Business has a tough time using a word like “love”. They get really close with Customer Relationship Management, One-on-One Marketing, and Affinity Products. Yet, when it comes to advertising, love is exactly what’s being sold, and it smacks more of the eros than phileos.Advertisers want you to fall in love with their service or product. Gratification of buying impulses – it’s exciting and energizing! If you doubt this strategy is at work, just look at the “intimacy” of ads these days. Do you really anticipate the handsome or beautiful stranger at your doorstep because of your choice of pizza or selection of toothpaste?
Long term and loyal relationships aren’t anchored through the satisfaction of buying, but through the process of owning and the ongoing encounters with the people who support the product or service you acquired. Phileos: it’s the next level of interaction.
It was bound to happen. The lines between relationship and marketplace have crossed again. Remember when there was only one neighborhood store and you walked in and knew the storekeeper and he knew you? The multitude of selection per product category didn’t exist. It produced an interesting balance of relationship recognition —Good Morning, Mrs. Richards, what will it be today? — and the marketplace practicality — I need a pound of sugar and a dozen eggs today and that’ll be all. A semi-formal and genuine relationship co-existed with the business purpose of buying goods and services making up the elements of the balance.
Little House on the Prairie? No need to go back that far. In the 1950′s and 1960′s in my
The corner drugstores have disappeared, and in their place are 100,000 square foot superstores, shopping malls, and internet surfing with a world of choices at the touch of a “press any key”. The transition from the corner drugstore was also accompanied by a rapid increase in the pace of life due to science and technology. It may have been an asteroid that did in the dinosaurs, but if we get just one more phone number per person for any reason — voice mail, pager, cell, home, office, toll-free, fax, private line — the world could come to a complete halt!
Technology’s complexity promises us simplicity and delivers it at one level and fails us at another. We can get a tremendous amount of work, data, and information moved in a flash. In the same flash, we discover we are more connected digitally than relationally. Ah, yes, the relationship. Phileos.
And the swing to rebalance returns. It was bound to happen again. Fact is though that the majority of us don’t shuck our toys and move to the mountains. Some do. (For a gut-check and a great read, check out the book, First We Quit Our Jobs by Marilyn J. Abraham for a real-life tale.) We’d rather keep every gadget, cell phone, PDA, the DSL and stay connected but also regain the qualities of the relationship.
Advertisers tell us to fall in love with their products or services. We do.
Companies give us access to call, e-mail and chat. We do.
See it coming?
When consumerism began in the 1970′s, it was new and cool and expectations were achievable. They always are at the beginning of something new. We’ve now had 30 years of experience encountering good and bad service. The expectations started slowly. Then crept higher and higher, and in the past decade have gained tremendous momentum fueled by the use of PCs and internet access.
Where I used to compare one grocery to another grocery or one product with others in the same product category, I now take the best service I’ve ever received anywhere, or product I’ve purchased from anyone, and it becomes the high water mark in my mental database. Everything is compared to that experience or purchase. If the clerk at the gas station can smile and wish me a good day, then my banker can do it when I call with a question! If the airline reservation rep can make a bad situation bearable, then the customer service rep at the newspaper can care when I call because I didn’t get my morning paper!
If I can get instant information from a search engine, then the manufacturer of my living room couch with a lifetime guarantee and a website ought to be able to answer my e-mail without some insidious auto-response that completely demonstrates a failed attempt at relationship management, and then make it worse by taking 5 more days to respond! Auto-responses that attempt to give personal service and solve problems too often equal a non-response.
When you ask technology to masquerade as personal attention, you’re on dangerous ground. You might impress me once when the reply seems to instantly pop into my e-mail inbox. That glow is soon gone when I read how far off the answer is from my question. I quickly figure out the attempt to impress me. The mask is off.
The next level of interaction will not be achieved through a technology solution. The next level of interaction is a SOUL-ution. Where are the contact points between customers and organizations? Yep … it’s us. Consumer Affairs,
The relationship requirements for today are straightforward. One is complex, and one is simple. The complex requirement is the knowledge base it takes to understand the customer, record their history and have it available on-demand. That is CRM from the tech side. It’s a big task bringing together years of customer history residing inside various legacy systems into one, handle-it-all, software program that everyone can understand and use.
The simple requirement, however, is too often overlooked.
The simple requirement is people. People who make the moment of contact not only a marketplace practicality — I need a pound of sugar and a dozen eggs today and that’ll be all — but also the experience of relationship recognition — Good Morning, Mrs. Richards – what will it be today?
The simple requirement, which can seem difficult, is soft skill communications. It’s combining the information exchange (the transaction) with all the human factors (the interaction) to create a POSITIVE EXPERIENCE. And you want the experience I have with your organization to be the one that rises to the top in my collective personal database by which all others are measured. The author of each experience, one call or e-mail at a time, is the staff in your contact center. In order for your customer to experience the next level of interaction, Phileos, your frontline people must understand each encounter at a new and deeper level. The challenge of the next level of interaction resides with them.
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