Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair with Your Customers

The Transformational Consumer

It’s time to rethink what you sell. And your customers. Don’t forget to rethink your marketing, your competition. And, don’t forget your teams.

That’s the message from Tara-Nicholle Nelson, author of The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair with Customers by Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier and Wiser. She is the founder of Transformational Consumer Insights and the former VP of Marketing for MyFitnessPal, where she led the team that grew the platform to over 100 million customers.

 


“The best..measure of innovation is change in human behavior.” -Stuart Butterfield

 

The Growing Demographic

What are Transformational Consumers? How is this changing company strategy?

Transformational Consumers are a massive and growing group of people who see all of life as a series of projects to change their own behavior for the healthier, wealthier and wiser. They know that this behavior change will be hard, but they believe with all their hearts that it’s possible, and they believe that they can change anything about their lives if they can master their own habits and behavior.

So they are constantly on the lookout for products, services and content they think might help. They are early adopters, and they tend to have great influence on the buying behavior of the people around them.

I like to joke that if you have ever been vegan and paleo at different times in your life, you’re probably a Transformational Consumer. Most entrepreneurs are Transformational Consumers. The head of product for Airbnb once told me that they see both their hosts and their guests as Transformational Consumers.

One important takeaway here is that this is not a niche: over 50% of US adult customers we surveyed said that they use digital or real world products several times a week, or more often, in an effort to reach their healthy, wealthy, wise goals.

The power of this framework is that it offers businesses a lens through which to more powerfully understand the real-world journeys their customers are taking as they aspire to live better lives. And that shows you how to increase customer engagement, brand love, loyalty and repeat business, as well as reach new audiences. Once you understand your real-life customers’ real-world journeys, that surfaces limitless opportunities to innovate new products, features, services and even marketing messages and content that remove resistance points and trigger progress along customers’ paths.

 

Rethink Your Customer

How do companies go about rethinking their customer?

Your customers are not just the people who currently buy your product or your current social media followers. I urge companies to shift to the point of view that their customers are all the people out there who are struggling with the high-level, human problems that the company exists to solve.

Go out into the real world, do customer research, watch how people operate in real life. You can even start this process by just doing some online listening on the blogs and social media sites (not your owned channels) that your audiences frequent online (reddit, etc.).

Your goal is to understand and, ideally, visually map out your customers’ real-world journeys of going from having the problem you exist to solve to no longer having that problem. You need to know what stages they go through along their journey, what gets them stuck and unstuck, where they go to do research when they need to know or find something and what words and phrases they naturally use as they try to reach their goals.

 

 

Remove Resistance

Tell us more about resistance. How do you remove it?

Think about it: Anytime you try to level-up your life, whether it’s trying to reach a weight loss goal, to work out more, or to start a side business or meditate every day, there’s a force that pops up in all of us that Steven Pressfield and Freud both call Resistance. It’s the same force that creates procrastination, causes us to get distracted or to sabotage ourselves. It’s generally the force that makes it really, really hard to make behavior changes stick.

In your customers’ journeys toward their healthy, wealthy and wise goals, Resistance includes any sort of quit point, obstacle, friction or common point of failure. These are the things that get people stuck. There are tons of spiritual, emotional, psychological and neurological root causes of Resistance, but suffice it to say that people often know what changes they need to make; they just find it very difficult to actually make them.
This creates a major opportunity for companies to win the love of the people they serve by focusing on removing Resistance.

You can remove Resistance from your customers’ journeys by creating features and products that take friction out of their path, by reducing the difficulty or cost or number of brain cycles they have to go through to create the habits or changes they want, or by inserting progress triggers into their real-world journey.

For example, at MyFitnessPal, we learned during customer research that one of the biggest obstacles (points of Resistance) that people experience along their journey from living an unhealthy life to living a healthy one is the cost of eating healthy food and the difficulty and time involved in cooking healthfully. So every team in the company explored how they might help remove those Resistance points. When it came to content, for example, we created all sorts of recipes and meal plans for feeding a family healthy, home-cooked food on the same budget we learned people were spending on a fast food family dinner ($20). We also created all sorts of video, recipe and meal-planning content to reduce the time and increase the ease and deliciousness of our customers’ home cooked meals.

 


“If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right.” -Jeff Bezos

 

Rethink the Competition

Lessons from United Airlines: 6 Steps For When Your PR Fails

Leadership Lessons from United Airlines

 

The minute the video starts, it’s obvious it will be explosive. And it sure has been. It has now been viewed millions of times around the world: A man is forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight.

