Longings: The hidden path to getting under the customer’s skin

Keshav Arora • February 07, 2020
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Suppose Netflix shut down your fav shows. Assume the streaming service pulled out the next season of its action-packed medieval series The Witcher or the sci-fi horror of Stranger Things. Would you still stay with Netflix? Good sense says, “Of course not! I will stick with an app or a service as long as it gives me what I want.” This is a realistic scenario. And it presents one of the trickiest challenges before businesses whose customers are being wooed by a growing wealth of options (unfortunately, from competitors).

The answer to the question, “How do I retain customers?” has become delicate. You can’t retain them using templated tricks that seemed to work so well barely two years ago. Throwing frequent reminder mails, discounts, personalized gifts, cool experiences, freebies and bonus loyalty points at them won’t cut it any longer. The conversations and connects with customers have to be at a level that is deeper than value-based transactions. We believe that a level, deeper than value, is where fundamental human longings live. When a business addresses the primary longings of its customers, long-term loyalty is almost assured.

What do “longings” look like?

In a bid to go beyond value-based transactions, today’s products, services, brands and organizations must rally around the deep-seated human emotions that drive humans:

  • They want to celebrate life
  • They crave to be fascinated
  • They want to experience beauty
  • They want to be great
  • They want to belong
  • They want to be wholehearted
  • They want to be relevant

While “value” is a moving target that depends on environments and circumstances, the underlying longings of humans have remained constant for centuries. To recognize, respect and align with these longings is the secret of long-term engagement.

How does Design Thinking address the longings?

Looking at a few examples help understand what it means to address “longings” in addition to delivering “value”: A news channel derives its audience from putting out the news first. What happens if it stops being able to meet its established USP for a while? What happens when a shift in customer attitude moves Windows users to iOS? Or when buyers of large ready-to-eat food brands move to home delivery?

The most widely prevalent solution to fight back for survival is to lean on a design-thinking methodology that triangulates desirability, viability and feasibility and delivers design innovation at the intersection of the three. Digital organizations have begun to use this methodology for all their projects in a bid to solve problems of efficiency, competitive advantage, meaningful user experience and value delivery.

How do you meet “longings”?

Unfortunately, a business or a brand cannot deliver “greatness” overnight; it cannot make customers “relevant” in an instant; it cannot give them a sense of “belonging” when they wake up the next morning. What it can do is begin to take simple baby steps and build on its commitment to stay aligned with “longings” along with changing “values”.

Let’s try and translate these ideas into real-life scenarios. Imagine for a moment a stock trading application that promises its user better trading strategies and outcomes than other trading apps. Could such an application tell users how much ahead they are of others? Perhaps it can, after a trading session is complete or a day-end report is delivered, say, “You are 20 percent ahead of your immediate peer group. You can now take one of the three suggestions provided below to improve your trading results by another 2 percent.”

Such an application, by telling users they are doing better than others, goes beyond normal value by making the user feel great. By providing suggestions to enhance performance, the app is amplifying the emotion of “greatness”.

Hence, today’s customer journeys are focused around value-based transactions. Once the transaction is complete, the threat of losing the customer becomes real. By blending value-based transactions with primary longings, businesses can make the task of customer retention less stressful.

Let’s create something amazing together!

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