By Tim Moran, VP Brand, PFL
Our CEO, Nick Runyon, sends out these great Sunday night “Updates”—musings, really, that are sometimes about our business, sometimes about his personal philosophies, sometimes just “hey, hope everyone’s doing well and ready for another successful week.”
This past Sunday he wrote about how we at PFL “improve lives by connecting people through authentic moments. We win when we serve people well—both our customers and our teammates. It all starts with people.”
He went on to observe that if we aren’t solving problems for our customers, then they stop working with us and we cease to exist. If we aren’t collaborating and building trust among our teams, then dysfunction takes over.
“Every customer wants to be known,” he wrote. “Every customer wants to be the hero of their own story, and they come to us to help them reach their goals.”
These thoughts were on my mind as I reviewed the fifth edition of Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer.” For this latest version of the report, Salesforce Research surveyed 13,020 consumers and 3,916 business buyers worldwide to learn more about the evolution of trust and loyalty in customer-brand relationships and how customers balance their expectations for personalization versus privacy. It’s fascinating reading.
For instance, the survey indicates that “trust comes from being treated thoughtfully. . . . Sixty-two percent of customers feel an emotional connection to the brands they buy from most. Interactions that feel impersonal—like receiving irrelevant offers or waiting on hold—run the risk of alienating customers and damaging hard-won relationships.”
We made this point in a recent blog about the endless stream of faux-personal emails we all get. Read “care” for “thoughtful”: “In the end, what is really at issue here is ‘care.’ Sending what you believe is a chatty, chummy, clever invite to get in touch with you to talk about something the recipient probably is not interested in shows you care not the least about them nor their time.”
The report also states that, despite customers being online more now than they were in 2020—a state of affairs that is not expected to change anytime soon—“43 percent of customers prefer non-digital channels—meaning satisfying customers generally requires great experiences both online and offline.”
We addressed this is a recent blog, as well: “Today, marketers have more digital means and opportunities to reach their customers, but few use these to create the right engagement. Indeed, marketers’ overuse of digital touchpoints have trained buyers to duck and cover when marketers reach out, rather than lean in and engage.”
In other words, as the report notes, though social distancing has pushed customers online (upping digital channels’ share of transactions by 36 percent between 2019 and 2021), marketers still often view these digital customers as cheap, exploitable resources rather than as the precious commodities they are. We at PFL believe that physical mail, while often overlooked, lets marketers break through the digital din with hybrid experiences that blend the engagement of physical mail with the measurability and orchestration of digital tactics. The fact is direct mail delivers high engagement in the form of open rates and brand recall and is effective when used to re-engage people into digital journeys.
Finally, one of the more, perhaps, surprising findings is that customers are very concerned about a company’s values. Said the Salesforce report: “For many customers, it’s not enough for companies to deliver a great product or service; they must also be active stewards of a just and sustainable world. Eighty-five percent of customers say their purchase decisions are swayed by how companies treat employees, and over three-quarters watch for environmental practices, like protecting natural resources and achieving net zero emissions.”
In fact, the study makes it clear that many customers wish organizations spoke up more about the defining issues of our time. Nearly nine in 10 expect companies to clearly state their values, but only half feel this is common practice. “With the growing impact of values on purchase decisions, standing on the sidelines is less safe than it used to be. Sixty-six percent of customers have stopped buying from a company whose values didn’t align with theirs—up from 62 percent in 2020.”
While there is much more of interest in this report, Salesforce sums it up this way: “The norms of commerce, work, and everyday life have been turned upside down, prompting customers and brands to reestablish how they connect. . . . However they choose to engage, customers expect flexibility and a thoughtful, personal touch. Empowered by choice and increasing control over their personal data, trust is their beacon.”
From the Salesforce report, we can conclude that every customer wants to know as much as possible about the companies they do business with. As Dina Gerdeman wrote in a recent blog: “People flock to businesses that are authentic—companies that clearly communicate what they stand for and stay true to those values. Consumers want to do more than buy a logo in a one-off transaction; they want to build relationships by connecting with brands they admire in a meaningful way.”
The report concludes: “While it may sound simple, being truthful and open is the top way organizations can build trust. A track record of routine honesty is the foundation upon which brands build trusted customer relationships.”
Nick Runyon said, “every customer wants to be known.” We can now add to that that they also want to “know” who they are doing business with.