Steve Jobs said: “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need before they realize it themselves.” He did not just say that. He did it! He created beauty and convenience that transformed the human experience. We EVOLVED. And he helped us achieve that by knowing us better than we know ourselves. How did he do this? And what does it really mean to know your customer?
Let’s start with what it is NOT. It is not sending transactional surveys asking for feedback on an interaction they had with you. We are not saying don’t do surveys. What we are saying is do not stop at surveys. Seamless, frictionless travel experiences do not get designed and implemented, because the customer told us to do things a certain way.
Vision / Empathy
For a great travel experience to happen, we need to exercise empathy and put ourselves in the shoes of the customers to UNDERSTAND their needs before they even know they have them. We do this through observations, interviews and experiences in the field.
There it is. I said it. You cannot get to know your customer from a spreadsheet. You need to go in the operation and talk to them. Let’s say you are thinking through a travel experience of a business flyer. You can sell him/her a ticket from Boston to Charlotte. Or you can follow him/her and observe ALL the things that he/she does in a 2 day business trip. The key is to elevate your perspective/view and see the end to end journey and not think only of the flight experience. Once you do that, you see the many needs your customer has beyond the value you are offering today.
A business customer needs someone to miraculously deliver his/her luggage to the hotel straight from the airport. That way, she can go straight to the business meetings without looking like an outsider. She also needs to have a charger or access to electricity throughout the journey to charge phone, computer, headphones, you name it! He also needs the option to not eat alone if he is not too tired at night, perhaps network with like-minded business people? She would probably buy a gift for her child if it was easy. Something local or unique to the culture of the place. Either business traveler would love to review options to extend the business trip to leisure and maybe bring over the family for a nice weekend. This will immediately move them from the category of absent parent to cool parent.
Read the Signs
Do not confuse lack of choice with a sign of approval. Last night, a colleague of ours asked on Twitter: “Why do companies that offer bad experience not fail?” There are many answers to this question, but one of them is lack of choice.
I hate to pick on the cable companies, but they are at the bottom of the Customer Satisfaction rankings and there is a reason for it. With the oligopoly and the zoning of services we really have nowhere to go. Does that mean that they know us? No. Does that mean that if we were given the choice we would not drop them? No. I called my provider a few weeks ago to ask them why my internet is slow if I pay more than $100/month for 1 GB internet speed. The answer? You do not have devices that can handle more than 200 MG speed.
Now that is a company that not only does not know me. It also does not want to know me. A great touchpoint when we were signing up would have been to ask us what devices we have in the house and to ADVISE US not to pay $100+ a month for 9 months for value we are literally not able to receive. People immediately think of surveys when we say “know your customer.” Surveys are actually the last step of knowing your customer. The first one is asking questions to learn how your customer will be using your product or service.
How to Know Your Customers – The Bottom Line
To know your customer means to CARE for your customer. Be curious about your customer. Service your customer. Do not try to gauge and sell your customer things that they do not value. Ask and learn what he/she does value and sell him/her that.
Take the time to create those customer personas and segment your products accordingly. We all talk about personalization while we are still not able to offer a cable and internet package for a retired couple that has a completely different lifestyle from a couple of college students.
Back to travel. The emotional state of a passenger is vastly different from any other customer. Except for patients, there is probably no other modality that has so much emotion in it. Travelers are hopeful to win a business, happy to celebrate a life event, devastated to bury a friend. Your passengers are living life while being your customers. You have the privilege of being a part of the human experience. Respect that privilege. Take the time to understand your customers’ journey. So you can help them grow on that journey and EVOLVE. Just like Steve Jobs did ten years ago.
This article originally appeared on The Petrova Experience Blog.