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Move your customers to where you want them to be

23rd Nov 2022
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Customer strategy results in some interesting questions. Recently, Claire Hillman, a listener (and viewer of our new YouTube channel) asked us one she has been mulling in her strategic planning: Should I move to where my customers are or move them to where I want to be? 

It’s an interesting question. My knee-jerk reaction is to say, where they are. It’s a customer-centric answer, and we know how critical customer-centricity is. 

However, what if where you want to move them will actually be a better experience for them, even if it isn’t where they are this time?

Consider the time before the iPhone. We all used flip phones and phones that had little keyboards that popped out and stuff, and we were happy with that. We packed it with our digital camera and our MP3 player before we slid the laptop into the bag and headed out to enjoy all our mobile freedom.  

If someone had explained an iPhone to us, we might have listened, and some might have understood the benefit right away without even seeing it. However, the majority would probably regard the iPhone explainer with skepticism that a phone could do all that and that it was worth it to give up what we had now. We wouldn’t have seen the benefit and would have carried on with phones you only see television drug dealers use today.

So, knowing what we know now about the iPhone and other smart phones, wasn’t it a good thing that Apple and other technology companies moved us to a new place? 

Another example of a service that we might not have seen as the benefit it is to our self-interest is self-service at the grocery market. Recently, we had these added at the market near me. I love this kind of stuff, so I tried checking out using it. However, I had questions about how to handle the self-check-out when buying a cabbage since it didn’t have a barcode. 

The employee that helped me with my cabbage problem explained that I had to look up the item and then showed me how. While doing so, she said, “When I am training people, this is how I tell them to look for things.” So, before, I would have queued up at the check stand, put the cabbage on the conveyor belt, and the checker would have punched in the code for the cabbage. Now, I was a customer getting “training” by the store on how to do it myself at self-service The super market was moving me to where they wanted me to be instead of where I had been. 

Don’t Forget To Keep What People Value

But is self-check-out the same amount of a benefit to me the iPhone is? Or even is the iPhone the best option for all customers? The answer here is that it depends on the type of customer I am. Customer Segmentation dictates that some customers will LOVE self-check-out, while others will be indifferent, and another group will hate it. So, it’s essential to remember that when undertaking any moving of customers to where you want them to be. In some cases, if you move them too much, they might just move on.

Therefore, when you are deciding whether to meet customers where they are or move them where you want them to be, it is critical to consider what the value is for that customer of doing business with you. 

Most people prefer the status quo. Customers usually prefer not to make changes and do things the way they have always done. They don’t always have the vision a company does. Henry Ford one said if he asked customers what they wanted they would have told him, “faster horses.” 

Meeting the needs of customers while you move them requires you to manage change so customers can join you at this new, faster-horse experience customers never imagined. The change itself might feel painful, but once you get the customers over that hurdle, there's a whole host of new benefits to discover.

Consider these better-than-a-faster-horse experiences that we customers have moved to:

  • Electronic bill pay (or even automatic payments) versus writing and mailing checks
  • Digital check in on mobile devices for flights rather than waiting at the agent’s desk 
  • Streaming movies and music rather than purchasing physical copies
  • Sending and receiving money online rather than cash
  • Ordering something online and having it delivered to your home rather than leaving your home and delivering yourself to a retail center to get it

Not surprisingly, these experiences are digital services or facilitated by the internet and/or iPhones. These are also easier and have many benefits for customers. However, we didn’t know that until we tried it. Now, we can’t imagine wanting to go back to the old way of doing things. 

So, How Do you Manage These Customer Migrations?

As I mentioned, change is not something many people are excited to make when it wasn’t their idea. Customers do not like to feel like they are losing anything. Therefore, you should frame it properly for them.

For example, my wife detests upgrading her operating system on her phone. I recently upgraded to iOS 16, the new operating system from Apple for the iPhone.  When I did, I watched some videos on YouTube and learned some of the new features and how to use them. Then, to get Lorraine to do the same, I show her on my phone a couple of things the new operating system does that she could gain if she upgraded. Then, after she sees that she can have pictures of the grandkids rotate on the home screen, she will go ahead and upgrade, too.  

Now, I don’t show her everything the new iOS can do; she wouldn’t give a hoot about most of them, anyway.  However, by focusing in on a benefit I know she will like, the one that matters to her most, I can get her on board with the change. By holding back on ALL the features, and focusing my efforts, she decides she wants to get the iOS update.

Same goes for customers. Are you making the effort to explain the advantages of a couple of focused, valuable features or throwing them all at the customer? It does make a difference in the response you get. Even if we choose to move them, we still need to meet customers where they are first.  

Meeting customers where they are also means remembering what mindset they are in. I have mentioned before the two different systems that run our decision making, the fast and emotional Intuitive System and the slow and logical Rational System. When your customers are hanging out in the Intuitive System, they are focused on what “feels” right. So, persuading these customers requires an appeal to emotions. Plus, framing it as a quick decision, a last-minute add-on, if you will, might also be successful.

However, sometimes customers have more cognitive resources available to them in the moment when they are hanging out with the Rational System. In these cases, you can resort to facts and figures to convince them to move with you. Plus, you can frame it as something they can spend some time with, so customers can concentrate on what you are telling them.

Meeting customers to move them is something that can happen on multiple levels. The more you know about their cognitive state at any given moment in an experience, the more success you will have in providing a suggestion that can move them where they should be even when they weren’t thinking of making a change. 

So, What Should You DO with this information?

Organizations should consider these options and make a deliberate and strategic choice. Ultimately, the needs of your customers should drive the decision either way. People often make buying decisions to solve a problem. So, should you solve a customer’s problem at the surface level by meeting them where they are, or should you look deeper and find out how to resolve this problem before it forms? If you choose the latter, it might require moving customers rather than meeting them.  

Once you do decide to move customers, it is essential to invest in training for customers. Like the supermarket that helped me buy cabbage, you should have a person there to help customers navigate the change. 

Also, measurement is critical. You need to see if your efforts are successful. Plus, the new experience will likely need some refining. Testing will show you where you are succeeding and where the opportunities are. So, if you're moving from customers from one place to another, then you should learn from that. Test it out, study the results and commit to making the necessary changes.

Plus, don’t forget your customer segments. It is imperative to understand your customers from a behavioral standpoint, not just from a product standpoint. Recognize that early adopters will move towards that change and others need more time.  

Kudos to Claire for bringing us such a great question to discuss. I don't think many organizations consider whether to meet customers or move them. Many firms just do what they want to do and expect customers to show up. However, a deliberate strategy to meet customers’ needs by either meeting them or moving them is a better way to go, which results in more revenue showing up in your bottom line.

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