Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Laureate
and the father of behaviour economic theory, described a principle
he named The Customer Satisfaction Treadmill. The faster we get it,
the faster we want it. The more convenient it becomes, the more we
realise just how convenient it could be. The more our unreasonable
demands are met, the more unreasonable they become.
Every time you go out of your way to
please a customer you are adding weight to creating unreasonable
demand. But it doesn't have to be this way: there has never been a
need for IKEA to include a carpenter in its flat packs. Because we
have been trained in regards to what we expect from IKEA.
An important force that shapes brand
strategy today is the threat of substitute products or services,
according to Professor Michael E. Porter from Harvard University.
This factor leads business managers to believe that loyalty should
be bought and included in automated programmes. With the entrance
of the social net where the individual voice suddenly becomes
visible, real-time support has become the latest trend. But how
smart is it to "be there, everywhere" for the customer? And what is
When someone shouts out into thin air
via Twitter, that something is wrong with your service or product,
and you reply without thinking through all the consequences and
possible snowball effects, you are about to embark on a dangerous
Are you really ready to fulfil that
demand? Are you going to be there for the customer, mountain high
and valley wide? If not, you'd better not please every whim that we
the customers express via these new social channels. Because most
likely my barking has no specific aim. It is more often than not,
an attempt to get attention from my surroundings, not you (the
product) specifically. I am saying you suck because I want
recognition from my friends. It is a modern game of "forget me
not". You just happen to be the content.
Many brands are now using Facebook as
a customer service platform. Ask yourself what the purpose and
consequence might be. Airline companies that deliver personal
flight services on Facebook are in fact creating a feeling of a
personal assistance that is massively missing when they get to
airport and on the actual flight.
As a secondary effect is that their
Facebook wall ends up as spam since everything is about 1:1
experience. They have lost a good tool for communication to many
people in their attempt to satisfy their customers' imagined needs.
Brands that take this route are repeatedly solving the same
problems over and over because the answer in not available as a
simple query for the customer. Most questions are repetitive and
basic. Things consumers should be able to find in a good database.
A good structured database. So the same message doesn't have to be
sent hundred times to different people on the same wall.
Even worse. You train your customers
that they can shout in the woods and be heard. There are online
platforms that actually help customers without creating increased
demands on the brand.
Getsatisfaction.com, a community-based
support platform, gives fans of companies and their staff a place
to share their knowledge of certain products or services so the
pressure on customer support decreases. Swedish music service
Spotify has done this with great success. Spotify's customer
community routinely receives more than 100.000 visitors per week.
This traffic provides support to Spotify's 10 million registered
users, and helps the Spotify team remain lean despite an exploding
Random acts of
Treadmilling isn't only about support.
It is first and foremost about creating situations where
expectations are adjusted without a specific purpose or strategy.
Business owners tend to spend more time looking for threats than
opportunities. Jumping if the angry Twitter mob says their new logo
is ugly. Considering the general public's level of knowledge the
process of logo creation I am certain that one should be cautious
about making such decisions based on ephemeral popular demand.
Here is what a good business leader
should do. Monitor and track conversations on the web with a
suitable social analytics tool. Acknowledge the frustration on the
subject publicly. Find out if the 99,99% of customers who did not
join the mob like your logo or not. Ask your employees. If the logo
is liked by the silent majority, then fight for them. That will
earn respect from the mob over time. And give you something to talk
to fans about: The actual reasons why you run the business the way
you do. By having an open and honest strategy most critique will
most likely become an asset.
This is what happened when JetBlue
(not an airline, but a happy jetting company) left many passengers
in a horrible situation during a blizzard some years ago. The angry
mob went ballistic on Twitter, media picked it up, and the
company's CEO put on the mad hat and made a YouTube video. He gave
a public apology but most importantly he made a promise on how
JetBlue would deal with similar problems in the future.
The next thing JetBlue did was make
sure that all staff members tried really hard to make every
passenger feel special. Not by replying on customer service
matters on Facebook. They actually state pretty clearly that they
don't respond to specific customer service issues posted on this
platform. Instead they perform random acts of kindness; like staff
members performing as an a cappella band at their JFK Terminal, or
instantly making their Caribbean flights freely available for
rescue workers from the US when the terrible earthquake hit the
islands in 2010.
Real human attention gives your
employees the power to become autonomic. This is how you make true
champions of positive customer satisfaction. Loyalty programmes,
and similar schemes, don't work as well as the human touch because
they create expectancy. When customers start to expect gifts or
bonuses they don't value them as highly anymore. It is bought
loyalty. We are running on the customer satisfaction treadmill.
Take it to the C
Customer service can be immensely
powerful for a brand if used correctly. Just ask Tony Hsieh of
Zappos.com, the CEO who built the world's largest online shoe store
by delivering happiness. To really understand the value of customer
service as an asset, all Zappos.com's employees are obliged to
attend customer service training in two of their first four weeks
of work, regardless of department and position.
All employees are expected to drive a
wow-effect through service. To make a lasting impression you must
do something above and beyond what's expected. Make someone smile.
But Zappos staff do this over the phone. Not via 140 characters or
less. Seeing a problem online does not mean it must be solved
The more I research customer service,
the more important the human factor becomes. This is about
humanising the brand or company. Our power as customers via the
social net will affect the business strategy of the core business.
This needs to be understood by the C-suite, the CEO and his
friends up there. If they don't see any danger in automating
satisfaction in measurable programmes or being present without
understanding why, for us the customers, treadmilling will
continue. That was key to the success of Zappos. com. Delivering
happiness came from the CEO. It was a core element of the
It is possible to love data and show
some love to the customer simultaneously. But only when a clear
business motivated strategy is in place, and not without a clear
understanding of what tools to use. Being service minded and making
sure that you help your customer is very important. But know when,
where and how. Why and with what isn't such a bad idea either.
So if you want to please me now, I
don't mind. But I didn't expect you to, before you just did so. And
now my expectations just went up a notch. Good luck.
Aimar Niedzwiedzki, Marketing
Entrepreneur, MediaCom Beyond Advertising.
Author of marketing blog tasteasreal.com.
THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS
EXPRESSED IN THIS DOCUMENT ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.