For the sake of a better title, I decided to call this one the “moving edition.” As some of you know, I am in the process of moving. One of the things I have learned about this “process” is that there are a lot of people who actually seem to know more about the move than I think I do, thanks to the power of social media and Facebook. Questions persist about “what kind of granite” did you use, and what was your experience with this company, and how did you find that vendor or would you build with that builder again? This is the referral/influencer information that we are all trying to value through sites like Klout and other forms of contextual valuing/analysis. I will address this more in next week’s column. 

More people seem to know about my move than I thought, and that can be attributed to the fact that I put everything on the “book” (Facebook), yet rarely look to see what others are putting on their pages. I am probably not as responsive to the varied posts/responses as I should be. I think this is a challenge that all brands are focused on understanding. We recently had a wonderful post (Customer Service: Why Wiping Your Nose Won’t Cure Your Cold) that addresses this issue. I think that is a time constraint thing as well, yet the impact of social media as a listening/communication device continues to grow.

Also, I also have learned to be careful what I post regarding negative experiences -- the challenge in explaining the experience being perceived as negative can be taxing. Yet what/who brands should be responding to is quite challenging – evidenced by several conversations I’ve had with CMOs.

The Opportunity of the moving class:

Given the turmoil, angst, and other issues endemic to moving, it’s also a great time to genuflect on customer experience, engagement, and loyalty -- or the drive toward loyalty.

We all know the travails that are associated with moving, yet brands are missing a very unique time to engage with and build a unique utility-based rapport. Brands have the ability to understand the disparate and unique needs of this group (expectation matching redux) and deliver unique experiences. We all know we get the change of address card that lets merchants know we have “moved” and it leads to a constant stream of direct mail cacophony, yet most of it is ill-suited at best.

I have had several encounters with brands and vendors during this process that have been challenging (where I will never use them again) and some where I have tried/re-engaged with a brand that has taken time and effort to understand what I am looking for, engaging in a manner that will make me a more loyal customer going forward.

The challenge, as always, is to understand the temporal needs of each situation and have the empowered workforce and workplace to address it. 

The challenge of pricing a one-time “service” and the lack of transparency.

One of the things that has become quite clear during this move is that “price” is as flexible and varied as one can imagine and I think vendors try to look at certain inputs to make price models work. Yet as a recent article on startups in HBR mentioned, the ability to listen to the customer and understand the UNIQUE value and utility the individual places in the service and price it accordingly is challenging.

We talked about this in a recent white paper with Acxiom (The Loyalty Divide) -- the ability to understand disparate data sets that may impart insight is critical. Using “old school” marketing processes to try and engage with an audience does not work. Acquisition, in a consideration of long term, should be genuine and reciprocal. Yet one-time services – like installation of a ceiling fan -- are tough to price.

If one assumes that an individual is willing to pay a certain price, the challenge is they may not actually be willing to pay that price; therefore how can/should they engage/respond? Organizations need to process the ancillary data points to make the informed decision. When I was trying to get these fans installed, I asked repeatedly for a quote over the phone, and I was told they need to see the “layout” of the house. I was a bit perplexed as what the layout has to do with the installation of the fan, yet they did not relent. I figured what was the harm, as “they would not do anything without your approval.” So I figured that if someone is driving 30-plus miles to install a couple of fans they would have incentive to price it right and knock out the installation.

Ask one additional question – the “zero moment of truth.”

This vendor (a subcontractor for a larger retailer), who knew the challenges that I was having getting the fans delivered, came to the new house, witnessed it was in a “nice” neighborhood, and proceeded to quote me $185 to install a fan. We all know there is a continuum of value and convenience, and others in my neighborhood may have paid that price, yet to ME (a little cheaper than most) there was no way I was going to pay that price. Thus began the haggling process at which time I was not in the mood to partake.

The vendor made an assumption that I would be willing to pay that price based on the perceived urgency I had with regard to getting them installed. If the vendor had asked, “How important or what is the urgency of getting them installed?” that may have helped resolve the situation. Or, “How stressed is your wife” with the disarray that you find your house? Well, the answer would have been “not very,” so that would have hopefully priced it accordingly. One additional question would have helped immensely.

So this vendor drove 30 minutes (each way) and did not get the sale. It seems to me that a little more upfront “digging” would have assessed the value that I would have been willing to invest. Brands need to better understand this paradox, yet I suppose that 90% of my neighbors may have paid that price, and at $100 I would have as well.

The challenge of listening  - weekly edition.

As we touched on a couple of weeks ago (pre-move) -- and the recent edition of HBR touches on this – there is a challenge to everyone to truly listen and hear. I was recently asked why I said that “mobile is creepy” in the context of my opening remarks at Loyalty Expo 2013. I actually reviewed the tape and as I listened, I thought I had said: “In discussions I have had with several large retailers they felt that mobile had the highest opportunity, yet also has the highest creepiness factor.” This was not something I said, yet this is the challenge (as discussed in the last piece) of listening to hear what you want to hear versus listening to hear the unique objections/opportunities in the market. We all need to listen more effectively. 

Written By:  Mark Johnson, CEO, Loyalty 360 - The Loyalty Marketer's Association

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