If there’s something most companies have in common it’s that they all claim to be customer centric. We spend a lot of time and effort on customer centricity, meticulously designing customer experiences by studying trends and developing employee manuals to ensure our customers get the best experience. When 82% of retailers say they believe they provide a high level of Customer Experience, however, 72% of consumers disagree, it is somewhat telling that whatever we are doing today, quite simply isn’t working.
While there are many reasons we can come up with, one of the key causes is the lens by which we look at our customers is through the eyes of our brand and our product lines. We approach customers with an Aspirin looking for a headache, as opposed to striving to understand the customer’s context and desires. When we practice “customer centricity” at this level, it tends to have the opposite effect of loyalty. It actually drives your customers away.
Let me share a recent experience I had. I’ve been a Hertz Gold member for as long as I can remember. One of the perks of the program is that when you rent at the airport, they put your name on a digital board along with the location of your rental and you save time by not having to line up at the counter.
On a recent trip, I arrived at Hertz, picked up my car and drove towards the security gates so I can exit the parking lot. Normally, this is a very quick process where you show your driver’s license, pick up the rental contract and get on your way. Not that day. The line-up of cars waiting to get out of the parking lot spanned at least 25 cars in each lane. As the clock was ticking; 5-minutes, 10-minutes, 30-minutes, 45-minutes, my frustration, and that of fellow customers continued to grow.
When my turn finally came, the lady working the booth did apologize, and proceeded to ask me if I needed gas, insurance or a map for directions. I quickly realized this is the very thing that was holding up the line. When I politely inquired about it, the lady pointed at a flow-chart inside the booth and told me it was her job to take each and every customer through the process. I was just blown away. Here’s a company that obviously cares about customer loyalty and goes out of the way to maintain customer information and history, yet the entire value of the preferred customer experience was just ruined by spending 45 minutes waiting to get out of a parking lot? Likely because someone decided to institute a process so they can hit some sort of up-selling KPI.
If Hertz spent the time to understand that my context and desire was to get out of the parking lot as fast as humanly possible, based on the fact that I’ve never ever asked for a map, purchased insurance or the gas option, I would have been a happy camper (who didn’t have to explain why I was late to my meeting). Chasing me with an Aspirin, hoping I had a headache that day drove away a loyal customer.
We’ve been taught we need to tell “OUR” story or impose “OUR” process on our customers. We come to customer meetings with dozens of slides that discuss “OUR” corporate history and why we are the best before even giving customers a chance to speak. In reality, customers don’t care to hear our story. They want to be heard and understood so we can solve their problem. If we want to make progress, we need to stop the urge of inflicting our agenda on our customers and actually take the opportunity to practice empathy, ask questions and listen. Only then can we tailor the experiences and outcomes that our customer’s desires.
The next time you pitch a customer or prospect, ask yourself: “Am I just seeking someone with a headache, or can I truly spend the time to build a long-lasting and loyal relationship? One that will mutually help solve the many headaches to come.”