The positive experiences we had as children never stop calling to us from within. Our inner child whispers, “Come back. Let’s relive those moments. Rekindle those feelings”
As adults, we either drown out that whisper in ourselves and others, or we serve as catalysts to turn up the volume. Businesses who serve as latter for their clients are much more likely to thrive in an era where customer experience reigns.
This week, I noticed random adults (young and old) that I know personally write or say the following…
I just saw a commercial for an easy-bake oven.
I feel like I’m five again.
It’s not everyday I am reminded of Herman’s Hermits.
I keep that Ultraman action figure in my office to remind me
of what it felt like to discover my first hero – and to want to be one.
Ok, in fairness, the last quote is mine. The first is a 20-something who just had her first child. The second is a successful businessman who is several years my senior (I’ve never heard of Herman’s Hermits).
The point is, all three of us want the same thing – those elusive but enchanting childhood feelings that still manage to resonate from somewhere deep within, recaptured by stories, symbols, and experiences.
What are those enchanting childhood feelings? Though impossible to reduce and quantify completely, I believe they all stem from four basic roots: wonder, trust, fun, and validation. If we proactively seek to provide our clients with these needs, they just may feel like children again and you just may have a lifelong customer.
Wonder encompasses those things and experiences that earn our undivided attention. They draw us in with awe and curiosity.I lived in wonder as a child while hunting with my father. What made our hunt unique is there were no weapons involved – just a metal detector and two small, flathead screwdrivers. We spent Saturdays in schoolyards or old courthouse lawns, sweeping the metal detector back and forth until that delightful beep occurred. In an instant, I was on all fours with the flathead, poking gently until I felt it – something solid.With a few graceful maneuvers that left no trace of digging, I would manage to pop out an old coin, its silvery surface still shining beneath the smudges. After clearing away the dirt, I would search for the date and mintmark and announce it triumphantly to my father, who by this time was already on his knees exploring the next find.Could those childhood experiences have anything to do with my chosen profession – working for an auction company that sells more rare coins than anyone in the world? You bet it does. And now I’m passionate about passing on those feelings by ensuring that our client portals have quality search mechanisms in place (the metal detector), accurate, informative, and easy-to-use search results pages (the flathead exploring under the surface), and high-quality images/videos and descriptions (the climactic removal of the coin from the ground).
Wondrous customer experiences can change an enemy into a client.
Since the dawn of the personal computer, I was a Microsoft guy. But when I became fed up with the PC’s inability to help me make quality home movies, I bought the smallest MAC mini I could buy just to try iMovie at the suggestion of a friend. Just opening the package was enchanting. The movie-making experience was incredible. Today – I’m all Apple.
If you are still skeptical that wonder can drive business, here’s an example. An investment firm explores the strategy of a portfolio containing collectible comic books.
Collectors should try to anticipate which characters are going to have significance in the future, he advises. For example, what will today’s 13-year-old want to buy in 20 or 30 years, when he or she has the funds for serious collecting?
The wonder of a 13-year-old today will drive real value in the future. The 13-year-old in your clients is driving real value today.
Children are inherently trustful – until that trust is broken by neglect or abuse. Your customers won’t trust you inherently until you demonstrate that you deserve it. And that’s not easy.Everyone in my home town called one guy The Bee Man. I called him Dad.Every Spring, the phone would ring. My Dad would answer, nod his head, and then say, “I’ll be right over.” He would hang up the phone, point at me, and say, “Why don’t you help me with this one?”My heart would sink. I knew what that phone call was about – somewhere in town, a swarm of bees had found a home in a tree. To the owner, the bees were a nuisance. To Dad, they meant another hive and more fresh honey. To me, they meant several terrifying minutes amongst killer insects.During the procurement of the swarm, one or more bees would inevitably find their way into my hair and down the back of my shirt. I would be paralyzed with fear, but my father would always say the same thing. “They don’t want to sting you. Don’t panic and don’t squish them. You’ll be fine.”I had two choices – trust my father or run, scream, and slap. As difficult as it was, I trusted my father. And guess what? Never once while working with my father did a bee sting me.
As the years have gone by, I have trusted my father with much more because he earned it.
Earn the trust of your clients. Always be truthful. Always deliver on your promises. And make sure at the end of the day that there is some fresh honey to taste in every product and service you provide.
Every kid wants to have fun. And so does every adult. Fun is that playful interaction between two or more people that know and trust each other and enjoy each other’s company. Know your customers. Earn their trust. And engage in positive play. For example, can you identify the map in the picture above? It is a powerful symbol for me – which is why I have it hanging in my office.The playful interaction that took place recently between a customer, Kit Kat, and Oreo was just plain fun. A fan declares that she can’t decide between Kit Kat and Oreo. Kit Kat challenges Oreo to a game of tic-tac-toe to see who will the customer’s heart. Oreo’s response is brilliant, completing the trifecta of play and leaving all three players in the win column.Social media banter in the right context is one way to engage your customers in fun. Another is to leverage the power of gamification where it works for your business. Nike is advancing forcefully in this arena. Maybe your business can, too. When done correctly, gamification can be fun while simultaneously helping clients meet specific goals…To achieve success for companies starting in gamification, the first design point is to motivate players to achieve their goals – and those goals should overlap with the business goals. – Brian Burke
Your customers need to know that you know them and that they are worthy of your time, effort, and attention. This is where most companies fail most visibly. And it happens because the customer is not part of the mission statement. When customers are the mission, the CRM software design and the customer service staff and processes will all align to provide a 360-degree view of who the clients are, what they want, and every touch point they have encountered.My first year in the majors of little league baseball were terrifying. I wasn’t a strong player, and in one particular game I went up to bat at a critical juncture. I glanced at my parents who were sitting faithfully on the sidelines. My fearful eyes were searching for some form of validation. I feared they would find nothing but disappointment, because I had stood in this exact spot so many times before and struck out. My mother made a fist and said, “Hit that ball!” My Dad was leaning forward in anticipation. I felt encouraged. I tapped the aluminum bat on the plate and formed my stance, facing the pitcher with determination.As the first ball came across the plate, I swung the bat hard. I felt a satisfying connection and kept swinging. The ball sailed high and I ran fast. The ball hit the fence, but bounced back into play. I managed to make it to third and stood there, reveling in the cheers from the sidelines. On the next play, when I scored a point and returned to the dugout, every player surrounded me to congratulate and thank me for that hit. It saved the game.That validation was crucial for me – both the validation from my parents before the hit (and in spite of my past failures), and the validation that came after from my teammates. It changed how I looked at the game of baseball. It changed how I looked at myself.
When you know your clients and you understand their needs and you go out of your way to meet those needs, they will recognize your service and respond with loyalty and social campaigning (even if you never see it).
Reevaluate your mission statement and make sure the customer is first. Get your CRM software working in concert with your mission. Train your people and establish processes that fulfill your mission. And remind everyone daily that the customer is why you exist.
We recently auctioned a six-sheet movie poster from 1942 for the movie Casablanca. The poster went for much more than expected – over $100,000. Though I can only conjecture as to the motives that drove the spirited bidding, I think the bidders may have been trying to recapture a feeling by owning a large and colorful symbol of a fascinating story. It is the story of a man who did for the girl he loved what every business should do for its clients – he looked out for her first and sacrificed his own interests for hers and others. And he said something to her that perfectly summarizes the message of this article…
Here’s looking at you, kid.