customer experience

If you’re serious about customer experience you should strive to get married and make metaphorical babies with every one of your online shoppers. Now, I’m not condoning bigamy here and I acknowledge that actually trying to marry any of your customers crosses a professional line. And I realize my lead sentence was a bit creepy. That was intentional. But the message is this: good customer experience has a lot in common with successful dating.

Think about how you acted when you met your spouse, if you have one. If you don’t have one of those, think about how you acted when you really liked someone. You probably gave a lot of thought to what the other person wanted and how you could make them happy. If you were successful, chances are it’s because you considered them instead of just being all, “I think you should know all these things about me and here’s why I’m awesome.” If you chose the latter method and you’re still single, email me. I have some advice for you.

From what I remember of dating, there were two types of guys: the ones looking for relationships and the ones looking for, uh, well, ya know. The guys looking for the former (like my now husband) would ask questions about me. They’d be curious to know what I wanted so they could deliver. The guys looking for a quick fling talked about themselves a lot. They were selling. Telling me why I should be interested instead of asking what I needed.

But one-sided, “I think you should know this about me” is what we do as marketers all the time, isn’t it? We spend time crafting features and benefits statements. We talk about our value proposition. We point out the differences between us and our competitors. We are talking to our customers like we are trying to get them in the sack, not like we are trying to marry them.

So let’s examine some of the ways that good customer experience is like dating with a relationship in mind.

You Have to be Looking for the Same Thing

Just like the dating pool, not all customers are looking for a relationship. Now, as ecommerce marketers we would all love our customers to be loyal as hell and committed for a lifetime. But sadly, some customers are just into convenience. They just want to hit it, get what they need, and move on with their day. A minimal customer experience is probably all they want or need.

Your goal as a marketer is to find the people who want the same things you do. Find the customer who also wants 2.5 kids, the house, and a dog with a ridiculous name. Those are the customers you should nurture through each stage of the journey. Use your customer experience to woo them until they’re a repeat customer 20 times over who tells all your friends you’re the best thing that ever happened to them. (In online retail, that is.)

First Impressions Matter

How do you plan to get married if you never get the first date? When someone comes to your site for the first time and immediately encounters a usability issue, they won’t be back. It’s the customer experience equivalent of a first phone call or coffee date gone bad. There are certain criteria a customer is bound to be looking for when they shop an ecommerce site for the first time. Your design, shipping policies, product pages, shopping cart and order communications all play a role. Screw up any one of these and you won’t get the second date.

So how do you combat this? This is a tough one for marketers because we generally look at our businesses through rose colored glasses. But you need to approach this from a customer point of view in order to assess customer experience. Can they find what they’re looking for? Do your product pages give them the necessary info to make a purchase decision? Could you help them better with a live chat agent or chatbot? One good resource for this is your customer service or sales team. What feedback do they hear from customers? If you have some budget, you can also invest in research with a company like UserTesting. They give you screen casts of real people attempting to perform given tasks on your site. This can help you with your blind spots when it comes to customer experience.

Showing Appreciation Earns You Opportunity

When my husband and I were dating he used to occasionally get me flowers (still does, actually) or other small gifts just because. It was a nice gesture, especially when the gift was thoughtful and related to something I liked or had an interest in. Like the time he surprised me with front row seats at George Strait. That man is a legend. (And surprisingly short up close.) Other times, though, he’d get me a gift he found interesting and completely miss the mark. Like the time he returned from a road trip with a Norwegian troll couple he found hilarious. I just found them creepy. You can see why…

The point is, if you’re going to give a gift it needs to be interesting or of value to the recipient, not you. While this is obvious in dating (most of the time) it’s a bit harder with customers. We think, “We should give our customers a special something related to X Holiday or Promotion Day,” and we give them something with our logo splattered all over it. How effective is your gift of appreciation if your customer throws it in the garbage? Because really. They don’t need another freakin’ magnet with your logo on it. Or note pad, or ink pen or stupid stress ball. Customer experience fail.

If you’re looking to incorporate gifting into your customer experience, I’ve heard really good things about Giftology by John Ruhlin.

Pace is Important

Imagine you’re on a date with a guy (or girl) and you’re giving them the speech about how you want to find the person you can be with for the rest of your lives, how you want 2.5 kids and a dog named Chauncey, blah blah, etc. etc. Said guy or girl across the table is really just there for a good time and now you’re freaking the ever-loving shit out of that person.

You’re going to have to be cool with casual flings from some customers. If they’re not ready for a relationship, don’t hug them so damn hard that you scare the crap out of them. Rather than shoving your relationship goals down their throat right away (“nice to meet you, sign up for our loyalty program!”), let them know you’re interested and give them the option to pursue the relationship further. After all, customer experience is about what the customer wants and needs. Not you.

Bonding Takes Time

Bonding, in terms of dating, is the process of development of a close, interpersonal relationship. It takes time, must be mutual, and is an interactive process. But brands and ecommerce stores can use this same process to develop close relationships with their customers. The cool thing is, thanks to hormones, ecommerce already has a head start. Why, you ask?

One of the principle drivers of monogamy in relationships, from a hormonal standpoint, is oxytocin. This hormone activates the reward center in our brains when associated with someone we love. It’s actually called the bonding hormone because it trigger a sense of stability and strengthens the bond with our partners. And guess what else triggers oxytocin. Shopping.

You know this principle without realizing it, especially if you’re a woman. There’s a reason we engage in “retail therapy” after a breakup or a bad day at work. Finding a great product and making a purchase trips the oxytocin switch and the reward center in our brains. The job of retailers is to build on that by using other pieces of the bonding process – self-disclosure, gifting, – things that would commonly be considered part of the nurturing process in business and marketing. Where can you inject oxytocin into your customer experience?

Not Everyone is a Fit

Imagine if you tried to date everyone. You wouldn’t do that in real life, would you? Instead, you’d look for the right people to date. Just like you should look for the partner (or customer) who wants the same things you want, you should also look for the partner (or customer) you can provide the most value to. While this is very common sense in dating, we have a hard time with it in business.

For example, let’s say Bob runs an accounting service. Bob has a long history of managing payroll for small businesses. Then, through a referral from a friend, Bob gets asked about doing taxes for an enterprise corporation. It would probably be good money but Bob doesn’t understand the tax intricacies of a big business like that and he’s probably pretty likely to fail. It’s not a fit. If you want to understand this more and haven’t already read Tribes by Seth Godin, check it out.

Your Reputation Gets Around

Remember that, just like in dating, your reputation precedes you in business. Especially in today’s environment with social media and reviews, you can’t treat a customer like a one night stand without the rest of the interwebs knowing about it. I remember back in my dating days I had a planned drink date with a physical therapist who sounded quite dreamy in his online profile. Over a morning break, I told a couple coworkers about it and one replied, “Run. I met that guy for a drink and he sent me shirtless pictures of himself for days. Super creep.” I canceled the date.

Ecommerce works the same way. Have you ever seen a “thinking about ordering this” post from one of your friends on Facebook? Of course you have. Do you read reviews of products before making a purchase? Of course you do. The experience your customers have with you serves as social proof for the rest of the dating pool. Good customer experience makes the rest of the internet want to date you, marry you and have those metaphorical babies we talked about earlier.

So how are you treating your customers? Are you trying to sell them into a purchase by talking about your company, your products or services? What are you doing throughout the customer journey to get to know them so you can ultimately serve them better? And perhaps the most important question of all, if you were an eligible consumer, would you date your business or pass?

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