“We could do this!”
“Yes, and we could do that!”
It’s easy to get carried away with new business ideas. The only danger is that, when you’re concentrating on what you’re selling, you sometimes forget what your clients really want to buy.
I’ve been there, done it and bought the XL T-shirt. Audience neglect. Call social services.
Audience is all.
Which is why I found interviewing the co-founder and Commercial Director of 15below, Nicholas Key, so refreshing.
15below is all about audience. An audience who is at turns excited and full of anticipation; then, when there’s a hitch, overwrought and strung out.
15below is a software development company that specialises in clever passenger communications. It works with airlines, rail operators and travel agencies around the world to communicate with travellers as they progress from A to B to C.
15below comes into its own when progress comes to a grinding halt because of, say, a strike, bad weather or a problem with a connecting flight. It uses automated updates – app push, texts, email and voice mail – to reassure the hapless passenger. Anticipation morphs into apprehension. They’re stranded in a waiting room, wondering whether they’re about to miss a crucial business meeting or lose two precious days of their holiday. 15below puts it simply. They make sure customers remain ‘calm and connected’ at every leg of their journey.
Forget catch-all words like ‘customers’.
To do this, 15below really dissects and drills down into the term ‘customers’. It was when I talked to Nicholas Key that it hit me. ‘Customers’ is such a clumsy term. Marketing people know this of course. That is why client personas – the ‘fleshed out’ images of individual customers – are so important.
What you say and how you say it.
15below do this as a matter of course, every time they craft an update about a delayed flight, in a range of languages.
They not only think about the country and culture of their passengers, but their personal circumstances:
- “Are you travelling for business or pleasure?”
- “How do you like your messages delivered – particularly when you are feeling stressed?”
- “Email or app push, sir?”
- “Voicemail or text, madam?”
The details – the tone, the language, the speed, the channel – are all crucial when your audience is about to throw a wobbly because they have now missed that business meeting or are stuck in a lounge for the first day of their much needed break.
Tiny details make a big difference.
As Nicholas makes clear, this is where 15below gets granular:
So you might have 200 passengers on a Ryanair plane, who all need to be communicated about the same event, but they might all need a different message communicated to them. So passenger #1 prefers to get emails; passenger #2 prefers to get SMSs; passenger #3 speaks Polish and has made their booking on Ryanair’s Polish website, so we communicate with them in Polish; passenger #4 is another language speaker; passenger #5 has got children with them, so they need a slightly tailored message to say, “Yes, you’re delayed, but the baby change facilities and the children’s play area are over to your right from the gate”. And that’s how to deal with it.
15below also helps airlines to be alert to vital background information. For instance, is passenger#6 a VIP who needs careful handling? Has passenger#7 suffered other disrupted journeys recently? If so, a suitably tailored goodwill voucher might be just the ticket.
Of course 15below go to these lengths because communicating with exasperated or excited travellers lies at the heart of their business.
For me, this interview was a good reminder of how important it is to choose your words – and your tone, and your channel – carefully when you want to reach out to existing and new clients:
- Use their words, not your own specialist jargon.
- Adopt a tone that persuades them to stop what they’re doing and listen to you.
- Talk to them in places where they hang out – be it Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or face to face.
Do that, and you’ll never criticise yourself for audience neglect. Your business will benefit as a result.