FOMO, Control and the Art of Wasting Time

Jennifer Kyriakakis

There’s a great piece from The Onion proclaiming “Americans nationwide reportedly demanded a new form of media Wednesday to bridge the entertainment gap they endure while turning their heads from their laptops to their cell phones.” Satirical, yes. Highly inaccurate? Probably not! The digital age has transformed us and now the average person guzzles information like a Hummer guzzles gasoline. And while many say they suffer from information overload – let’s face it, knowledge is power and the more we know the more in control and satisfied we all feel.

So when thinking about what makes for great customer experiences, let’s think first about what really motivates people to digitally engage with a company or brand. I would say three of the most important motivations are- fear of missing out (FOMO), control (or at least the perception of), and plain old boredom.

Let’s address the last one first. A colleague of mine recently introduced me to the concept of Uberspotting. It’s a game his kids play. It only works if you live in or are driving around an urban area, but essentially his kids turn on his Uber app so they can see available cars in their immediate vicinity and then try to ‘spot’ the Uber car. It’s a modern twist on the old ‘punch buggy’ game. It essentially indoctrinates a whole new generation of consumers to the brand – with the ‘cool factor’ already attached. So while the entertainment value was not necessarily intentional, the intrinsic value is immeasurable.

What about FOMO? Well, it’s the fear factor of missing out on the deal of a lifetime on eBay or Groupon, for example. Consumers using these services also feel like they received better value for their money because they did the research and couldn’t find the same product at a better price elsewhere, and that generates higher customer satisfaction. In short, any well-designed customer experience should be fulfilling this need in some shape or form.

The third factor is the perception of control. Amazon and Dominos are examples that really underscore the power and impact this can have. One of the key concepts introduced with Amazon Prime was informing the customer when they could expect to receive their shipment based on their order timeframe. So, the customer would know during the order process that an order placed within the next five minutes would trigger next day shipping. That gives the customer more precise control over the whole process, empowering them to make a better decision about when to place an order.

Similarly, the Dominos app doesn’t just simplify the ordering process, but also includes a pizza tracker for customers to see where in the fulfilment process their pizza is – and when to anticipate getting a taste of it! Dominos sales rose 12.5% because of the popularity of the app, and now 75% of orders are received digitally.

From ordering a pizza to Uberspotting, all these engagement vehicles rely on tracking and delivering complex, precise, personalized information to the customer when they want it and in a simple-to-understand way. It’s no longer just that you can order something faster and easier online, it’s that you can track its availability, price fluctuations, how many other people are buying it, where it is on its journey to you, and when you will ultimately receive it. So while ‘user journeys’ are important, it’s the fact that the information delivered is timely, correct and relevant that makes the customer happy.

So why does any of this matter to a Telco? We talk a lot about designing digital customer journeys based on simplicity, automation, intuitiveness and efficiency. And while those things are critically important – we can’t forget the motivational aspects of digital engagement. You can push an app out to your customers so they can see their last bill, what their current plan is and make a payment. But so what? I’d rather get an instant alert of how much data or money I just spent while I was streaming music for an hour during my commute. Or get free content downloads once a week like I do through my Starbucks app.

Instead of thinking about how to best represent traditional billing information and customer care flows through an app, telcos should consider how to cater to customers’ desires; they want to sample new products, turn them on and off at will, access special promotions, control services, and cure boredom – after all, we still need something to do while waiting on hold with the cable company.


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