Are you arachnophobic, agoraphobic or acrophobic? If not, you’ll certainly know someone who is. Fearing spiders, crowded places and heights is not always a bad thing as each of these has an inherent aspect of danger.
A phobia is an unhelpful anxiety or fear of a situation or thing. If you are scared of something and it can harm you; that is a good thing. If the fear is present, but the danger is not, such as seeing pictures of spiders or approaching the window in a skyscraper, that is unhelpful and hence, is a phobia.
What is Customer Phobia?
Individuals and organisations that are ‘Customer Phobic’, experience fear or anxiety when facing contact with their customers. The customer does not present a danger to the person or business, so the fear is not helpful. All businesses exist to serve their customer. Without their customers, businesses have no reason to be. Contrary to posing a danger to business, customer contact and understanding is essential to business sustainability and growth.
The Customer Phobia may manifest itself in avoidance, denial, or general disengagement of all things to do with customers. People with Customer Phobia may panic when customer truths are exposed, and swear that it is significantly less valuable to connect with customers than the pain of learning customer truths. This article explains how the business implications of not tackling Customer Phobia are far more severe than the perceived threat.
What is the impact of Customer Phobia on your business?
If people in your businesses have a customer phobia and manage to cover it up, they are stopping your business from growing. If you or your colleagues are suffering from ‘Customer phobia’ it will have a significant negative impact on your business, unless you take charge and combat the fear. Organisations who do not converse, interact with and embrace their customers will fall behind those who step up to the challenge.
Being vulnerable is an essential part of building a trust relationship with your customer. Without a deep understanding of your customer you will not be able to deliver exceptional products and services. Demonstrating that you are genuinely interested in listening and responding allows customers to feel comfortable in sharing their wishes, dreams, and fears, rather than just turning to another company that ‘Just gets them’.
At 3rdView we work with companies suffering varying levels of Customer Phobia. The level of phobia can be determined by the extent of their resistance to hearing and seeing customer insights and avoiding customer contact. Observing signs of such behaviours can help us understand people’s internal phobias without having to call them out.. How can you design exceptional customer experiences without being open to knowing what makes your customers tick and the role you play in their lives?
The three levels of customer phobia:
1) Hear no customer (aka “La, la, la… not listening”)
Fear of the unknown can be a strong force guiding the behaviour of many companies. A mindset of “If I don’t know, I don’t have to deal with it” is something we often come across. When we see businesses with non-existent or ineffective feedback channels we know they are switching-off from the customer voice. Through deliberate or unintentional dismissing of customers, many businesses do not realise they are missing massive opportunities for growth.
Often organisations are built on a foundation of strong customer connections, but through fast paced development and a focus on efficiency, they leave their original customer base behind. As a result of perceived rejection these customers will move on to businesses that welcome them with open arms. Losing customers can leave the business perplexed, making them even less likely to seek an understanding of their customers’ motivation to leave, reinforcing this vicious cycle.
The growth of a business may have captured new, yet unfamiliar markets. Without reaching out to these new groups and welcoming them into the conversation, businesses remain disconnected from their most valuable assets – their customers.
Many businesses have a relentless dread of facing their customer, in fear of what they might say or how they will look or feel as a result of it. Those who feel they have been ‘burnt’ in the past through honest customer feedback, often go to great lengths to shut the customers out of the conversation.
The use of outsourced market research or requesting reports from other internal groups may be a symptom of customer phobia. This fear of confrontation means valuable knowledge and insights go undiscovered, as companies avoid placing themselves in a situation where the customer can actually reach them. Such behaviour may make them feel protected from the perceived threat of criticism and vulnerability, however it does not guard them from the real threat of reduced customer satisfaction, diminishing loyalty and social media backlash.
There are different levels of benefit that can be derived from customer interactions. Learning customer needs and pain-points helps identify opportunities for a business to deliver value. Turning an idea into a product or service without further customer engagement limits the value that can actually be delivered and hence the benefit the company can receive.
Leaders will often say “We’ve heard what the customer needs, so now we can just deliver”. This puts customer phobic people back into their comfort zone and aligns with a ‘business-as-usual’ project management process. Engaging customers throughout prototyping and co-designing with them not only refines the outcome, but also builds customer buy-in and ownership the products and services being designed to serve their needs. If customer phobias block the ongoing engagement with customers, your business misses these benefits.
3rdView treatment of Customer Phobia
We are able to help your business confront the fear of customers through a range of ‘treatment’ options. Based on your needs we suggest tactics to take you from a customer phobic to a Customer Focused organisation;
First we diagnose the level of phobia and identify points where the fear of the customer is stopping your people from achieving their goals.
3rdView believe the best starting point for treating Customer phobia is to bring the customer to you in a way that makes you feel safe. You will be able to see the value of listening to your customers and how it outweighs any risk you may envisage.
We use a range of tools to safely and carefully meter the customer contact, to ensure positive associations with customers to help reduce any concerns.
We can help move your business past the blockage of customer phobia and into growth zone that comes with the alignment of engaged customers and customer focused staff.
Are you ready to turn your customer phobia into customer focus? Speak to us today!