Cela fait quelques temps que j’avais envie de partager avec vous quelques passages de l’excellente interview de Chip Conley, CEO de « Joie de Vivre Hospitality », une grande chaîne d’hôtel haut de gamme implantée en Californie. Son intervention traite de son dernier livre « Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow. » J’avais d’abord penser à traduire le passage pour les non anglophones, mais je préfère publier prochainement une synthèse reprenant les principes fondamentaux de la pyramide de Maslow. Bonne lecture.
– For a customer, the survival need equates to having one’s expectations met. If you don’t meet their expectations, you haven’t met their survival needs; you’ve created buyer’s remorse. It comes down to the difference between expectation and reality. Most companies get very focused on the base; that’s what customer satisfaction surveys are about. « Was your check-in process efficient? » Well, sure it was, but I hated this and that other thing, which the survey won’t ask me about. We most notice the intangible. Pure customer satisfaction is at the base of the pyramid.The success need is having desires met, which companies deliver either via technology or training. Good examples of using technology are Amazon and Netflix, which use mass-customized technology. The more I use them, the better they know me and my desires. Similarly, Four Seasons hotels are more high-touch. Through great training, the people there know my desires. That creates customer loyalty – and this second level is where it builds, not at the bottom of the pyramid.Now for the top of the pyramid. Henry Ford said, « If I listened to my customers, they’d tell me to get a faster horse. » By meeting the unrecognized needs of a customer, which the customer may not be able to articulate themselves, you create a customer evangelist. So there’s customer loyalty in the middle, and *evangelism* at the top. A self-actualized customer is so thrilled you’ve met a need they didn’t know they had, that they become believer. Companies that do this include Apple, Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines, and JetBlue.You get on a JetBlue flight and find your own TV at your seat. More importantly, you have some control at a time you’d otherwise feel out of control. Companies that do this well create not just loyalty but a marketing machine.
Question – What are some best practices of companies that use the customer pyramid to great effect?
– There are four qualities that define companies that are creating these customer evangelists. First, they help their customers meet their highest goals – allowing a customer to achieve their ideal goals from using the product. Apple enables its customers to go out and exercise their minds. Nike encourages customers to « just do it. » Google gives you exactly what you’re looking for. These companies are helping customers meet their highest goals.Second is giving your customers the ability to truly express themselves. By buying a Harley-Davidson, a middle-aged accountant from the Midwest can feel like a rebel. In the case of boutique hotels, you might say, « You are where you sleep. » If a hotel has a personality that represents an aspiration for you, then hopefully when you check out it will have rubbed off on you a little bit. Similarly, there’s a halo effect of being an Apple user; and Starbucks has tried to become a curator for a lifestyle for its customers. These are customers who feel like they can express themselves through the purchase of a product or service.Third is making customers feel like they’re part of a bigger cause. Hummer buyers may feel that connection, but most people would say that it’s lacking a socially responsible element. Patagonia – the company, not the region in Argentina – runs its « 1% for the planet » campaign, and its loyal customers are « Patagoniacs. » They love being associated with Patagonia because it’s part of a bigger cause. For people who buy from Apple, it’s not just « I’m an iconoclastic rebel, » but « I’m part of a bigger cause, » the anti-Microsoft attitude. At Whole Foods Market, you may go there because you love the product, but lots of people buy there because they love the sustainability cause. People like buying a Toyota Prius because it makes them feel good about both buying a car *and* doing something for the planet, even though that’s a rather oxymoronic thought.The fourth quality is offering customers something of real value they hadn’t even imagined. That’s what JetBlue did with the TV screen. That’s what FedEx did when they created overnight delivery. It was a remarkable thought, 25 years ago, that you could send something overnight. But that innovation became a commodity over time. A lot of people entered FedEx’s market, and Fred Smith, the founder, said, « I thought I was in the transporting goods, and then I realized that I was in the business of creating peace of mind. » So he created a logistics program to allow customers to track packages. Now the innovation, what people wanted, an almost unrecognized desired, was: if I’m sending it overnight, the person on either end wants to know where it is. FedEx went from being an also-ran to going to the top of the pyramid again and taking market share away from its competitors. FedEx’s innovation in terms of tracking was addressing that peace of mind that customers were looking for.
Question – How can any company start to put these principles into practice?
– The easiest way is to consider how Maslow’s hierarchy can be applied to your customer. For example, for a hotel customer, the physical level is a clean and comfortable bed. Safety might be offering an electric card-key instead of a regular key, and making sure there’s good lighting in the parking lot. And so on. Just remember that there is a hierarchy of needs of employees, customers, and investors, and you can help people around you understand that.