Human nature hasn’t changed much in 2400 years. Since the times of Aristotle we have tapped into basic human traits to stimulate behaviours, in ourselves and in others. In 1936 Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People and it became a best-seller, spawning an industry. Can customer relations be improved by understanding and applying those same drivers? Absolutely…
All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, desire.
– Aristotle (Greek philosopher – 384 BC – 322 BC) –
How do you nurture, in a customer-base, the habit of dealing with you? Your first instinct is a loyalty program; everyone loves being appreciated. One problem… today a loyalty program is a given. What will differentiate your program? Your products? Sure, but (be honest) in your customer’s mind there is often a negligible physical difference between products. Continue to learn from Aristotle… foster passion and desire! These concepts are critical in projecting physical differences into two powerful dimensions: emotional and psychological. When done right customers develop Fierce Loyalty.
Aristotle might have grouped most initial customer interactions as chance, and you cannot survive on chance alone. How will you take advantage, spurring chance into recurring actions? Start by demonstrating how you are unique and special, remembering to also demonstrate that the customer is unique and special too! Passion often starts from a small spark of shared perspective. Now introduce your loyalty program, allowing you to show off what could be another key differentiator – your online presence.
For many companies their online site remains static and flat: company history, products, philosophy, executive prof…. [Zzzz]. Instead of passion and desire they have most likely incited a profound sense of – to quote the vernacular of today’s youth – meh. A corporate website today should accomplish so much more, not just informing but engaging customers in ways just not possible in-store.
Upon registering online I am joining a group with at least two things in common: a relationship with you and your products. Anytime a group with commonality forms an interesting human dynamic happens… they become a community. Communities instinctively draw us closer together, and provide opportunities for engagement. You can present one-to-one personalized communications and offers. You can conduct polls and gather reviews. You can provide forums and blogs. Communities present members with a voice, informing you both of what they believe you are doing right and, perhaps even more importantly, wrong.
For those with a community already up-and-running, and a growing membership, you may think you can now relax. You’ve brought together people with a common interest, given them a place to gather and a forum to communicate. The community will thrive on its own, right? Initially yes, but your job is only just beginning. Community owners need to set in place strategies that will continue to promote and reinforce community behaviour and engagement. Fresh and compelling content can always serve this purpose but an increasingly popular feature that can be used to propel community activity is Gamification.
Wikipedia defines Gamification as “the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context to engage users”. Khan Academy, an online education site, utilizes lots of game mechanics, such as “skill-growth trees” to unlock new classes and learn new skills. Learning is “work” to many, but Gamification changes work to play. Many members have reported that they couldn’t imagine themselves ever enjoying or being good at math, but now their world has changed, thanks to some great teaching skills by Khan, and a little bit of Gamification. By employing this strategy on your site – tracking member progress on set goals (reviews, fundraising, or even completing a profile), facilitating competition and cooperation via scorecards and leader-boards, etc. – you provide the ‘spark’; human nature will take over from there.
Humans are social creatures. Community interaction allows us to create bonds, even over virtual channels. Developing bonds, through meaningful interaction and communication, has a direct impact on feelings of happiness. Happiness results in a closure of a feedback loop – with loyalty to your brand. Building up a viable online community is not easy. It requires a corporate mandate and buy-in, with long-term planning and commitment. But the end payoff can most certainly justify the investment!