- Customers are humans whose decisions are rational, emotional and shaped by experience.
- A thorough understanding of human motivations helps businesses grow their customer base.
- Organisations are easily confused by coexisting user, customer and human mindsets.
Many organisations are still struggling to get a firm grip on the expectations of customers and users, and the motivations behind their behaviour. A thorough understanding of this helps you grow your customer base.
Strictly speaking, customers are not the same as users. Customers pay for your products and services but may not actually use them, while users directly consume and experience your products and services although they may not be the ones who actually pay. Having said that, both customers and users are also the same – they are humans!
Users play, customers pay
For users, their priorities and expectations are usually about the product or service itself. They would invest, learn and adapt to a product in order to make it work for them, as long as it has a specific purpose and serves them well.
However, for customers, their experience is strongly influenced by factors such as value for money, customer recognition, accessibility and ease of setup. Administrative hassles, lack of transparency and channel inconsistencies are major customer irritations that likely lead to lost sales or even customer defection.
Different needs and expectations
That explains why confused organisations sometimes approach users with information that is not relevant to them. Therefore, it is important to be clear whether you are dealing with customers or users before you start engaging with them. They have different needs and expectations, therefore require different strategies.
People are upset for different reasons
Sometimes, organisations don’t understand what people don’t like about them: the brand? the organisation? the service? This is particularly perplexing if people clearly like the products or services.
Here, the differentiation between customers and users is very useful. When a product fails to meet its promises, it’s often the users who are upset; but if there are problems with onboarding, acquiring or switching, it’s likely the customers will blame you. That explains why customers of feature-rich technical products such as smartphones or software can be very demanding before they actually buy the products.
Users may not become subscribers
Organisations offering subscription-based services are familiar with the difficulty of converting users to paying subscribers. Advertising and promotions increase the number of users, while improving usability and attractiveness may result in higher usage. However, these activities do very little to lure the paying customers who would actually sign up and expect value for money.
Digital has forced fundamental transformation of many traditional businesses. For example, in travel and hospitality sector majority of the customers now jump to web and mobile channels first-hand for planning and booking trips. Traditional storefront travel agencies have witnessed declining sales and traffic due to stiff competition from web-only travel pop-ups. This has caused such traditional travel and hospitality firms—including airlines—to effectively re-design their whole organisation to operate as digital-first service providers.
Which perspective: user or customer?
Organisations are confused because user, customer and human mindsets can coexist!
So, which perspective should you be using?
The answer depends on the type of product or service and the phase in the customer lifecycle. Generally speaking, the customer perspective should be more dominant around the decisions to acquire, replace or switch. Value for money and a feeling of being valued are strong customer drivers. The user perspective is more closely related to direct experience with the product or service itself, how it works and the way information and support is offered.
‘Wow’ moments vs ‘wow’ experiences
“Wow” moments are episodic interactions that pleasantly surprise customers. However, these moments do not necessarily translate into “wow” experiences for customers, which is simply a series of consistently good services across customer touchpoints. “Wow” moments, paradoxically, can even be bad for organisations if they set customer expectations too high on other interactions.
Building ‘wow’ moments in certain interactions does not automatically result in a ’wow’ experience for customers. Offering consistently good services throughout the customer engagement is what matters. ‘Wow’ moments can be destructive if they set the bar too high for future interactions. Therefore, it is crucial to deliver good services consistently so that the customers will experience ‘wow’ services.
Is human behaviour really unpredictable?
“I am not switching energy provider, because I’ve just changed my cable company and I am still waiting to be connected.” Sometimes, what customers say does not seem logical, but they are humans whose decisions are rational and emotional and are shaped by their experience, oftentimes unrelated to the product and service you offer. Therefore, connecting with customers on a human level gives you more insights on how they behave – and more power to change them.
We are all humans
Depending on the type of product or service and the stage in the customer lifecycle, either the customer or user perspective can be the leading point-of-view. Understanding how to engage with customers at a deeper level leads to a growing customer base. Clear instructions and advice for users lead to increased and better use of services. Ultimately, humans decide.