the customer will go, putting them in boxes and measuring everything based on this process that you assume is correct.”

Then, he concludes: “Instead, marketers should focus on creating personalized brand experiences that offer a unique value exchange for the customer. Every time the customer engages with the brand, it has to drive affinity and attachment that keeps them coming back and will lead to greater trust over time. Rather than creating a journey or managing a journey, if marketers continuously deliver value, it will establish a lasting relationship. This is a paradigm shift from focusing on steps and communication at each step to creating solutions and value for consumers—regardless of when and where they are in their buying process. Over time, this will lead to greater emotional loyalty.”

In essence, Marcello is suggesting that we treat customers as people rather than process. This helps make the case that personalizing the customer experience is key to ultimate success. Instead of trying to appeal to, and manage, the masses through massive marketing campaigns, this suggests dealing with everyone and everything in the context of an ongoing relationship that continuously experiences new twists and turns.

Think marriage. A spouse who choreographs every action and reaction based on a “predictive model” may soon discover that it falls apart. Key to marriage success lies in the ability to deal with a spouse and find solutions in the moment based on a unique, timely set of circumstances.

While this person-by-person approach requires intensive and often expensive customer service commitments, it’s a policy worth pursuing wherever possible. And “wherever” can permeate every aspect of the customer service experience.

Let’s look at an area typically not considered part of customer service—debt collection. A company shows that a longtime, timely-pay customer suddenly has gone delinquent. Many collection policies mandate a predetermined process, meaning that this longtime, on-time paying customer receives the same treatment as a new customer in the same situation.

Impersonal, predictive modeling obviously isn’t delving into the circumstances of a longtime solid customer’s sudden issues. This is a case where the smart company will reach out personally and try to find a custom solution that shows the customer that he/she is valued. This will build loyalty and longevity, because that customer will see a personal commitment by the company that goes beyond platitudes.

This is the way that companies dedicated to stellar customer service will evolve, and thrive, in the coming decade.

As technology and customer expectations evolve, so will customer service practices and commitments. Every indication points to increasing emphasis on keeping customers happy to keep the business going. Companies that go all in will survive and increasingly thrive. Those that don’t, even the ones that are “too big to fail,” face major loss of revenues and ultimately, extinction. Given their consummate emphasis on total customer service, such companies as Costco, Amazon and Southwest Airlines likely will continue to soar. Behemoths like Comcast and United Airlines, on the other hand, will see their customer bullying tactics backfire and customers run for the exits.

Do you have customer service snafus or stellar experiences to share? If so, feel free to comment on this post or email your thoughts to mark@marklusky.com.

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Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.

Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage,  Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

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