>Beginning with the "More" in Customer Relationships


The first interaction with customers is awkward. How do you interact with someone you’ve never met before? You want them to be impressed. But what is it exactly that they want?

Hopes and Expectations

That varies with every customer, of course. Usually there is a difference between what they expect and what they get. Well, maybe that’s wrong… Rather, most of the time customers usually get what they expect, but less than what they hope for. Occasionally though, they get more. And that’s what you’re shooting for.

Not more in the sense that you want to give them some sort of gift for finding you, but more in the sense that you surprise them with your approach. The typical business practice is to design the experience to move customers through the sales cycle: “How can we get them on the path to buying something?” To be certain, customers do come to you because they want to buy something. But what they don’t want is to be treated like a herd of cattle being rounded-up toward the cash register. It’s probably what they expect, but it’s not what they want.

The Awkward First Interaction

Take, for example, the typical greeting in a retail store: “Can I help you?” What this really translates to is “Can I sell you something?” That’s why the typical response from customers is… “No, I’m just looking.” Which is a bunch of bull, of course, because people don’t just jump into their cars and drive around to random stores to look at stuff. It’s a customer defense mechanism because they know the store is looking for a transaction, while the customer is looking for something more.

And that’s what you have to focus on, that “more.” What is the more your customers want? A relationship? A wow experience? Or simply not to be treated like a prostitute would treat a John?

Real Customer Appreciation

What I think is missing from most customer experience design these days is appreciation for the customer as an individual. We think of customers as this group of people who might buy something from us. Lack of appreciation for customers as individuals, and the “more” they want from businesses, produces shallow relationships. It’s why true customer loyalty is so rare and why there are so few examples.

Here’s how to avoid shallow relationships: with depth. But you can’t wait until after you sell something to offer depth, it starts at the very beginning. So now think back to the very first interaction with customers. How can you reconfigure the introduction to your brand? How can you communicate that your customers will receive more from you than just a receipt? What’s the “more” in your relationship?

Additional Reading On Customer Relationships:
Restaurants Miss The Point of Valentine’s Day
When Does a Customer Experience Become A Gimmick?
How To Get The Customer Relationships You’ve Always Wanted

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