A few nights ago, I had a dream. I was in some kind of resort community very much like St. Andrews. There were a large group of elderly (but spry and kindly) women visiting from some far-away place. There were hundreds of them, all over town.
Every time they received a service from someone – a doorman, a taxi driver, a store clerk, a waiter, whatever – they would very primly press two coins (always a dime and a nickel) into that person’s palm.
In my dream, I realized what was happening: some tour guide or other source of information had told them that it was customary in this resort to tip service staff 15%, but they, as a group, had understood 15¢. Cents.
So the tourists thought they were being very thoughtful by remembering to observe the local tradition, and the service personnel thought they were cheap hags who could go to hell for all they cared. If the ladies knew the truth, they would be horrified at what they had been doing and would immediately rectify their behaviour. If the servers knew that the ladies were misinformed, they would probably feel less slighted, and would probably gently set them straight.
But in my dream this never happened. This sort of misunderstanding drives me crazy. It’s why I hate romantic comedies; where 75% of the time the problem is that the couple in question each thinks that the other doesn’t want to be together for some reason, when in fact they both do.
Why is it we’re sometimes afraid to tell people the TRUTH? To (always) make it clear what our expectations are, and what we’re prepared to do in exchange? In most cases, expecially in business, this isn’t a problem. When I walk into a store, I have a clear expectation that I will give them money and receive some good or service in return.
But it’s not always so cut and dried. When an employee is doing something incorrectly, and the manager thinks, “I’ll just let that slide – I don’t want to hurt his feelings,” then the manager is doing no-one any good. The quality of the work is compromised, and the employee would probably want to know how to perform properly. Why is telling the truth so hard in this case?
I think we as marketers have to bear this in mind. Our customers might be too polite to tell us we’re doing stuff wrong. Sometimes, customer feedback is loud and clear, like when Rogers tried to charge an arm and a leg for iPhone plans. But we may be doing things that prevent our customers from being perfectly satisfied, or maybe even outright irritating them; and not know it.
So what’s the answer? Intimate knowledge of your target market. Be so aware of their wants/needs/desires that you can actually anticipate them, rather than react to them. This is a very difficult thing to do, but it is getting easier with people putting more and more of themselves out there on social networks for their “friends” to see. Why can’t you be their friend?