Meeting At The Peak

A black and white photo of a mountain in Hawaii.
A black and white photo of a mountain in Hawaii.

Brands that think of buyers first get to the top.

Look around the world we live in today. Consumers have the most choice – and the most voice. As marketers, we walk around every day as consumers, remaining close to their reality. But all too often, brands think of their audience allegorically, from a distance, as shaped by customer profiles and averages, losing the ability to assess real people with real perceptions and experiences.

I consider myself a pretty loyal customer to the brands I like. I graciously allow them the ability to send information to me through various channels, knowing they have my purchase history and some type of idea of what I like. When I think about how much I rely on my phone, social and email, this is a pretty sacred space I’ve allowed brands into. So, you can understand why it drives me insane when I get pushed (and pushed and pushed) deals for travel when I’m already booked with them or products that I’ve already bought. As a consumer, my expectation is that you’re going to add value to my life if I let you into it. Show me you know something about me. Treat me like more than a number on a flow chart. Otherwise, the gates I previously opened to are going to shut. Fast.

As a consumer, my expectation is that you’re going to add value to my life if I let you into it. Show me you know something about me.

Taking the journey from their perspective has provided us with key insights that have transformed customer experience to form connections on a deeper and more meaningful level.

Every moment with your customer is important because we live in a world where everyone has an audience. Social media has made it all the more important that experience design doesn’t just meet, but exceeds the expectations consumers have. Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahnemen introduced the idea of the Peak-End rule in 1993, identifying the theory for how we actually experience an event oftentimes being different than how we remember it: The Experiencing Self vs. The Remembering Self.* We’ve all done it – a great experience seems way more amazing when you’re reliving highlights over cocktails. And a bad experience really settles in when you’re recalling the pitfalls. With the aid of social media, these high and low experiences are forever immortalized.

By walking in the customer’s shoes, you can identify ideal opportunities to connect with them, encourage their loyalty and convert them into advocates, maximizing the opportunity for positive peaks in their memories. For example, is it operationally necessary to provide complimentary bikes at a hotel for guests to explore the city they are staying in? No. But does it create an unforgettable experience for customers and sharable moments that allow guests to market on your behalf with far more credibility than you could pay for with an ad? Absolutely. And does it cost you a little time and effort to provide your most frequent customers with a hand-written note and small gift thanking them for their loyalty? Sure. But do the ten additional future purchases they are going to make with your brand, and your brand alone, gain you far more? Yep.

Brands know it costs more to acquire new customers and we know that the large majority of our bottom line profits come from a small portion of the most loyal of them. So let’s stop ignoring the opportunities to think beyond the sale and create real experiences for customers that drive more loyalty and affinity for our brands. If you ask me, integrating that “soft branding stuff” definitely feels good, but the hard dollars you’ll add to your bottom line by focusing on these key customer opportunities feels way better.

*The Habits of Travel Bookers: The Psychology of Customer Experience, Skift + Boxever, 2015