Cries of Consumers: What do today’s consumers and infants have in common?
The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, really. I don’t actually mean that consumers are crying out for attention or help the way children might. While there has been a need to begin to include and analyze actual children as a consumer base in recent years, what we’re actually going to be looking at is how helping consumers have the best experience can run striking and healthy parallels with how we interact with children, especially younger ones.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not talking about infantilizing consumers. We should treat adult consumers with respect, but then, we should also treat children with respect.
In fact, the ways we meet children where they are and have healthy, constructive interactions with them can serve as a great model for how we treat consumers. Let’s take a closer look at this.
Seeing the parallels
We’ve all been victims of sitting through a child’s temper tantrum in some public space. Maybe it happened while in line at the supermarket, maybe at a restaurant, in the movie theater, etc. A lot of people who aren’t parents can be quick to think about how this episode is disrupting their day, and a lot of parents will be quick to empathize.
If we analyze the situation for a bit, it isn’t difficult to see that children often throw tantrums because they don’t understand some fundamental concept that seems obvious to the rest of us. Maybe we can’t afford that extra toy, or we simply can’t keep buying new toys every time we walk by the toy section. Maybe they don’t understand why the line is taking so long (and, honestly, I still don’t). Whatever the specific reason might be, a lot of these tantrums stem from not understanding the problem at hand, or not understanding why our all-powerful parents can’t just make it go away.
So, what do we do in these situations? Experts tell us that communication is key and that helping children identify their emotions, what they can do to feel better, and help them understand the situation can be key factors to their personal development as human beings.
If we think about it for a second longer, the parallels are pretty clear: frustrated because they don’t understand the full context? Frustrated because we can’t fix the issue with a snap of our fingers, or by calling some manager or authority figure? Are we talking about children or consumers?
Being helpful and constructive
It’s easy to get frustrated with a child that doesn’t understand why they can’t take the toy they found home, and it’s easy to just leave the situation and hope they forget about it. But you aren’t solving or even acknowledging the problem that way. You also aren’t going to give this toddler a full course on economics and the cost of labor, but what you should do is meet them where they are.
In a very similar manner, whether it be in a physical store or with an online customer, a frustrated consumer might simply not understand the complexity of the problem. Instead of throwing a bunch of jargon at them, or ignoring the frustration altogether, meeting them where they are and walking them through the problem at hand is going to do two things.
First, it’s going to either help the consumer find a solution to the issue, or help them see why there isn’t a solution right now. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it’s going to show the consumer that you care enough to help them understand. You can think back to situations with parents or even with teachers, somebody helping you through a problem makes you feel a lot more welcomed and comfortable than someone simply telling you that you’re wrong or that you don’t understand.
As commerce continues to move into a hyper-consumer-oriented model with about as much customization and personalization as we can imagine, it’s easy to see how a lot of confusion and frustration can pop up on the consumer side of things. At face value, this might seem harmful for building consumer trust and brand loyalty, but being proactive and empathetic can help turn this right around. This two-part approach of understanding that a lack of information is frustrating and simplifying your message to meet the consumer where they’re at is a great way to avoid conflict and help consumers feel that they’re welcome and looked after at your brand.
Models and markets can change, but at the end of the day, building healthy relationships with people boil down to a simple concept: empathy. It’s easy to get lost in all the numbers and jargon, but it’s important to remember that consumers are just people, and people just need to be understood.