Since all of us are consumers, at one time or another we’ve had to communicate with the companies with whom we do business about some opportunity or issue in our relationship.
Our satisfaction with that interaction often has as much to do with how, when or where the communication took place as it does with what was said.
We are most likely to feel valued as customers when the communication is to our liking in all these dimensions; in other words when we feel the companies we do business with treat us as individuals.
On the other hand, profit-driven companies who service customers numbering in the millions or even 10’s of millions typically think about customers in much broader terms. While we often talk about providing "1 to 1" service, in reality customers are more often dealt with as part of large segments aligned around some aspect of their prior or expected behavior such as potential value, loyalty or credit risk.
Given this tension between an enterprise’s need to carefully manage their costs and a customer’s preference for personalized service, it’s no wonder our popular culture has produced numerous examples of the individual’s fight against anonymity:
- Facebook & Twitter's popularity is driven in part by our often unfulfilled need to be recognized by others as a unique individual.
- Robert DeNiro channeled everyone's inner "nobody" in the film Taxi Driver when his character Travis Bickle angrily asked "Are you talking to me?!?!"
- Finally (and you may hate me for putting this tune in your head) Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band railed against it in their hit song “I Feel Like a Number”.
If these and other expressions of desire for personal acknowledgement represent a universal human need, doesn't it make sense for companies to make sure all the messages we send to customers communicate appreciation of their unique individual attributes?
Or at very least, shouldn't we at least call customers by their name?
In my next blog, I'll share a case study illustrating the tremendous impact one Varolii client found in that simple act, after which no one could accuse them of treating their customers "like a number".
In the meantime, tell me about your favorite expressions of individuality in popular culture. Just enter a comment below...consider it part of your own fight against anonymity!