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Posted on May 18, 2010 by West Corporation 


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Anticipating the Habits of Highly Predictable Customers

by Scott Zimmerman

Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was first published in 1989, and has since sold millions of copies and spawned a multitude of “lookalike” self-help guides — all created with the common purpose of helping people and businesses become more effective and efficient. Before Covey, there was the mother and daughter team Katherine and Isabel Myers who created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), based on the typological theories originated by Carl Gustav Jung, to help people understand their personality traits and identify what sort of jobs they would be most comfortable with and effective in. In fact, we have been trying to figure out how and why we tick since pretty much the birth of humanity.

Why then, with all this research and insight into the type of people we are and how we can improve our behaviors, do we still not show up for appointments, follow the advice of our doctors, pay our bills on time, follow our medication regimens, or wash the car even though we’re fairly sure it is going to rain? Is the answer simply that we’re an unpredictable bunch. Or, perhaps it is life that is unpredictable and when it doesn’t map 100 percent to our expectations, we react to it; but we react to it in a highly predictable manner. So, if our reactions are predictable – arguably the best way to get ahead of our customers’ behaviors in order to best serve them is as simple the old adage “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

If you want a customer to react to an unexpected situation in a predictable way, then engage and communicate with them in a highly personalized and tailored way. This is where “engagement communications” comes into its own. What is so important about engagement? Contact is one directional, while engagement is a two-way street. Once you establish a two-way street with your customers, the possibilities open up, creating the ability to understand and react to customers’ motivations and needs in real time.

Communications that automate and create a two-way dialogue between customer and a brand, through online, web, mobile, digital, voice, and good old postal mail communications offer transformational benefits in terms of impacting customer behavior and predictability, while at the same time providing enhanced customer service.

The fact that people use communications tools in different ways — for example people under 25 are more likely to communicate via SMS messaging than their older counterparts — is nothing new. What is new, however, and particularly important for a company in the B2C space, is the means to tailor and execute customer engagement communications in a highly personalized and dynamic way, and on a massive scale. So by asking customers ahead of time not just if they prefer to communicate by mail, email, voice, or phone, but also how, when, and why — companies have the power to significantly impact their customer engagement and therefore desired outcomes.

In the late 1990s David Keirsey laid out a set of human temperaments that link human behavior patterns to character types. The four temperaments are idealist, guardian, rational, artisan. The concept of Keirsey’s temperaments is a great way to illustrate the notion that life that is unpredictable and people are not disorganized when they miss appointments, but are simply reacting to the unpredictable in a predictable way. Take for example the patient that has just discovered they need an additional medical assessment.

An IDEALIST, a bit of a rebel and non-conformist, will not respond well to a huge amount of information, but instead just wants to know that their healthcare provider “respects them”; so a short written email message thanking them for their business and being available for questions will work well.

Meanwhile, the GUARDIAN, a great planner, if left too long to their own devices will transform the notion of a simple doctor’s appointment into a thought of potential doom. Therefore, before they get carried away and simply don’t show up for their appointment — a timely series of simple advance voice and text messages offering assurance and information about what to expect will significantly increase the likelihood of them keeping the appointment.

The ARTISAN, a great analyzer, works best if they are provided with a lot of relevant detail and information before a meeting. So a proactive email with links to a company website that features substantive and relevant data would increase the likelihood of an on-time appointment and the resulting desired health outcome.

And finally the RATIONAL, a strong conceptualizer, needs to know what to expect at an appointment in a simple, factual, and direct manner. So, simple text or email with purely informational and minimal “social” content and context will work well.

These different temperaments all respond to life’s unpredictability in a fairly predictable or “characteristic” way. The same behaviors and corresponding engagement communications needs will translate to cases of debt management, health regimen management, or emergency planning.

Using engagement communications to anticipate, encourage, intervene, and support the habits of what are in fact highly predictable customers should be a priority item on the business agenda of B2C companies — especially considering the potential impact to bottom and top line performance: improved behaviors impact bottom-line performance through reduced overhead and wastage; increases in customer satisfaction improves top-line performance through increased customer lifecycle and revenue levels and predictability. It’s human nature.

Originally published on 1to1 Media, May 18, 2010


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