A genuine effort to understand your customers’ emotions is essential to your Customer Experience design. Also, when you can segment based on customers’ behavior and the needs the behavior indicates, you can customize your experience to appeal to each segment. Today, I have a new form of segmentation that I have been working on to help people during the pandemic.
Before we get into that, I have a story to give you some background on why I did this. My oldest daughter has a new baby. She has always been cautious, so they’ve been locked down for two months. When my son-in-law was mowing the grass, a stone flicked up from the mower and smashed the window. My daughter was concerned about COVID-19 risks if she hired someone to fix it, but she also didn’t want people to let themselves into the house through the broken window either.
She phoned a couple of places to ask some questions about how the firms would handle the COVID-19 risks during the installation. The first glazier she called said the COVID-19 was a load of rubbish, and the media had overhyped its danger. The second one gave her a detailed plan of how they would enter and exit, wipe down, and protect the homeowners to the best of their ability from a possible SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
Based on what you know about her, which option do you think she chose?
We discussed on a recent podcast that when organizations open up after the pandemic, they have a unique environment to provide an excellent Customer Experience. The states in the US and the various countries handled the pandemic in different ways with varying lockdown approaches. It can range from Sweden where they haven’t had a lockdown at all to the UK that did. Or New York was walloped early with cases vs. Georgia, which opened up back in April. Some customers have been locked down for two months and others who haven’t. To respond or reimagine your experience today, you should understand how the customer is feeling based on their situation before they walked through your door.
It presents an opportunity to use what we call a Golden Question. A Golden Question is a sort where the answer reveals the “type” of person the respondent is. For example, if you were to ask your customers whether they phone or text their friends, you could determine that people who phone are older and people who text are younger or that those that text are more comfortable with technology than those who call.
In the context of the pandemic, your Golden Question should help determine how concerned about COVID-19 your customers are. However, if you ask them that, people (who do not know you) are not likely to tell you the whole story. Instead, customers might modify it or, in some cases, tell you what they think you want to hear. So, it would be best if you asked the question a different way.
Face masks are a symbol of the pandemic. You have also likely noticed that the willingness to wear a face mask correlates to different feelings about the pandemic. Therefore, the Golden Question will help you determine how concerned your customers are about the risk of COVID-19 as businesses re-open is this:
When have you been wearing a face mask?
The answers to this question are useful in a couple of different ways. First, it can help you segment your customers by their feelings about the threat of COVID-19. You can use these insights to understand where your customers are emotionally about the pandemic. Second, the process that we use to segment customers according to their responses to the Golden Question about face masks is a demonstration on how to segment your customer base based on psychological needs.
The Five Segments of Face Mask Wearers
This specific needs-based segmentation concerns the Golden Question, “When have you been wearing a face mask?” The spreadsheet below will show you how they break down:
There are five different categories of people that depict how the customer feels about the threat of COVID-19:
- Full Metal Jacket: Very worried.
- Nervous Face Mask Wearer: Worried.
- Socially Conscious Face Mask Wearer: Worried for others, but not themselves.
- Pocket Face Mask Carrier: Not concerned.
- Freedom Fighter: Not at all concerned.
Full Metal Jacket: These people feel vulnerable for various reasons. They do not feel safe, so they’re in a “full metal jacket” when they go out. However, if people in this segment can avoid going out, they will, even if it means going without something they need.
Nervous Face Mask Wearer: This second segment will go out, but they feel unsafe, anxious, and afraid. They will always wear a face mask when they go out (and maybe in the car on the way there), and they will only go out for essentials.
Socially-Conscious Face Mask Wearer: We know from the science that the main benefits of wearing a face mask are not for you; it’s for everybody else that’s around you. The socially-conscious segment wears the mask for everyone else because it is the responsible thing to do and maybe a little bit to protect themselves.
Pocket Face Mask Carrier: These people are not concerned about COVID-19, but they put a mask in their pocket or purse. If everybody else is wearing it, they will, too, but only because of social pressure.
Freedom Fighter: Freedom Fighters are people who believe that the threat of the SARS-CoV-2 is exaggerated. This group is the most likely not to wear a face mask and is proud of the fact that they are not.
These customer segments are feeling different things. For example, Full Metal Jacket and Nervous Face Mask Wearer segments are scared. Freedom Fighters are angry. Socially Conscious Face Mask Wearers and Pocket Face Mask Wearers are somewhere between scared, angry, and wanting to support society’s decisions. How you respond to each group with your experience should reflect these feelings. For example, your experience should make Full Metal Jacket and Nervous Face Mask Wearers feel safe by clearly communicating everything you are doing to provide a virus-free experience. With the Freedom Fighters, however, you want to provide as much normalcy as possible, because they are already annoyed about the current state before they even arrived and will not want to hear how safe you are making your experience from the threat of COVID-19.
It is important not to pass judgment on any of these groups. You probably identify with one of these groups and understand how they feel because you feel the same way. However, it is essential to understand and have empathy with the other segments, too.
We recommend stepping outside your feelings and try to feel what your customers think so that you can anticipate and design experiences for them.
What You Can Do with This Information
There are a couple of practical approaches you can take to this information. One, you could use it as a segmentation tool that gives you specific targets with your marketing messages. For example, send the Full-Metal-Jacket types the marketing message about safety protocols and plans for socially distant interactions and the Freedom Fighters with a “Welcome Back!” or “We’re open for business” message. Second, you can examine how to customize your present experience to serve their needs and concerns and maximize your flexibility.
It is essential to recognize that needs change depending on the situation and the segment. Usually, I would tell you that most people want easy experiences. However, today, people might wish to have something to be safer than it is easy. However, what the Full Metal Jacket segment thinks is safe is not going to be the same as the Freedom Fighters. Moreover, the Nervous Face Mask Wearer and Socially-Conscious Face Mask Wearer segments are likely more willing to endure a slower, more complicated process than a Pocket Face Mask Wearer.
Segmenting your customer base gives you an insight into how customers are thinking and feeling. The beauty of the Golden Question about wearing the face mask is it shows you what your customers are thinking and feeling about the pandemic.
However, even when there isn’t a global pandemic that required most of your customers to stay inside for two or three months, advanced segmentation takes into account customer behavior and their hidden, unmet needs. Also, you gain insight that you wouldn’t get by asking. As I often say, what people say and what they do are often different things.
For our present situation, how customers wear face masks is a “golden behavior,” meaning you can tell a lot about a person based on whether they’re wearing a mask or not and how they’re wearing the mask. So, ask yourself what the “face masks” of your offering are? What “golden behaviors” that you can observe for your product or service that could tell you something about the needs that people have?
Identifying elements of your experience outside of your product or service that meet customers’ needs—whether that means it meets needs for self-expression, connection with other people, control, or anything else— is crucial for your segmentation success. Then, develop ways for quick assessment so you can determine strategies for maximizing benefits along those dimensions.
To hear more about this idea in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here.
What customers say they want and what they really want are often different things. It is vital to know what drives value for your organization. Our Emotional Signature research can tell you where you are compared to other organizations and what to focus on to drive value for your customers. To learn more, please click here.
Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX