DEAD OR ALIVE YOU’RE COMING WITH ME

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Robocop –Paul Verhoeven’s vision for the near future of law enforcement: Half man, half machine, super cool walk.

This one machine tsunami of crime fighting turned around the fate of the swamped local police department as he presented the criminals of Detroit with a binary proposition: “Dead or alive you’re coming with me”. But after a while his memory structures and deeper emotional sensitivities (let’s call it the ‘EQ’) began to challenge the programming (the ‘IQ’). He’d learnt to engage the emotional brain where he discovered all wasn’t as black and white as it seemed, and he was a better cop for it.

The powerful modern marketing machinery we are unleashing on the population needs to find this EQ too. Increasingly digital experiences are a customer’s primary brand experience, shaping the company’s reputation and perceived value. But most only seem to have an IQ. Whilst technically smart they doggedly echo the protocols of their sales cycle making companies appear aggressive and self-interested as they fail to empathize with a customer’s own emotional journey.

Brands with IQ but no EQ are harming themselves

I experienced this myself recently when I proposed to my better half. Not having a ‘man in Botswana’ like Prince Harry I set out to choose an engagement ring. I had done some investigation via brilliantly encoded questioning, asking her best friend’s advice and so forth, all of which generated frustratingly few clues. But I also know myself well enough to accept that I was always going to be in at best a ‘mild flap’ during this endeavour. Any purchase involving that amount of emotional and financial risk coupled with so little personal experience/style can only create a highly charged situation. I started quietly sifting the net to get ideas before heading to the shops.

Along the way I visited the website of a famous global jeweller. I looked through their site with high expectations - surely their iconic brand and reassuringly lofty prices would arm me with a diamond ring to melt the heart. But I didn’t end up buying from them. No real rhyme or reason in that decision, just nothing felt quite right for the awesome lady I had in mind. So I moved on.

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But it wasn’t over for them. By casually scanning through their website I had become a target. And they came for me.

Their ads started appearing in my Facebook feed and Google searches. They were irrelevant and mildly annoying but easily ignored so no harm done. But they kept coming in a pursuit that would have made Robocop blush.

Fast forward a few weeks and everything had worked out well, the ring I’d bought was happily on the finger but the automated marketing system didn’t know that, and I was on their list somewhere with ‘wanted’ stamped across my profile.

A few days later we were talking about something on Facebook and she noticed the ads showcasing various rings I had clicked on at some point. “I am glad you didn’t go for that one” was the first comment. “As if I would have!” my casual response (phew!)

Then she noticed others popping up: “How could you even think I would have liked that?” It culminated a couple of days later when it happened again: “I’d probably have said ‘no’ if you had produced that monstrosity” she said eyeing some random diamond ring I have no memory of even looking at (I like to think she was reinforcing how happy she is with the one she is wearing…)

Somewhere along the way an appealing brand had been overwhelmed by its machinery. There was no EQ in the experience and their heavy-handed digital tactics based on limited circumstantial evidence shows they have no real idea of empathy for my journey.

And so my positive disposition to the brand has shifted down to: “She doesn’t like their stuff and they are just about the hard sell”. Probably neither is accurate but that doesn’t matter because perception is reality. I had approached them with good intent but now it feels like I dodged a bullet…Not 2018 level brilliance is it.

The complexities of digital CX requires more precise brand direction

It’s an issue that is undermining brands - the in-market experience is not matching up to the brand promise. And it’s not difficult to understand why. Whether you are in the middle of a big launch or BAU activity there is a long line of interlinked moving parts between brand and customer. Different, internal and external specialist teams & suppliers usually handle these functions, all with their own targets.

Below is a chart that shows 11 principle components likely to be involved in a modern marketing ecosystem in some form (under each section you could write a long list of what and who is involved).

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Small wonder that things go wrong. All of these are skills/disciplines in their own right - Platforms, people, and assets that intentionally or unintentionally reshape the brand experience as they handle them on their way through to the customer.

A really good customer journey is invaluable

To solve this everyone in the chain needs absolute clarity about the rules of engagement in a particular moment which is where a really good customer journey is invaluable. It organises the efforts and done well makes is a big step towards customer centric experiences. However too often they are they are discipline centric UX process charts or information dumps which step through the functional/physical experience. Whilst useful for the technicians for certain tasks they don’t identify the true emotional needs of customers and enable the team to create holistic experiences.

Instead the customer journey for each persona or segment should feel like a story in itself. A ripping good read showcasing the insight about people's real life hopes, expectations and fears relating to your category. Something every person and team, internal department or external supplier in the chain can get on board with, relate to, and then layer on their own expertise and discipline.

This is not about not sacrificing sales. Greater returns come when customers 'buy-in' rather than 'surrender'.

Whether a customer needs a ring, a house, a health remedy, a job, a date, baby equipment, a holiday or even tonight’s family dinner they move through a series of emotions along the way shaping their actions. We need those truths up on the wall, or even better captured in a video, to inspire the broader team and enable empathy and cohesion in their execution.

When I was looking for a ring I was really looking for help. I went through phases of feeling lost, clueless, frustrated, nervous and excited. Accordingly there were many times a retailer could have stepped beyond dumb automation to become the hero of the moment, living up to the ‘service before sales’ mantra. If only they had asked I would have gladly talked to someone, engaged with a chat bot, filled in a profile, a quiz and goodness knows what else in my search – and in the process provided better data to sharpen their digital response beyond the circumstantial guesswork to land a sale.

So have another glance over at your customer journeys. Is there magic in the story or just logic? If there is no magic perhaps it’s time to write a new one because as Robocop found so many moments in life aren't black and white.                                                                                     

About us: People and the Machine are experts in understanding and bringing to life the customer’s journey. Please give us a call to discuss how we can help you.

Nick Andrews