Lessons In Happiness: The Product Is Secondary

I just got off the phone with a customer who called in just to say “Thank You”.

He didn’t have any questions, any concerns or […]

The Cheers Effect: Why Social Media Works For Businesses And How To Use It

If you read the emails in some of my previous posts on happiness, you’ll quickly recognize some of the same themes and ‘happiness triggers’ at work.   As customers what we want usually boils down to the same basic three things: We want the process of purchasing and receiving an item to happen quickly, we want quality products and we hope that through the entire process there’s something that feels personal and friendly about the experience (whether it’s in the ordering process or through customer service after the fact).

Getting what you want when you want it is great.  No hassle, no screw-ups, just the facts ma’am.

But, as I’ve said before, it’s really only the bare minimum for happiness and is a lot closer to meaning ‘you weren’t unhappy’ than leading to any true happiness as a customer.  It’s the  last item, the personal connection,  where the difference is being made right now and it’s a lesson being learned across the world in just about every type of business.

What’s fascinating about the personal connection is that it’s the one thing on the list of what we want as a consumer that we don’t really need.  If you buy something and it’s broken or it shows up late, you’ll feel cheated and have something to complain about.  If you get exactly what you want and it shows up on time, you’re not going to get upset because you didn’t form a relationship with the store owner or didn’t feel a personal connection – strangely enough you usually won’t even realize it’s been missing until it’s actually there to appreciate. “Business as usual” usually means just that, business.

Where did the personal connection go in business and how did we wind up not really expecting it anymore?

Over the last 50 years or so we’ve quickly transitioned from a society built on small, local businesses to seeing many of those ‘mom and pop’ stores pushed out to make room for larger chains which don’t offer the same personal experience.  Add the Internet to the mix and suddenly making purchases became an experience that could literally be done with ZERO human contact or interaction.

In a lot of ways, it’s easy to argue that we all want that simplicity.  We love the idea of not having to talk to a pestering salesperson, not having to interact unnecessarily (or even leave the house) and just being able to get what we know we want, on time and for a fair price.  It’s simple and efficient.  But, deep down, most of us still crave that personal connection whether you even realize it or not.  And amazingly enough, the Internet, the same medium that seemed poised to bury the coffin of ‘personal commerce’,  is now bringing it back thanks to the broad umbrella of social media.
The Cheers Effect

“You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”

The Internet has always been a communication tool.  I was lucky enough to be young and computer-savvy when the early incarnations of the Internet started to creep into the home.  Sure there was talk of research and libraries and access to information, but all of my first online experiences were based around connecting with other people. From BBS’s to chat rooms to just connecting directly by modem to someone in another state (“Hey man, what’s your parity and baud rate?”) –  it was always about breaking down the barriers of communication.   I remember using my modem for the very first time to connect with a neighbor a few streets over, it probably took 3 hours of troubleshooting settings and was an awful lot of trouble when I could have just picked up the phone to talk, but it was all about the connection.  Seeing a conversation appear on my screen from someone else, regardless of where they were, it was obvious even then that there was something to that connectedness – the future felt right around the corner. Fast forward 20 some years and we’re now calling all this connectedness ‘social media’, but the message is the same:  we’re clearly a social species that craves to be connected (well, that and we all love hilarious videos).

Why social media works for people is obvious, but one of the most surprising side effects of social media in the last few years is that it became amazingly clear that people don’t just want to connect with and follow each other’s lives, they’re also interested in connecting with businesses.  Why in the world would anyone want to be online ‘friends’ with a business?!?!?

The answer lies in what I refer to as The Cheers Effect:

You go to the same bar or coffee shop enough times and suddenly the person behind the counter knows your name and what you like to drink.  You walk into your local hardware store and they remember the project you’ve been working on and ask about the progress.   The benefits to these relationships can range from getting discounts and perks to just the simple emotional reward of having someone know who you are and appreciate your support to their business.  While the perks are nice, we tend to form these relationships because ultimately it feels good to know people on the other side of the counter.   You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

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