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Four fundamental forces that motivate customers

The ‘Fundamental 4s’ explain how four fundamental forces determine the search for our better self. These fundamental customer motivations can lead companies and organisations to sustainable stability and orientation in today’s rapidly changing world.

Which forces are we talking about exactly?

The four fundamental customer motivators and the corresponding tasks of the service provider are:

  1. Be better: helping the customer feel like a better person
  2. Do better: enabling the customer to be competent and successful
  3. Feel better: putting the customer in a better state of mind or physical condition
  4. Appear better: making the customer feel recognised and valued

These fundamental forces form a holistic structure; different motivations can play a role at the same time, although there is always a dominant one. They are also situational; people who do the same may have different dominant motivations. Companies and organisations that recognise these four fundamental forces and work with them actively and deliberately create exceptional customer experiences and act in a customer-centric way.

Customer Motivator Be Better

Be better

Respecting the values and moral landscape of the customer as a means of distinguishing oneself from the competition and being relevant to the customer.

We can help the customer to do what they believe is ‘the right thing’. Respecting values is interesting because they change relatively slowly, even in these hectic times. When we know the client’s deepest values, we can tailor our offer accordingly. At the same time, we know for sure that the offer does not quickly lose its relevance.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has identified six values that are seen as universal: being just, having freedom, showing loyalty, believing in authority and in holiness.

For the much-discussed Millennials, value plays an important role, both as a client and as an employee. By 2025, 75% of the active population will be a Millennial. 90% of them say they want to use their talents for the ‘better’. 50% of them are willing to earn less as long as the work they do matches their values. This has an impact on how we do business. It also shows that we are evolving from a unique focus on profit to a focus on profit and ‘purpose’ or meaning.

Millennials, in particular, demand more meaning from companies and organisations. They want them to help them to be better. Even when companies and organisations act within the law but they experience their actions as immoral, many customers choose a different provider. Culture may eat strategy for breakfast, but when values and the law are weighed against each other, values eat the law for lunch. In a manner of speaking, of course.

Customer Motivator Do Better

Do better

When you help the client to do better, you help her to become bigger, faster, and stronger in what she strives for.

It is ingrained in human beings to want to do what we do better. We all want to improve our performance, skills, competences and results.

We can make products that are easy and effortless to use. We can remove waiting times from purchasing processes… Convenience is a powerful tool for doing things. We all crave relevance, hyper-generality because we want time. And time is often a more important currency for the customer than money. The whole app revolution is a better-doing revolution. After all, an app is meant to make us better at something. Just think of Fitbit. Or a chess app, there are many examples. The democratisation of technology makes all of us potential experts in something.

In these rapidly changing times, we can put the preposition hyper in front of all customer requirements. We want hyper-relevance, and in striving to do better we want hyper-relevance. For providers, algorithms and artificial intelligence play a major role in this.

One of the main reasons why companies find it hard to retain their customers is because they don’t help them do better… For example, user screens and internal processes still too often stand in the way of good customer experience.

Customer Motivator Feel Better

Feel better

You take the customer very seriously when you look for ways to make them feel better and motivated for your offer.

When we are in a ‘flow’ we forget time and space and are so deep in our experience that we forget everything else. The gaming industry knows better than anyone the importance of ‘flow’. Anyone who implements a change process knows the power of ‘gamification’. The playfulness of the experience releases dopamine in our brain, our brain’s favourite happiness neurotransmitter. We play because we want to. When we have to do something our brain tends to avoid. Gamification has made its appearance in more traditional companies because it leads us to both feel better and do better.

Stimulating the customer’s senses is increasingly becoming a tool to make customers feel better and thereby motivate them to prefer one offer over another. An experiment carried out by the University of Leicester in the UK showed that when French music was played in a wine shop, sales of French wine increased by 77%.

Questions that you can ask yourself as a provider, both in B2C and B2B, about the better-feeling motivation are:

  1. How do our customers get into a ‘flow’?
  2. Can a game add value to the customer experience?
  3. Does our offer stimulate the senses of the customer?

To be answered from the customer’s point of view, of course. It’s not about your favourite music, scent or game.

Customer Motivator Appear Better

Appear better

How do you help the client to gain a better reputation by recognizing her as your client?

Even as we are, we do not need anyone’s permission to be satisfied with our decisions. And yet our ego is caressed when someone acknowledges us for a job we did well, we are happy when someone asks for our opinion and we are proud when someone we look up to invites us.

Social status is an incredibly important and powerful motivator. Paleontologist Gregory Paul says: « The human brain and the spirit it produces have not had a major update since the Pleistocene. A low social status at that time meant exclusion from the tribe and then one would face certain death. Today we are not dying of exclusion, but our brain is still behaving as if it were. »

The key question is for whom do we want to be better respected? The answer is usually not ‘for everyone’ but for our ‘network of authority’, the people who are relatively closest to us and whose opinion we value most.

Social media platforms are the best examples of offers that help customers gain a better reputation. It may sound fluffy and esoteric again, but the Buddhist greeting « Namaste » means: « I acknowledge you for the value you have as a human being ». Actually, this is a punishable cost.

Every company and organisation should ask themselves how they « see » their customers through the eyes of those customers. What actions do we take, how do we communicate, and how do we recognize them in a positive way that improves their prestige? A loyalty program that gives the customer a better appearance and is not just focused on who spends the most, works.

The dark side

Everything has a downside, including the 4 fundamental forces. For companies and organisations, however, it is important to understand that – even if not all fundamental forces play a role in their supply – they absolutely must ensure that they do not have a negative impact on all motivations.

No matter how self-evident this may sound, there are countless bad products and services, and abominable customer perceptions that demotivate the customer. Think for yourself of all the products you bought that didn’t function optimally, the poor service you received, and the tons of annoying and untrue marketing promises that overwhelmed you through all possible channels. The Dark Side is everywhere.

The good news is that you can avoid The Dark Side and achieve lasting, meaningful and profitable customer loyalty thanks to the 4 fundamental forces.

Haidt, J. (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. New York: Pantheon Books. improvement

Pine B.J. and Gilmore, J.H. (1999). The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage. Boston: Harvard Business School Press

North, A.C., Hargreaves, D.J., McKendrick, J. (1999). The influence of in-store music of wine selections. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 84(2), p. 273.

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