Providing good customer care is not enough anymore. Any company can huff and puff together a good customer service, but to be able to stand out in the crowd you need to go for more. You need to surprise your customers. You need to make your customer EXPERIENCE amazing. How do you do that? How do you go from good enough to outrageous great? I want to write about customer care today, but I need to tango with some other topics as well to make my point.
The Changing World of Economics
We need to start with human behavior in history, and I hope you will enjoy this journey. I want to take us back to 11.000 B.C. all people of all continents where still hunter-gatherers. Their motivation where deeply linked to providing food, shelter and protection, their motivation where about producing safety and avoiding danger. We started trading about 9000 – 6000 B.C. And money came along in form of shells about 1000 BC in China. There were suddenly more to life than survival, all this change motivation a bit. Now you could grow wealth and riches. Before you knew it, we where dependent on money to survive. What is happening now? A lot of people are making enough money, so the need to make money for the sake of survival is no longer present. (This is sadly only true about our part of the world)
The Changing World of Needs
As we developed from the stone age our needs also changed accordingly. We went from pursuing our basic needs of survival. As we moved up the Maslow pyramid we also change our cravings, goals, needs, motivation. Today we are getting close to the top of the pyramid we care about self-actualization. We care about knowledge and higher learning, or going back to basic farming. People are intelligent and seek other joys and money is not a driving force any more. Money is still very important but we do not need all the money we get so this leaves room for choice. There is no necessity that drives us, but choice.
Algorithmic vs. Heuristic Industry
We are also on the same time moving from mostly algorithmic routine work, do this, get that to heuristic dominance in the business world. This means that we are changing from doing routine work in factories to doing more and more thought based jobs. Even customer care is no longer routine work. Open markets and competition change routine customer care to creative and imaginative customer care. Everybody can make a product, price a product, ship a product, fix a product, this is the algorithm. But since we are moving away from buying out of need and now act out of choice or fun the algorithm of customer care fails. Customers now shop for experience. I have still not experience any of my friends explaining to me the necessity and functions of an iPhone. But they have showed me the cool stuff on it. (I am still in the practical need behavior jungle of cell phones, does it get me connected? Well I am happy.)
The Changing World of Human Behavior
Even the way we look at work change. I do not need to take you back to the Stone Age now. Think about your great grandparents. Think about your grandparents. Think about your parents. Think about your kids. They all seek out different needs. My great grandparents were given a piece of swamp land, and needed to turn this land into fertile grounds. My grandparents followed this life quest and ran a farm at first with no electricity and no machinery. They experienced an extreme change of living standard and my grandmother is still alive and 91 years old. She is still doing her best at everything she does. Her generation managed to save money and assets so their kids could inherit. They had high work ethics and still driven by necessity so they do not replace stuff because it is not cool anymore. They replace or even fix things if it is broken. So our parents were born into a higher living standard and could focus more on education taking it one more step up the Maslow pyramid. And today we are raising kids in a consumer driven market where you need to replace stuff that work fine with things that are cooler and more fashionable. Kids move out of their homes having parents being able to buy them a place to live or at least give them good financial aid. Young kids expect to move out and obtain their parents high living standard at once, neglecting the fact that this was build over generations. They get a flying start with no true financial hardship. The work force of today is born and placed on the top of the Maslow pyramid.
So What Challenges do CEO’s Face Because of This?
Imagine being a successful business man all your life, you work hard for the money you became CEO at the age of 57 or you have been CEO for thirty years. This means that you educated yourself when modern behavior psychology where at a toddler state. All the generations you have been leading where different than those of today. Some of your new employees might be fresh out of school and already financial secure! They work with you for other reasons than money. What good will bonuses do? Why don’t they work as hard as you once did? Their motivation is different. They want fun, challenges and meaning. They need to feel appreciated and they need to feel that they evolve. They are heuristic workers and they dread routine work.
The Challenge of Excellent Customer Care
So now you know more about history and human behavior. What does this do with customer care? Humans shop for experiences and feelings today. What rational thought explain buying an iPhone? What rational thought explain the need of a 60” LCD flat screen when your old Sony 29” 90 kilo huge box from the mid 1990’s still work? Your need is to watch television, your experience is to make the movie theater feeling at home and you raise your status amongst friends as well. Why does not every single person in the world use the cheapest telecom provider? Why do you not shop grocery at the nearest store? Why do you go to the megastore? Experience and freedom of choice!
Now you know what your customers crave, how do you provide this kind of service to your customers? If you fail to motivate your staff, do you believe that they can provide good customer care? Companies need to realize that their employees are just as evolved as their customers. The employees look for meaning, experience and challenges in their jobs, they need to be proud as well. This raises a need to care about their employees. The paycheck is no longer the ultimate force of motivation. They can get equal or better pay with competitors, they even go to competitors who pay less if they feel more appreciated.
I am happy to see that google is displaying the shift necessary in business by providing:
425.000 hits on Employee Retention Programs
420.000 hits on Customer Retention Programs
But if you remove the word program from your search you will get
892,000 hits on Employee Retention
1,830,000 hits on Customer Retention
Is there still more focus on the customers? When will you change? When will your competition change? Do you want to be first?
The Needs of your Employees
Your employees need love, they need appreciation, they need friendship, and they need to evolve. They need to feel respected. They need a career plan; they need space and freedom to think for themselves. They need to be provided with the tools and trust to provide excellent customer care. You need to make sure that your employees are happy. Carrot and sticks does not work, bonus payments do not work. Meaning and Purpose is the main driving forces when it comes to employee retention. Visionary leaders that can create meaning and purpose are the once that will succeed now and in the future. Think about this: Why are people drawn to non-profit organizations? Why are people willing to work for free? Why are free open source programs dominating? Why are people willing to develop advanced computer programs on their spare time for non-profit open source companies? It is rewarded with a purpose and meaning, it is fun and challenging. Create purpose, meaning, fun and challenges in your business and motivation will flourish, customer care will go thru the roof.
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