Once again, the pollsters got it wrong.
This article is the first of many examining the reasons why, and I’m sure we can expect another round of ferocious introspection from the polling industry.
Perhaps future polls will be more reliable.
Is there anything the rest of us can learn from what just happened? I think so, and I think there are some particularly pertinent lessons for the way we think about customers.
Margins of error matter
At the beginning of the night, it looked like a comfortable victory for Clinton, but if you examine the margins of error (as in this excellent New York Times graphic from their election forecast page) you can see that it was much less clear-cut than that.
Margins of error are not a detail for the data geeks, they tell us what we know. Make sure that when you make decisions about customers, you’re making those decisions on firm foundations.
Perception is reality
People talk about a post-truth society. The fact is that there never was a “truth society”. Perception has always been more powerful than reality in shaping the decisions that people make.
There are all sorts of psychological and social mechanisms that underpin this. Social filtering, confirmation bias, the repetition principle.These may be becoming more powerful, but they have always been there.
With customers, it makes it incredibly important to tell customers about the changes you make. It also means that managing how customers feel is more important than what you actually do. Disney’s queue management is a great example of this. The length of the wait becomes secondary if you can make waiting fun.
Focus on what matters to customers…
…and not what you think should matter to them. The only way to deliver a great customer experience is to get inside their heads and really understand them, the context in which they live, and the things that they value.
Be prepared for a shock.
Qualitative research is a great tool for understanding how your customers see the world. It can give you an incredibly rich view of the context within which your product or service features in their lives.
Guess what? It’s less important to them than it is to you. They didn’t read that carefully crafted email you sent them. They’re probably not the mythical “brand loyalists” we all wish for, but almost no one has.
Find out what customers want, and give it to them, and you will create great customer experiences. Great experiences lead to customer loyalty, not because of who you are, but because you understand who they are.
Simple messages are powerful
The reality is that most customers don’t care very much about what you do. Their lives are busy, the perceived differentiation between you and your competitors is small, and you’re all saying the same things.
Find a way to be different.
Package it into a simple, clear, message.
Make people believe it.
If you can do that the possibility to disrupt the status quo is enormous, as both Trump and the Brexit campaign have shown this year. It’s a powerful mix, but it’s only the beginning. There’s a crucial fourth step.