No longer do organizations have the monopoly on information. Accelerated digital disruption has allowed individuals to become data gatherers, using and sharing information across various platforms.
The implication is that the customer now holds all the cards. They own the relationships they create, and determine, on their own terms, how they want to interact with businesses. Today’s consumer landscape starts with the need of the customer.
It’s a landscape where “me” reaches out to “B,” instead of the other way around — Welcome to Me2B commerce!
In their 2014 book, “Your Customer Rules!”, Bill Price (Amazon’s first Global VP of Customer Service) and David Jaffe (Consulting Director and founder of Limebridge Consulting in Melbourne) help prepare businesses for this era’s Me2B consumer reality.
Global heavyweights such as Nike, Apple, Nordstrom and Starbucks have already cultivated Me2B within their operations and are enjoying runaway success. By adopting a Me2B philosophy, they’ve deepened customer trust, grown revenue streams, differentiated themselves in crowded markets, and positioned themselves strategically at the forefront of the digital economy.
Here are the seven Me2B principals that can help your organization achieve just that.
1) You know me, you remember me
Today’s consumer craves a personalized, omni-channel sales experience. The first and overarching principal to achieving this involves truly knowing the consumer. No longer can businesses afford to generalize the customer; they need to know their preferences, understand and predict their needs, and never ask the same question twice — whether the customer is shopping in-store, online or from their mobile device.
Ultimately, it boils down to personalizing the shopping experience and learning how to interact with customers sensitively and authentically.
Starbucks, for instance, doesn’t have to fulfill coffee orders with writing the customers’ (misspelled) names on cups or calling their names out. But they do, and that’s all part of creating memorable experience, which is shared heavily on Social media. This provides Starbucks with massive word-of-mouth advertising – hence, it’s also a great marketing move.
2) You give me choices
Today’s consumer tells the brand what he or she wants—not the other way around. But it goes deeper than merely providing selections; it means offering choices. In one of my previous articles, I highlighted the reality that today’s shoppers want lots of choices, yet they also want to retain control. This can be a difficult balancing act for businesses, given the fact there is a very real psychological phenomenon called the “Paradox of choice”. Nothing halts an otherwise eager customer in their tracks quicker than inundating them with too many choices.
Me2B takes into account the fact that the consumption of products and services is part of a bigger picture. It It involves the navigation of information-intensive life challenges: how do we make better decisions, how do we implement them better, and how do we simply get stuff done and achieve our goals every day? (CtrlShift).
The aim should be to lessen the difficulty of choice by arming customers with helpful technologies that assist them in making these better decisions – at every touch point.
PerfectLinens.com’s sheet finder features a highly need-oriented questionnaire that helps shoppers narrow down their choices based on their individual needs rather than using fluffy marketing or technical terms shoppers can’t relate to.
3) You make it easy for me
It’s all about making the customer journey as effortless as possible. The ease of shopping is one of the most important expectations of today’s shoppers. And, it’s an opportunity for businesses to set themselves apart from competitors in a meaningful way.
The key for businesses is to facilitate an effortless customer journey that maintains a forward momentum and helps the buyer to say “yes”.
Businesses that can marry convenience with shoppers’ needs will enjoy higher conversion rates and customer satisfaction levels. And this continues past the point of sale.
It also means educating the consumer so that he or she can use a product or service without having to contact support staff or giving customers the right self-service tools to solve issues quickly on their own.
4) You value me
“Value the customer!”—it’s an easy slogan that fits nicely on a company name badge, but executing it effectively is another thing entirely.
In a customer-centric environment it isn’t enough to tell customers that you value them – you have to show it.
There are simple gestures how you can make your customers feel valued and win their loyalty:
- Don’t only treat customers well if they have already generated large amounts of revenue
- Offer them discounts and special offers
- Listen to their feedback and act on what they say
- Don’t make them wait and value their time
5) You trust me
Trusting the customer means avoiding arbitrary policies, allowing them to try out products, not making shoppers jump through hoops to return a product, and allowing exceptions.
If you want your customers to trust you, you have to demonstrate that you trust them first. Building trust is an essential part in any business relation.
For more than a century Nordstrom has honed their customer-service strategy by trusting and empowering staff as well as the customer. Take their employee manual, for instance. Whereas many businesses offer binders full of guidelines, regulations and bullet-points for new hires to pour over, Nordstrom has just one hard and fast rule:
“Use good judgement in all situations”.
This instills a sense of value and shared responsibility in the employee, freeing them up to cultivate deeper relationships with the customer.
6) You surprise me with stuff I can’t imagine
Successful businesses have a thing in common: They exceed customer expectations and as a result, stand out. They don’t have a WIIFM (What’s in it for me) attitude, but rather try to go the extra mile for their customers. They know that referrals and word-of-mouth are most important for future growth.
In Me2B commerce, businesses view their operation as a pyramid. The customer is the very tip of this triangle, supported by an infrastructure dedicated to going the extra mile for them, e.g. by resolving complaints in the customer’s favor.
“We start with the customer and we work backwards”—Jeff Bezos
Walt Disney, had a philosophy he referred to as “plussing” and it meant augmenting the customer experience—exceeding it. When accountants scoffed at his plans to spend money on an extravagant Christmas parade, they cited the fact that people were already in the park and weren’t expecting it. “That’s just the point,” Walt said. “We should do the parade, because no one is expecting it.
His reasoning was that if he surprised his customers it would keep them coming back. However, if he got complacent and they stopped coming, it would cost 10 times as much to get them again.
It’s worth noting that crafting such experiences involves reliance on more than just the customer-facing employees. Businesses must include everyone on the payroll, from the executive down to the production levels.
7) You help me be better, you help me do more
It’s no longer enough to help customers only on the purchase path—businesses need to offer support beyond that.
Coaching customers to use products more effectively, getting stuff done and achieving their goals, cuts right to the heart of helping the customer to do more.
Apple has raised this principal to an art form by offering rich support material on their website as well as providing proactive tips for users to get the most out of their products and discover new features they hadn’t known before.
The seven aforementioned customer needs are not all on the same level. While the first three (Know Me; Give Me Choices; Make It Easy) form essential requirements to great customer experiences and to fostering meaningful relationship with customers, the next two (Value Me; Trust Me) can be found at companies that are more mature in becoming Me2B Leaders;
The final two needs (Surprise Me; Help Me Do Better) show even greater maturity and are only delivered during carefully chosen moments that make a powerful and meaningful impact on the customer.
Businesses that are only now awakening to this new Me2B reality are likely apprehensive about making major changes. In the long run those who base their strategy on the seven needs outlined above will enjoy greater profits—a direct result of fewer abandoned carts, higher customer loyalty, reduced re-work, and lower support costs.