“Falling in love is easy; staying in love is hard.” It’s a harsh truth of romance and maybe more so in the world of professional sales. Getting customers to love us may seem like an uphill battle, but keeping customers in love with us? That can feel downright impossible! In his recent article for Harvard Business Review, author Gabor George Burt explores this challenge with great humor and insight, including a terrific analysis of the infatuation cycle, entertaining examples and suggestions for keeping the (customer) love alive. It’s an excellent read. Below is an excerpt, but it really is worth reading the entire article…
Keeping Customers Continuously Infatuated
By Gabor George Burt
August 9, 2016 – HBR.com
“… customers by nature are insatiable and continuously yearn for things they don’t yet possess. Their satisfaction frontier is always beyond their grasp.
Therefore, trying to enduringly satisfy your customers is dangerously misguided. Instead, you should strive to infatuate them – over and over again. Infatuation implies a very strong yet short-lived attraction, which captures the true essence of customer experience. Understanding its implications is critical for your ability to maintain ongoing relevance.
Let’s dig a little deeper. Any successful and well-received offering first creates an infatuation interval in which customers are fixated on its novelty, seduced by its perceived benefits, and blinded to its potential shortcomings. However, such an interval is by definition fleeting. As the veil of infatuation wears off, customers will no longer feel privileged but instead fully entitled to receive the offering’s benefits.
Their shift in attitude represents the transition to the entitlement period, in which customers will take notice of and express all the things that could make the offering even better for them. If you let your customers enter and then linger in the entitlement period without heeding their suggestions or demands, they will become increasingly critical and at some point turn away from your offering altogether.
To retain customer attention, companies have to continuously refresh the customer experience, introducing new dimensions at just the right time to keep the flame of infatuation burning.
Let me give an illustration… In the 2000s, airlines launched personal entertainment systems in economy class cabins on intercontinental flights. The system provided each passenger with a television screen and a hand-held remote along with access to dozens of movies, television shows, games, and musical selections. This was huge. It gave passengers control of how they would spend their time in the air. It instantaneously lifted the tedium of extended flying. Not surprisingly, the entertainment system caused a wave of excitement among passengers, who fully embraced its capabilities. But this elation did not last indefinitely. After a while, critical chatter — then outright complaints — started to creep in, becoming more and more frequent: ‘Why can’t the system be used during the entire flight and not just at flying altitude? Why can’t the movie selection be changed more frequently? Why aren’t the earphones better?’
Consider the progression here. In the beginning, passengers welcomed the new offering with childlike gratitude and giddiness, finding themselves squarely at the start of the infatuation interval. But as the entertainment system’s novelty began to wear off, they started to notice and voice its apparent shortcomings and how it should be made better. Finally, they transitioned to the entitlement period, in which they regarded the system as the status quo and demanded it be enhanced further.
To make use of the infatuation interval phenomenon, you first have to envelop your customers in an experience that evokes genuine elation. Second, look to create features that stretch your offering’s infatuation interval to be as long as possible. Then generate a continuous stream of infatuation intervals, so that as soon as one is nearing its end, you launch enticing innovations that elicit a new one. The idea is to keep your customers in a perpetual cycle of infatuation, and to attract more and more new customers with each cycle.
For insights on what fresh features to introduce to create new infatuation intervals, collect and analyze customer feedback regularly and rigorously. For instance, you might collect feedback from early adopters who’ve already transitioned to the entitlement period. Or, more powerfully, you can anticipate latent desires that customers themselves are yet unable to express.
… So consider that you shouldn’t merely focus on providing your customers with a satisfying experience. Rather, you should aim to deliver them a string of experiences that keep them perpetually infatuated.”
Gabor George Burt is a global authority on re-imagining boundaries and creator of the Slingshot Platform, enabling organizations to overstep perceived limitations and to carve out successful growth strategies.