There are many “asks” we make of customers in addition to the “ultimate ask” of a purchase. Often, companies need their customers to do varying amounts of work.
We may need a customer to verify information for security reasons. Or assemble a product. Wait for a several-hour window for a service technician. And of course, do the work involved in making a purchase.
How you ask customers to do these tasks makes a significant impact on the likelihood they will take these actions, how satisfied your customers will be with your brand, and if they will want to keep being customers of your brand. This is called a process-level value proposition, and it is all too often overlooked by companies.
Don’t Tell Me to ‘Keep Back 200 Feet’!
Here is a recent customer experience I had. Jacksonville is a fast-growing city, and there is a lot of construction going on right now. This is a positive thing overall, but it can be frustrating with so much construction equipment on the roadways.
So a frequent sign I often see on my commute to work is “Keep Back 200 Feet.” It’s often on dump trucks in front of me in traffic.
While I inherently know there is a logical reason for this, my visceral reaction is along the lines of thinking, “Don’t tell me where I can and can’t drive! Stop clogging up the roadways in my city with all the rocks and dirt that fly off your trucks. I will drive wherever I want, thank you very much.”
But I recently saw a sign on the back of a truck with slightly different messaging. “Keep back 200 feet. Not responsible for broken windshields.”
Again, I logically understand why I shouldn’t follow too close behind a dump truck on the highway, I didn’t really need to be told.
However, I noticed something surprising in myself. I had a very different reaction. Instead of getting ticked off by the sign, I was placated by it. “OK, makes sense.”
Be a Customer Guide, Not a Customer Dictator
So what’s the difference?
The first dump truck sign just gave me a command. The second gave me a reason for the command.
Mind you, even the language on the second sign could be improved. The writers of that sign were knee-deep in company theory, instead of immersing themselves in customer theory. A more customer-focused sign could be something like, “Please stay 200 feet back to protect your windshield.”
We shouldn’t dictate copy, or processes and products to the customer. Nobody likes being pushed around. Customers should understand the value to them instead of marketers constantly asking to get something from them.
Sounds simple. Obvious, maybe. But in your own experience as a customer, how often are you being dictated to?
Here are a few ways you can optimize the process-level value proposition anytime your company makes an ask of the customer.
Embrace Assembly Instructions as Marketing
Marketing is much more than print ads, marketing automation platforms, and SEO. The marketing department should have a say in every customer touchpoint — even after the purchase. (How else will you get repeat purchases?)
Take assembly instructions, for example. If customers are frustrated while putting the product together, they will blame the company and are less likely to buy again. So don’t just instruct them to put the product together, help them understand the reason for product assembly to begin with.
For example, in a field experiment by researchers from Ruhr-University, advertising posters focused on the lower cost to customers of self-assembly furniture (incentive), the social aspect of putting together furniture with family and friends (motivation), and a customer support hotline (anxiety and friction reduction) all helped increase customer satisfaction in the assembly process.
You can evaluate processes your company asks customers to partake in using the MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic framework to identify areas where you can increase incentive, tap into motivation, or decrease anxiety.
Speak the Customer’s Language
Do you speak to the customer like a human, or like a brutalist corporate monolith?
Ferguson Enterprises had an email opt-in form that sounded like a corporate mandate: “Complete Customer Profile.”
By changing to the customer’s point of view — “Sign Me Up,” “Customize My Preferences” — along with other customer-oriented improvements, the wholesale distributor increased form submissions 120%.
Show Your Work
Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton discovered that a travel search engine with a visual display showing flights and hotel rooms being accepted or rejected into the results was much more popular with consumers than a travel search engine that showed the exact same results instantaneously.
Even though it took longer to get results.
“Showing the labor, the transparency of what you’re doing, is so interesting to consumers that, not only do they like waiting, but sometimes they like waiting more than they like getting it right away,” Norton said. “Showing the work that you’re doing can make people infer, accurately, often, that you’re doing more than they thought.”
Give the Customer-Specific Evidence
When companies aren’t dictating to customers, sometimes they are boasting to them. This is just another brute force way of talking atcustomers, not to them.
You can choose whatever you want to put in your ads and on your landing pages. You can boast and brag all you want.
However … customers don’t have to believe you.
By transitioning from incredible claims (“Most Accurate Mailing Lists … We have the best data … Industry leader in database marketing”) to credible claims with specific evidence (“We make 26 Million Phone Calls … Trusted since 1972 … 210 million U.S. consumers … 600 full-time researchers”) a database company was able to generate 201% more leads.