Last updated: 4 things parenting taught me about customer engagement

4 things parenting taught me about customer engagement


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For the past decade I’ve been catering to the whims of people who constantly surprise me with their demands. They never ask for the same thing the same way twice, and they require new and delightful experiences to stay engaged for more than three minutes at a time.

These people I’m talking about are my two children. They are the most exacting customers I’ve ever encountered. The good news is that, after a decade of experience, parenting them taught me some of the most essential aspects of customer engagement.

Know what they want before they want it

The first year of my first child’s life was a master class in anticipating someone’s needs, and learning to recognize the subtle cues she gave off to let me know what was coming next. It was a matter of survival, both hers and mine. I had to know what she needed before she needed it.

When it comes to engaging your customers today, I’m not suggesting they are a bunch of wailing babies. Rather, they’re highly sophisticated creatures who are constantly evolving in what they need and desire, based on external and internal factors.

Technology, working habits, major life events—all of these “triggers” can change the needs and wants of your customers. Your job is to use the tools at your disposal to anticipate these needs and wants (data) and use that information to deliver the best, most engaging experience at the right time (whenever they need it) and the right place (mobility).

Everything is personal

I have one kid who is an avowed carnivore and another who is a self-declared vegetarian. One wants peas for dinner and the other wants a steak. While catering to every whim is nearly impossible—and certainly costly—making sure there’s an item on the table that will please each of them is well within my capabilities.

Image that you’re serving a meal to your customers, and all you have to offer is a big pot of potatoes. What if half of them want buttered beans? Or some perfectly seared salmon? At this point in time, everyone knows it’s possible to get at least some level of personalization—and when you don’t get it, you notice.

Don’t let anyone leave the table hungry.

Don’t assume you know what they want

As your customer matures in their interactions with you, what you think they want might not always be what they actually do want.

Last week my tween daughter asked for a subscription to a magazine. Without asking my digital native first, I ordered her the digital edition for her tablet. That’s when she informed me she wanted the print version.

When I asked her why, she said, “What if I want to tear something out and keep it?”

I assumed that was an antiquated teen-age behavior, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. When in doubt, ask your customers what they want. You’ll be surprised at how willing they are to tell you.

It’s not a transaction, it’s a relationship

When it comes to raising kids, you’re not in it for the payoff. It’s a daily feedback loop of input and output and you may not always get back what you’re putting in. That doesn’t mean you should just do the minimum.

When it comes to customers, it’s no longer enough to nurture them only to the point of a single transaction. You’re in a relationship with that buyer. Sometimes, that may mean that you give more than you get. But in the end, your nurturing will be rewarded with an embrace and their loyalty.

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