In a recent post on HBR’s blog, Matt Dixon and Lara Ponomareff wrote about “Why Your Customers Don’t Want To Talk To You” (http://bit.ly/bQMZFr). They use examples of airline customers who go straight to kiosks at airports rather than to empty ticket counters and banking customers that go to ATMs rather than into the bank to interact with a teller as examples of customer not wanting a relationship with a company.
I do both of these things, as well as use the self-service check-out at my grocery store because it’s more convenient for me. Not to mention it’s less expensive for the vendor to serve me in this manner. If I didn’t already have a relationship with the airline, bank or grocery store I don’t think I’d trust their alternative distribution channels. I certainly wouldn’t be familiar with them, they’d be less convenient for me to use and I likely would not use them — it would not be the most efficient way for me to do what I needed to get done.
Customers want relationships with product and service providers on their terms and that’s what airlines, banks, grocery stores and many other businesses are providing. I want to be able to talk with a real person with some knowledge and authority if I have a question, suggestion or complaint. I want what I want when I want it and its up to the service provider to figure out what that is. I didn’t know I wanted self-service check-out but I’m sure glad my grocery store offers it.
I often suggest to clients to find out what their customers or prospects want to know and also ask them how they want to find out about it. Do they want a phone call from a sales rep, collateral mailed to them, information via the web.
By finding how customers want to find out about your products and services, you’ll find a great deal of differentiation and opportunity for segmentation. You have to provide customers with options to keep them satisfied. If you don’t they’ll find someone who will. But you also need to have a relationship with that customer if you want them coming back to you to fulfill their needs time and again.
If customers don’t want to talk to you, it’s likely because they don’t have the need to talk to you about what they’re trying to accomplish at this time or they’re pressed for time. They are not saying they never want to talk to you or give you feedback.
Don’t stop trying to have a relationship or dialogue with your customers. Don’t stop gathering consumer insights. You want to be there when they’re ready to talk. If you’re not, they’ll go to someone who is.
How do you engage consumers?