Rain, shine and bottom line

The highs and lows of the great British summer affect the national move and
spending patterns, says Colin Shaw. 
Perhaps it is time to make your customer-facing employees aware of this

Despite the fact that the British have always been rather self-conscious
about their obsession with the weather, it now turns out they could be right.
Noting weather conditions at the beginning of a working day before briefing
your team could offer a source of competitive advantage.

We have spent billions on making the marketing mix more complex than it
perhaps needs to be. Last year, UK companies spent a colossal £1.18bn on market
research and £4.2bn on TV advertising.

It is the way we are treated and the emotions evoked when we come
face-to-face with an organisation, however, which really makes us remember it
and stay loyal in an ever-increasingly commoditised marketplace. Research*
shows that more than half of every customer experience is based on emotion, yet
a majority of companies still cannot articulate the way they want to make their
customers feel.

This could prove to be an extremely expensive mistake. The insurance
industry wants to foster a sense of trust among its customers, for example.
Emotions are so important that there is certainly a need to train staff to read
and be sensitive to customers’ feelings. However, research* shows that 95 per
cent of companies currently do not train their staff to make positive emotions
arise in customers.

The impact the weather can have on the way people feel goes deep. The
effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) on the individual are now well
documented and we have found there is a real knock-on effect for organisations,
demonstrated by the link between retail sales figures, hours of sunshine and
the way people feel.

When skies are grey, moods are black. The lack of UV causes everyone, staff
and customers alike, to produce increased levels of melatonin which can cause
anxiety and fatigue.

Customers need a touch more TLC, on these overcast days. Research* has shown
that 84 per cent of men lack confidence, and feel apprehensive when they enter
a customer experience, so we brief our clients to spend more time with male
customers on those days and vary their tone.

While a primary focus is building great customer experiences, organisations
should always remember the emotions of their staff. Employees are, of course,
just as likely to be affected by symptoms of SAD and so in dreary weather may
lack the get up and go to raise enthusiasm in customers.

Motivational training on these occasions is essential to raise the spirits
of staff so they may pass their renewed vigour on to customers.

When it comes to picking up on shifts in moods, the weather is just the tip
of this iceberg. Other factors and events that can impact on the nation –
negatively and positively – which organisations should be picking up on and
reacting to accordingly.

On occasions of national jubilation, such as fervour following the England
football team’s defeat of Argentina last June, staff should be briefed on how
to behave towards customers who are more buoyant than usual.

At times of national mourning or disaster, they should be briefed on dealing
sensitively with potentially grief-stricken customers, to perhaps a greater
extent. When feelings are running high, the slightest inappropriate action
could irrevocably destroy a customer’s opinion of your organisation. While this
might seem like minute attention to detail, 71 per cent of senior business
leaders now see customer experience as the next competitive battleground.

The only way to truly stand out is by training staff to be the perfect hosts
for your customers, aware of their needs and tending to their feelings. This is
why in the commoditised marketplace of 2003 the weather may have found an
integrated role in defining workplace customer service strategy.

Colin Shaw is the founder of Beyond Philosophy, the customer experience
consultants.  He is co-author of the
best-selling Building great Customer experiences

* Research conducted by Beyond Philosophy in association with the
Marketing Forum

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