Saving your customers time will reap rewards

At least seven of 10 consumers are busy, so busy they never seem to get to many of the things they need to do, let alone the things they want to do or would like to do, such as recreation and exercise. In fact, many of those say that not having enough time is a worse problem for them than not having enough money. With that in mind, many consumers are willing to invest in products that can help them save, manage or make the most of their time.
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Excerpted from the Yankelovich Monitor Minute

At least seven of 10 consumers are busy, so busy they never seem to get to many of the things they need to do, let alone the things they want to do or would like to do, such as recreation and exercise. In fact, many of those say that not having enough time is a worse problem for them than not having enough money. With that in mind, many consumers are willing to invest in products that can help them save, manage or make the most of their time.

Public opinion research company Yankelovich recently finished some research and published its take on finding time in a Perspective called “Finding Time” (Click here for more on that). SNEWS® was given permission to reprint some of the information as a service to its readers:

From torture to treat
Saying “I’d rather be having root canal” is most often meant to be the ultimate put down, but today it might not mean such a bad thing. Enlightened dentists have made efforts to make office visits seem less like medieval torture and more like pampering, offering movies, music, facials and massages to those visiting the chair. Now the phrase “dental spa” is even in the Macmillan English Dictionary. As consumers strive to “Max the Moment,” businesses across the board are unveiling novel approaches to make the customer experience not only pain-free, but in some cases, downright pleasurable. In late 2006, Yankelovich released the findings of its Perspective Study, “Finding Time.” The following explores the ways in which businesses are taking the consumer experience to the next level, and creating engagement in ways never thought possible.

Dealing with drudgery
As much as we might hate to admit it, sometimes consumers have to deal with us and will drag their heels as much as possible to avoid the experience. Returning to the challenges of the average dental practice: Seven-in-ten consumers say they care about getting semi-annual check ups, but only 57% actually make it a point to do so twice a year. Making that experience a little more pleasurable can help close the 12-point gap and make getting patients into the dentist’s chair a little less like, well, pulling teeth.

Indeed, innovative marketers, those who show a form of marketing leadership that we call Brand Charisma, are differentiating themselves by attempting to put some polish on the most mundane tasks. Consumers say that companies who are committed to improving the consumer’s product experience, solving their problems, and investing in R&D demonstrate that they have the consumer’s best interest at heart.

Wanted: time back

Sometimes the worst way to torture a consumer is to waste their time. According to the new Yankelovich “Finding Time” Perspective study, half of all consumers today say that a lack of time in their lives is a bigger problem than a lack of money. Seventy percent of consumers agree that they don’t have enough time to get everything done that they need to — a challenge that is particularly acute for Generation X.

The question: “No matter how hard I try, I never seem to have enough time to do all the things I need to do”

The answers: 78 percent of Gen Xers agreed with that, while 73 percent of the post-war Boomers did, 66 percent of the younger Echoes did, and only 62 percent of the Mature generation did.

While businesses may be trying to be more time sensitive, consumers say there is a long way to go: The vast majority of Americans (72 percent) don’t see any difference in their time pressures despite using what is called “time-saving” products. The ramifications for empty promises, especially in the technology arena, can be harsh. Consumers are fighting back, hanging up when they’re put on hold or cancelling online transactions that take forever to process; they’re exiting the marketplace rather than waste time — and thus taking their purchasing dollars with them.

Many agreed with the following:

  • I get upset when people are late for appointments with me
  • I will hang up if I am put on hold when I call a business
  • I will cancel an online transaction if the purchase-request processing is taking too long
  • I will walk out of a store immediately if the check out lines are too long

The key opportunity is for those businesses that can virtually turn back the clock, and almost half of “Time Starved Consumers” are willing to pay a premium for the privilege, including for faster delivery and elite status if it means less waiting.

Implications and Opportunities

  1. While speed and efficiency play an important role in the customer experience, in today’s environment, it’s about ensuring that the time consumers spend with you truly is worth it.
  2. Identify and address potential pain points that could create anything less than a delightful customer experience. Review all aspects of your interface with the customer, from the in-store vibe, to the on-hold music, to online transaction processes.
  3. What’s the equivalent of the “dental spa” in your world? Identify logical partnerships that could enhance the consumer experience with your business. Think personal services whenever possible.
  4. How can you deliver greater rewards to customers during their unavoidable downtime with you? It could take many forms, from new product previews while waiting in line to relaxation techniques while awaiting an online transaction.
  5. Make in-store experiences more productive by helping consumers formulate the right questions before they come to you for help.

Running with It
>> The Death of the Mail-In Rebate: In 2006, several retailers, including Best Buy and Office Max abandoned mail-in rebate programs. Hewlett-Packard and Dell reportedly will also phase them out.
>>Reinventing Errands: For the same price as the average dry-cleaning service, Relaxx Dry Cleaning in Los Angeles will schedule a convenient time to come to your residence to pick up your laundry and deliver it back after you have filled out a profile online.
>> Reinventing Retail, pt.1: Office Max is re-designing its retail stores to include coffee bars with free Wi-Fi access so that consumers can relax and multi-task while their documents are being printed. Self-service kiosks also aim to minimize long lines, while a colorful design scheme is meant to minimize its old warehouse feel.
>>Reinventing Retail, pt.2: Washington Mutual has re-designed several branch locations under a new patented retail concept called Occasio, all in an effort transform the bank into a place where customers actually want to go instead of have to go. The improvements include a concierge, a kids’ area with everything from books to activity tables and hand-held video games to keep them occupied.

Bottom Line
Re-crafting the customer experience — by creating time savings or by converting once-painful experiences into pleasurable ones — can also help in establishing or cementing your Brand Charisma in the minds of consumers and keep them coming back for more.

© Copyright Yankelovich Inc., 2006

Yankelovich (www.yankelovich.com) is a public opinion research company founded in 1958 that researches consumer attitude and marketing futures. The company claims to have coined the term "Baby Boomers," and its founder Dan Yankelovich was once introduced by Bill Moyers on his public television show as "the founding father of public opinion research."

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