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Communication Coach: Predict customer behavior like Amazon

May 30, 2018 -  By

Amazon app iconWhat customers do informs us of their desires. What they are reluctant to do offers insights into fears and obstacles that must be addressed before they will buy.

Last year Amazon bought Whole Foods to extend its retail dominance into new product lines and for the brick and mortar opportunity to study buying behavior.

Amazon Prime members can now get discounts at Whole Foods using the new Whole Foods mobile app. It’s rolling out across the country this summer but is now accepted in Florida where I happened to be this week.

As expected, the discount on my purchases was insignificant, but I appreciated being recognized as a preferred customer. However, it occurred to me the true purpose of the app is not to encourage loyalty but to gather valuable data that makes Whole Foods and Amazon smarter.

Wildly successful companies like Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Spotify have designed their products to get better with use. The more Spotify understands your music tastes, the better it can serve you and future customers like you.

You can acquire this information with market surveys, but as I’ve said before, people will lie to you. They will tell you your proposal is the best one they received and then buy from your competitor.

The most reliable predictor of future purchases is current behavior. Clearly, every business that expects to be smarter must make customer engagement a priority to accumulate that predictive data.

If you are prepared to do that, you might want to make employee engagement a priority too. In highly competitive recruiting situations, better market data is a huge advantage. It explains why the most highly compensated NCAA coaches are known for recruiting more than what they do on the playing field.

Put customer engagement to work for you and your customers

Make a list of all of your customer engagements. This includes digital interactions on websites and social media, phone calls, newsletters, meetings and payments. Determine what should ideally happen and track what actually does. Then make adjustments to achieve desired outcomes, and maybe a bit more.

When I launched my residential design-build company, all work was sold at kitchen tables and coffee shops where we competed with distractions for the customers’ attention. When we had our own facilities, we made what proved to be an important adjustment. All meetings with clients were held at our offices so we could manage the customer experience. Over time, we learned to refine the process and market it as a competitive advantage.

Brand differentiation can occur anywhere customers are engaged, including how they discover a service, how they buy it, the product itself, how it’s delivered and so on. You want to map this out and ask where you can add value or remove pain from the experience. These days that’s often accomplished with technology.

By adding value and removing obstacles that create friction, you are effectively making your services more valuable with use, just like Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Spotify and the others.

That may seem to be a stretch for a landscape company, but the truth is the accumulated experience of maintaining the same property makes your service better for that customer and every other. More than just reminding them of this, how about accumulating data to back that up?

Data makes a business smarter and using it well makes your company hard to fire. So be careful about protecting your data too.

Incidentally, data is more than numbers. One of the most undervalued forms of data is storytelling. In our digital age, storytelling captures the imagination of customers while also attracting the people who can implement that vision.

Up until now, you may have thought artificial intelligence was just for big corporations. Think again because behavioral data that predicts buying and hiring behavior is the new marketing.

Jeff Korhan

About the Author:

Jeff Korhan is the author of Built-In Social and founder of Landscape Digital Institute. He helps green industry owners, marketers and sales teams craft and communicate branded customer experiences that sell. Learn more at www.landscapedigitalinstitute.com

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