Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Does Familiarity Breed in Your Business?

I am often placed in a position as a consultant to be the “outsider looking in”. In fact, I take this approach with every position I under take. What I generally find is that there is a gross illusion of the customer’s understanding of a business’s processes, purpose and services.

A recent example of this was at a seminar for small – medium sized businesses. Upon entering the foyer to the conference room, there were tables set up with functional signs at each one. One said Marketing and Sales and another said Finance and so on. At each post was a person who could provide help on their topic. Having some insight into the seminar series, I knew that these tables were set up for business owners to drop by and ask questions or inquire about setting up free counseling services for their business. Had I not been an insider in this case, I would have had no idea what these people or tables were. Being the continuous process improvement and customer behavioral modeler that I am, I watched to see what the incoming attendees did. Yup, just as I suspected they would,  they signed in at the entry desk, looked at the tables with a gaze and walked straight into the conference room and waited for the first speaker to begin. What a missed opportunity – for everyone!

This was a perfect example of the seminar producers being too familiar with what their process and services were. They forgot to look at the experience from the attendees’ point of view. If only someone at the sign in table either told the attendees about the tables or even handed out a flyer explaining the tables, I am certain that many business owners would have utilized this free service to get specific questions answered and/or set up time with a counselor to get help later. But with no direction, the attendees walked right past the tables and into the conference room and waited for the speaker to begin.   

The first speaker this particular night was quite vibrant and covered the topic of Social Media at a high level, opening the door for many follow up questions and very possibly some consulting work. The room was packed, so quite realistically, the topic of SM was something that these business owners needed/wanted to learn about. I was quite impressed with the speaker’s presentation as it offered a valuable overview but by no means left anyone new to SM with the ability to sit down at their computer and start their Social Media Program. Bravo, I thought. Great job of leading the horse to water…now tell them how they can get help in actually starting SM and how to learn what it can do for their business. Nothing. The presentation ended and intermission was called.   

The missed opportunities were killing me! The room was ripe with prospective consulting clients and no one told them how to get it! In fact, four people seated near me asked what I did and all respectively asked if I could help them with Social Media. Of the four, I am working with three of them now on how to use SM effectively for their businesses. I don’t know what the other 200 attendees are doing now, but I know they didn’t get the detailed help on Social Media that they need to start utilizing SM for their businesses.  

After intermission another speaker droned on about a topic that I am still unclear of to this day. I suppose that I would classify it as personal empowerment or organizational structure. Regardless, this speaker cleared the room. By the end of the seminar, the room was 2/3 empty. Since I had been asked to assist by providing suggestions on how to get more people to sign up for counseling, I sat in my seat after the seminar ended making notes. Then, a man handed me a card – no explanation – just handed me a card. As I looked at it, the card was a form to fill out to request consulting services. Finally!  There was the offering – but there wasn’t any information or signage on where to submit the card once I filled it out. Oh no –not again – more missed opportunity!

These are small examples but painful for the organization that held the seminar. They highlight the organizer’s over-familiarity with what they do and their lack of familiarity or even recognition that a new attendee has no idea what the process is and the details of “how to” are just as important as content.

This was a sad illustration of how easy it is for an organization to be so familiar with their process that they forget to explain it to their customer. I urge you to take a fresh look at your customer interactions and look at where you are missing opportunities.

Aesop is quoted as saying that Familiarity Breeds Contempt. I offer to you that familiarity leads to confusion, missed opportunities and bad service. A simple but good example of remembering the small stuff that makes a difference is the ticket taker at the movie theatre. As s/he rips the ticket s/he tells you what theatre you are in and which direction (left or right) it is located. Could we find the theatre without this? Yes, but this small gesture provides a feeling of service, attention to details and comfort. After all, if I know where my theatre is, I will most likely not waste time looking for it and I will use that time to hit the concession stand on my way to my movie ;)

The theatre example is a basic and practical understanding of consumer behavior. Some companies have very sophisticated modeling protocols. Others, like a very famous amusement park, require their theme park engineers and designers to observe people interact with the park's offerings to see what customers want to have as an interaction and to learn to anticipate what attendees want to experience. Why don’t you take the time to look at your business interactions from an outsider’s point of view? You just might find that you gain more customers, sell more candy or retain your customer’s loyalty as they feel that you take the time to care about the small stuff and their overall experience.
Happy Marketing!

As always, if I can help, please don’t hesitate to contact me at


1 comment:

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