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Stop treating your customers as customers – here’s why, and how

On a recent holiday with my family, whilst in a busy city centre, we stopped off for a quick lunch at a well-known supermarket with a food bar. At the checkout the cashier put my food container into a small paper bag, and then placed both inside a larger paper carrier bag. The same happened to each member of the family. Later, at the supermarket’s seating area we found ourselves juggling a large amount of paper at a small cafeteria table. The packaging in front of us seemed completely disproportionate to the amount of food we had bought. We wanted to eat, but we ended up dealing with waste instead; and even feeling guilty about it, as we’re quite an environmentally conscious bunch. This got me thinking.

Strategy

Nicolas Pergola

Senior Strategist

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Whose experience is it?

To my frustration, excessive packaging was inefficiently added to what should have been a simple task: to eat cheaply, and quickly. I was thought of as a customer, and treated like one. The supermarket with its established customer experience engine, threw things ‘at’ me. In an attempt to enhance what they thought to be a positive customer experience, it interfered with my personal one – causing a negative outcome.

Customers are people

Whenever I’m about to kick off a project, I refer to the jobs to be done framework to gain focus. This type of thinking is mainly used in innovation practice. It helps companies see beyond the norm when creating or improving products, services, or branded experiences. It’s aimed at capturing what customers are intimately trying to accomplish when buying or engaging with solutions. As Theodore Levitt, the legendary Harvard Business School marketing professor, put it: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole”.

Jobs to be done uses the job story tool to discover customer needs. They focus on context, causality and motivations instead of persona attributes.

In principle, the jobs to be done framework recognises the customer as an individual. It focuses on the person wanting to solve a problem, rather than the one wanting to buy something. That offers powerful insight and perspective.

Empower the individual

When you think of your target customers or users as people with personal goals, then you can begin to understand that the journey they go through to get the ‘job done’ is theirs, not the business’. At any given point, individuals might enter a branded space seeking to satisfy their needs, but hardly to buy a product as their end goal. Within their experience, the role of a brand is to enable the shortest path between the need and the solution, guiding the individual through actions and messages. In this sense, brands are a service.

A brand thought of as a service empowers individuals to shape their experience the way they need it to be, not the way the business wants it to be. Usually asking the customer about their intentions and providing options aligned to them goes a long way – mine were to eat at the supermarket’s seating area, I had no need for carrier bags.

Your job is getting their jobs done

The above applies to both B2C and B2B marketing. As individuals, we are driven by conscious and unconscious motivations at every moment of our lives. Our purchase decisions are based on emotion, more than we would like to acknowledge, as Omobono’s Head of Strategy, Simon McEvoy, has investigated.

Here there are a few basic principles -and illustrative examples- that you can follow to address emotional as well as rational needs to increase empathy and relevancy, to therefore help customers achieve their individual goals:

  • Understand personal motivations – look for the underlying motivations that individuals have behind pursuing their goals. Solid research sets the project on the path to success, so resources used at this stage are a great investment.

Jobs to be done-Naked wines-example

Naked Wines is a ‘customer-funded wine business’, where members invest £20 per month in exchange for discounted and exclusive wines. The company understood that ‘drinking good wine is enough pleasure in itself, but having a sense of relationship with the winemakers, that is beyond the purely commercial, adds something else to the experience.’

  • Shift focus – think of your brand as a service, as an enabler of a personal experience. Put your brand in action, and use it to provide cues, information and content for your customers to move along their journeys. Don’t throw your brand ‘at’ them, put it to work for them instead.

Bank of America partnered with Khan Academy to develop Better Money Habits, a content marketing portal aimed at improving customers’ financial literacy, breaking down barriers to service understanding and usage.

  • Give up control – work at helping individuals achieve their goals, not yours. Empower them with relevant options for action and let them decide how to navigate the experience enabled by the brand.

Instead of displaying an overwhelming list of items, fashion retailer ASOS put their products in context by providing style feeds, a curated collection of products, ideas, and advice based on different topics and occasions buyers can relate to.

  • More importantly, don’t lose touch – automatise processes, but don’t automate sympathy. People’s circumstances change with time, possibly affecting the terms of the relationship with your service and brand. Stay attuned to variations in personal motivations, and optimise your (automated and non-automated) actions and behaviours accordingly.

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Nicolas Pergola