Most of us are offended that the man was treated like this, bloodied as he was hauled out of his seat and dragged down the aisle. Most of us have also had our share of experiences with airlines, and this hits a nerve, like a final straw breaking the collective back of the paying passengers. We’ve been hit with baggage fees. We’ve been told, “No, you can’t have the whole can of soda.” Blankets disappeared ages ago. We’re scanned, wanded, searched, and pushed along through a system full of weary travelers with suspicious glances. Our flights are canceled or delayed for hours—always, it seems, the minute we arrive at the gate, harried and exhausted from running, of course.

Watching this man pulled off so brutally, we ask, “Why was he pulled off the flight?” The answer doesn’t make us feel any better: so that United Airlines could use the seat for a flight attendant.

A customer, obeying all rules, who the airline boarded moments before, who was sitting in the seat he paid for, was chosen at random for removal.

He didn’t want to get off the plane, and so the scene escalated.

Defenders of the airline will point out that this is not only legal, but then they point to his behavior during and after the incident. They will also point out that it was security, and not airline personnel, who removed him.

My law degree is decades old, and I’ve been an inactive member for too many years to weigh in on the legal issue here except to say that it’s far from clear.

 

Make the Right Choices

What’s clear to me is this:

United apparently chose policy over principle, chose employees over customers, chose to save a few dollars only to lose millions.

 

“When in doubt, choose principle over policy.” -Skip Prichard

 

Worse yet is when you remember United’s motto: Fly the friendly skies. Maybe the friendliness only starts when you’re airborne?

Many PR disasters seem to worsen just when you think the lowest point is reached.

And that’s what happened when the CEO stepped in with his comments. He sent a memo blaming the passenger and defending employees, saying that they were following existing procedures. He called the passenger disruptive and belligerent.

Did he apologize? He “apologized for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

Re-accommodate? The man was bloody and seemed to be unconscious!

Only after outrage about his comments exploded online did he change to become “outraged” himself about the incident. His tone has now changed to apologetic. Yesterday he softened them further and even said it was a failure of policy and training. At least the tone is improving.

The minute I saw this video, I said the obvious: This is going to be a PR disaster for United. They better have a full crisis team working on it. When I saw the CEO’s comments, I said to a group that this would now make PR history. It has found a place in marketing classes where these types of mistakes are prominently featured. It may well be mentioned along with other great PR blunders like BP’s spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 10 minutes to ruin it.” -Warren Buffet

 

What can we learn from this entire mess?

 

 

Lessons from United

I’m reminded to always look on the positive side of things. That sentiment was shared by Andy Imbimbo, who posted this:

So many people are posting about this guy being dragged off a plane. I can’t remember the last time everyone has been so…….United!

 

“So many people are posting…I can’t remember the last time everyone’s been so..United!” -@AndyCoolBeans

 

That’s a great point. We are mostly united against this behavior. In a politically divided nation, it has shifted the conversation from politics.

Meanwhile, the public relations problem for United reminds me of how each of us can handle our screw-ups, mistakes, and errors in judgment. I’ve made my fair share, too, though thankfully not at all like this one.

Here are a few leadership lessons from United’s….well, to be kind, should I say “lapse in judgment”? 

 

Avoid

If you can avoid a problem, that’s always the first step. It wasn’t necessary. The employees could have driven the few hours to reach their destination and prioritized the customers. United could have offered a higher amount of money until they had enough volunteers. Why allow all of the passengers to board and take their seats if you didn’t have enough seats for them? There are a number of ways this could have been avoided.

 

“Never respond analytically to a problem growing emotionally.” -Skip Prichard

 

Admit

Here’s my rule: Never respond analytically to a problem growing emotionally. Pointing to policies and legalese will satisfy only a small percentage of the public. Most people want you to connect emotionally and sincerely first. No excuses. The language initially used made it worse. “We apologize that we had to re-accommodate some passengers” was such an emotional miss that it fueled the fire of an already outraged public. Always great to think of Molly Ivins. She once said, “The first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.”

 

“The first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.” -Molly Ivins

 

Apologize

Apologies are not as easy as they may seem at first. I learned this especially from the research of Jennifer Thomas and the book she co-wrote with Gary Chapman. There is a specific language of apology. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to improve their communication, but PR departments should take note.

 

“Genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.” -Jennifer Thomas

 

 

Assess

Do Your Customers Get a Standing Ovation?

This is a guest post by Chip R. Bell. Chip is a keynote speaker and author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.

Give Your Customers a Standing Ovation

I smile every time I think of one of my favorite clients from a number of years ago. What made it fun was a visionary, high energy CEO. The company’s sales came through a retail catalog mailed to customers who then placed orders largely via a call center. It was also a time the company elevated its emphasis on their customers’ experiences, not just the merchandise their customers purchased.

One component of the “voice of the customer” initiative was to hold a focus group session with a group of customers who were chosen because they had recently bought and/or returned merchandise. The first focus group was attended by all of senior leadership, including the CEO. At the end of the session customers were given a gift, and while they got a tour of the large distribution facility, the executives who watched the focus group worked on ways to translate insights gained into actions or, in some cases, a wakeup call to get more customer intelligence.

