Convenience was never a tier on Maslow’s hierarchy

The achingly cool Ferrari 812 Superfast

The achingly cool Ferrari 812 Superfast

The big risk facing companies hacking their way through a ‘digital transformation’ is that they end up creating customer experiences that are utterly unremarkable. Millions of dollars, head hours & post-it notes put into the goal of being “simple, intuitive, and mobile first”.

Really? Is that as far as the company is prepared to go into the frontiers of digital & data? So many businesses are dangerously behind in their effort to ramp up engagement with dissatisfied customers, fend off tech disruptors and government intervention and yet set the bar so low.

Necessary is not the same as valuable

With an increasing number of interactions happening via remote digital channels, and even more forecast for the future, there is a pressing need to be more than politely invisible in your brand experiences. Digital hygiene principles like ‘simple, intuitive and mobile first’ have an important functional place but they can’t be the brief itself because it misses the core tenets of brand building – ie what makes you distinctive and valued? Fixing basic problems in a shaky old customer journey to make the experience easier and quicker is important, but it is equally critical to take the opportunity to join the real race you are in – redefining the value your brand offers to customers in the changing world order.

Convenience stems losses but does not add many wins

The problem stems from from businesses over estimating the value consumers will find in ‘convenience’. The perspective is distorted because ‘inconvenience’ tends to be deeply hated, publically complained about and makes people drop out – friction in the system - so it needs sorting out. However although the solutions that we offer through technology cancel out the negatives they don’t add proportionally positive upswings. Gary Briggs, Global CMO of Facebook, made this point saying “…we adjust very quickly to technology these days. Which makes it cool but not impactful.” Many digital experiences briefly impress but quickly become the new normal. It happens because whilst ‘convenience’ is useful to people it is not valuable enough when compared to the things that really drive us in life.

An enduring and familiar model for those is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Maslow's heirachy image.jpg

This is what really motivates…and ‘convenience’ isn’t on the list.

In fact if you really engage those emotional muscles you make ‘convenience’ completely irrelevant. Take Ferrari. In that world exclusivity is as important as performance - “We will always build one less car than the market demands” (Enzo Ferrari). Which customer ever asked for a car that is so cramped and difficult to drive? A car you can’t even think about taking it out in the rain. For the achingly cool Ferrari 812 Superfast (pictured above) the wait might be 3 years and it will cost you the best part of a $1m (and by the way to be on the list for some of these models you need to have shown your commitment by having bought at least 3-4 other new Ferraris before). Billionaires and royalty try and fail to jump the queue, and for limited editions a buyer must now sign a contract committing to not to resell within 18 months – except to Ferrari at the price they paid. ‘Inconvenience’ is a deliberate and valuable part of the customer experience.

If we are smart about it the same can apply to everyday categories like retail, financial services or utilities.

Elon Musk has walked into the energy sector and made batteries and solar roof tiles sexy. He has shown both the opportunities for and failings of the Energy category providers who for decades have been hanging out at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, failing to recognise how attitudes and needs have changed. In developed nations we (for the most part) don’t worry about warmth, food and water. So offering to deliver it reliably is a weak promise. Musk has rearranged the consumer value proposition and engaged people higher up the pyramid and they love it. A Tesla battery on the side of your house is both a status symbol and a statement about your values.

Banking is so often guilty of the same, hanging onto to functional value propositions when money is so deeply emotional. A while ago I heard a great (though regrettably second hand) story about Coutts the UK’s most famous private bank dealing with lottery winners. When someone wins all the banks jump up to pitch for their business but Coutts wins time and again. How? Not through numbers and function…and it’s certainly not the promise of ‘easy, worldwide access to your money’. Instead they tell the shocked winners to stop and enjoy it. They advise them to take a holiday and a few months to get used to the idea of being fabulously rich before starting to make practical financial decisions. Brilliant! An empathetic and unexpected brand experience from a bank that understands what is really going on with customers in that moment. The same principles could be applied to segments across the financial service spectrum and the new digital platforms make it more possible than ever – first time parents, the newly divorced, retirees - what is the proposition and brand experience that will win over those people in that moment?

Digital platforms are the opportunity to deliver a meaningful proposition

Whether you are in automotive, energy, or financial services the challenge is to find a value proposition for customers, and staff, that is genuinely meaningful. One that stirs the soul in the upper tiers of the pyramid. Delivering that with precision and in the style of the brand through increasingly digital interfaces is the brief.

So as you start 2018 facing down the complexity and compromise of a digital transformation agenda - take 15 minutes to write down the customer value proposition that is shaping it. Does it live up to the Maslow test? If so then carry on, you are ahead of the game. And if not and your value proposition is full of functional category truths, or feels like it was better suited to the 90s when it was written, well it may need reimagining. Great brands are built around propositions that connect the business with emotional needs of the customer, which makes it a great place to start your plans for the year.

If you would like to discuss your CVP or EVP and how it fits in today’s world give us a call.

Nick Andrews