Brand Strategy / Business Advice

Customer insight from the chiropractor’s couch


Do you talk to your hairdresser while they’re at work? What about your chiropractor? Do you try to start a conversation when, really, you could just keep quiet and let them get on with it?

I do – and I’ve realised not only why, but what this means for branding.

While I was having yet another bone clicked into place by my chiropractor, we were discussing the tendency of small felines to (playfully) attack their doggy housemates. Nothing to do with the treatment of course, but it filled an otherwise silent half hour and helped it to pass somewhat more pleasantly.

Why do I – and so many others – feel the need to fill an otherwise acceptable silence with interesting, yet trivial, chitchat? Whether it’s lying facing down on a treatment table, having the latest hairstyle cut in or watching the washing machine repair man at work, I’ll wager that most of us spark up a conversation.

As human animals, we like to make connections. And chitchat helps us to achieve this.

That’s why the weather is such a good starting place – it’s a common experience and an ice breaker. Yes it’s 10 below and blowing a gale and you both know this, but it’s a shared experience that leads to other avenues of conversation.

We could, however, leave the workers to it and be content with our own thoughts. After all, you’re paying for work to be done, not to discuss the Number 9 bus timetable.

However, idle chitchat turns a transactional relationship into an experience.

Yes, we’re paying for a service in the same way we do when we purchase a parking ticket or order a book from Amazon. There’s essentially no difference.

Except that we’ve invited someone into our personal space to deliver that transactional relationship.

And that’s important. Most of us guard our personal space well – but suddenly you’ve got someone playing with your hair, bending your body into freaky shapes or working in your home.

It’s immediate, it’s personal. And in this situation, we don’t want transaction – we want experience.

Experience is warm, whereas transaction is cold. You don’t have a takeaway from a parking meter. You do from the hairdresser.

Looking at this from a branding and marketing perspective, the takeaway is that experience trumps transaction. Hairdressers and chiropractors trump parking ticket machines and Amazon.

Customers come to you to purchase something – either financially or with other investment such as their time. They may purchase from your store or through your website, or Tweet you a customer service question.

And you have to respond to this, opening up a transactional relationship. The question therefore is how do you, as a brand and as a marketer, turn this cold transactional relationship into a warm experience?

Does your brand need chitchat to start it off, some sharing of common experience, or some other method of humanising the transaction? What do you need to do, today, to create this experience – and how small will you start? With the back of a parking voucher? With a branded online environment? With a simple phone call to one of your best customers?

I am certain that the brands who will be most successful in the future won’t necessarily be those with the biggest budgets or the teams of community managers, but rather the brands that, unexpectedly, manage to turn a transaction into an experience…

Have you got any great examples of this? Do you think that the transaction – experience continuum is best served by platforms such as Facebook/other social media sites? Or do you think that the future of experience creation is in one-on-one XM? Please share your thoughts!

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