 

“Neglect is more dangerous than strife; apathy costlier than error.” -Chip Bell

 

The highlight of the focus group session was inviting the customers at the end of their tour to have lunch in the employee cafeteria. Prior to their arrival, word was quickly passed that a group of customers were en route to the cafeteria. As they entered the large cafeteria, the entire room erupted into a lengthy standing ovation. It was powerful and affirming!  And, in the words of one employee in the room, “This makes my challenging work worth it.”

In the following weeks, my conversations with the CEO revealed a fascinating discovery.  The standing ovation became a metaphor for the sprit conveyed by the call center employees. Instead of, “Smile more on the phone,” or “Listen more to your customers,” it became, “Give your customers a standing ovation experience.”  It was code for unmistakable valuing and obvious affirmation.

 

“Great relationships are fueled by affirmation.” -Chip Bell

 

The Power of Appreciation

3 Unconventional Ways to Provide Stand Out Customer Service

This is a guest post by Monika Götzmann. Monika is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global sales training and customer experience company. It specializes in customer service coaching.

Customer service can have a decisive role in the success or failure of a business. In fact, an American Express survey found that 59 percent of people would try a new brand for a better customer service experience, while 70 percent are willing to spend more with companies who provide a great service.

 

59% of people would try a new brand for a better service experience.

 

Unconventional Yet Effective Customer Service Training Tactics

Here, we look at three unconventional customer service training tactics to help your business stand out:

1. Customer Service Training for Everyone

One highly-effective, yet unconventional, tactic is to insist that everybody in a company undergoes customer service training, even if their role is not directly linked to delivering customer service.

Perhaps the most notable example of this is Zappos, who insist that every recruit goes through four weeks of customer service training. The result is that all staff members, even in corporate positions, have first-hand experience of dealing with customers and can better understand their needs.

 

“Customer service is not a department. It’s everyone’s job.” -Unknown

 

2. Understanding Basic Consumer Psychology

Another unorthodox customer service training method is to focus on consumer psychology. Although people are all different, there are a number of behaviors and thought processes that are fairly typical for all consumers. According to Harsh Vardhan, writing for “YFS Magazine,” some of the fundamental customer traits are as follows:

  • When given a choice, customers generally pick the easier way
  • Customers want reassurance or solutions as quickly as possible
  • Pricing is not so important to loyal customers

Teaching your reps these basic concepts can allow them to deliver more satisfactory customer service.

 

“The customer’s perception is your reality.” -Kate Kabriskie

 

3. Playing Devil’s Advocate to Your Own Products

Customer Experience Starts by Ignoring Your Customer

This is a guest post by Dr. Tracy Maylett, Ed.D.. Dr. Maylett is the Chief Executive Officer of DecisionWise, an HR management and consulting firm specializing in employee engagement. He offers an intriguing viewpoint on providing great customer experience.

Want a Great Customer Experience?

Is your organization’s success dependent upon creating an extraordinary Customer Experience? Then start by ignoring your customer. No, really.

 

“If you want a successful customer experience, start by ignoring your customer.” -Tracy Maylett

 

Throwing resources at your customer experience does not guarantee a transformative one. You can redesign stores, roll out cool new products, and engage customers on social media. You can implement every form of customer satisfaction measurement known to man. There’s nothing wrong with those steps. But without employees who care, a beautiful store is just a pretty shell. A sparkly new product is just another new release with a limited lifespan—if it even makes it out of the production room.

Without people engaged in their work, where are those cool innovations coming from? Where are the people who care about the superlative customer experience? Don’t get me started on the dangers of having jaded staffers interacting with customers on social media.

 

“Throwing resources at your customer experience does not guarantee a transformative one.” -Tracy Maylett

 

It All Begins with Your Employees

Creating a strong customer experience is like gardening: hoping and measuring won’t give you the results you want. Gardening requires tending to the components that create the desired outcome: using soil amendments, watering, and weeding. The gardener can’t do much more than that. But, assuming it’s done well, the odds of a solid harvest are high.

Growing a successful organization works in the same way. Success comes through quality products, stellar customer support, prudent financial decisions, great leadership, and employees who personally care about delivering an extraordinary customer experience. When an organization can create a top-notch Employee Experience, the likelihood of delivering a superior customer experience increases exponentially.

The opposite is also true: When employee experience is poor, the customer experience will reflect it. We call this the “Law of Congruent Experience.”

 

“When employee experience is poor, the customer experience will reflect it.” -Tracy Maylett

 

THE LAW OF CONGRUENT EXPERIENCE:

Employees will deliver a Customer Experience that matches their own experience in the organization.