The time seems right for another step in making work of aligning company dynamics with customer behaviour. In a globalized, connected world, attention shifts from people knowing what you do, to experiencing what you do. Internet based access to information about companies and products has changed the game considerably (social media, review sites, competition across borders). Track record and credibility are now in the public domain. And the measure of engagement is connected to how a company behaves; on-line, in e-mails, through marketing and via personal contact. Customer centric businesses tap into the opportunities that are presented by aligning activities with the (at times irrational) behaviour of their clients, so that the customer journey turns to a positive experience.
Most companies understand that product marketing alone is no longer enough to convince customers to choose one supplier over another. Even if it concerns a specialised niche or highly commoditised product or service, it is the credibility of a supplier that makes the difference. This includes every touch point with a company. It all boils down to the ‘soul purpose’ of a company, its DNA and its consistent behaviour to match; internally as well as externally. It certainly goes beyond visual corporate identity and marketing communication alone. It is about the interaction between company and customer. And of all people involved in that process.
It does pose an interesting question: do all people in a company know how to interact with their customer base? Do they fully represent the company DNA and do they know who the customer really is, what triggers them and how they judge the business? In other words, do they understand the customer journey? Often still, we encounter employees who ‘just’ carry out a task and have no consideration for the bigger picture or the customer experience. This could have a serious impact on business performance.
The Power of the Persona
A product can offer everything a customer says it needs, yet, still, it is not being sold. A customer says he’s satisfied, yet, he does not come back for another purchase. Why is that?
Over the years, we have come to understand that humans are rational beings with irrational behaviour. Studies and scientific evidence show how rational thinking is influenced by instinctive decision-making. What our cognitive mind tells us is logic, does not always lead to an equally logic decision.
Specification sheets and price lists may provide all the right data. It may all be correct and presented in a nice format with a good design. This information is being processed by the rational part of the brain. It’s all about logic, facts and figures. The images, logos and colours that are being used to portray the product or services will largely be picked up by the intuitive part of the brain, where memories and emotions live. But the first reaction, the instinct, sits in a place where words have no meaning. This is the area where the “love it, leave it, kill it” response comes from. And it is exactly from that place, where the perceived irrational behaviour comes from. This is why a customer may say yes, but his actions say no. Regardless of logic.
Ideally, all people involved understand who the customer is. Maybe not in the literal sense as a CRM system ‘knows’ all the details of one particular customer (assuming such system is being used effectively). And not in the psychological sense where you’d expect intimate knowledge. But surely in the sense of understanding the persona; the archetypical description of the customer. Less than every little detail of every single customer, more than just a typical one-dimensional buyer description. The challenge is to have such persona reflect the actual situation, not merely have it function as a tool to justify a design choice in marketing material. Simply describing a persona and instructing the commercial staff to adjust actions to that 1-dimensional description is certainly not enough. The persona should have depth, taking into account the three influencing characteristics of the brain: instinct, intuition and ratio.
The MotivationScanner is a much refined Maslov model that incorporates understanding of the different levels of decision-making. The result of a Motivation Scan is a practical company vision handbook that can be used as the guideline for all marketing communication actions.
Securing that a persona is being used effectively and becomes an integral part of company behaviour across all departments and on all levels, is key to an alignment process. The goal is to take it outside of mere marketing and communication. It should not just be a guideline for commercial activities, it should become woven into everyday understanding of everyone involved. An effective method is to run a Motivation Scan, where customer behaviour is linked to the 5 main levels of company dynamics (product, service, relationship, strategy and vision). Similarly, customer behaviour can be linked to these same levels per department. Involving employees in the process of getting insight into customer behaviour, makes them aware and lets them contribute to the whole company dynamics.
The persona is the most powerful tool to start off with when working on an alignment process, as it allows everyone involved to understand what motivates a customer and where to improve touch points. When such persona is being used for decision making at every development stage and in every department, it will secure cross-departmental understanding of why a company does what it does. Almost automatically, every communication flow improves. It translates into setting the right expectations, both internally, as well as externally. The better a persona is crafted, taking the influences of the 3 brain areas into account, the more effective it will be.
In conclusion, the customers motivation to do business with a company is largely based on their first instinctive decision and a loyal customer is one where expectations and experiences match consistently and continuously. Satisfying a customer is a matter of doing the right things right, with the same intention across all touch points, representing the DNA of a company whenever it is in contact with a customer. This customer centric approach allows the transition from knowing what a company does to experiencing what a company does. This secures track record and credibility that makes a company stand out in our globalised, connected world.