Meet Allie, and the Warmth and Competence Model of Client Experience

Allie CareyToday we introduce you to a new member of our blog team, Allie Carey. Allie is our new director of Client Experience, and as such, Allie’s Practically Speaking beat will be the domain of CX. This is a big beat as it covers everything from “the voice of the client” to ensuring that the client is always the biggest part of a solution to the intricacies of screen design or user experience (UX). CX is becoming the “next new thing” in creating great software. Look at all the CX conferences in 2018! So, here’s Allie.

Allow me to introduce myself and share four personal facts that represent me.

  1. A family woman. I have an amazing husband Brett, son Liam, and the best Labradoodle out there, Fitzy.
  2. An athlete through and through. I grew up in sports and was an NCAA Division I diver at Bucknell University. I was a team captain my senior year.
  3. Navy brat and expert friendmaker. My dad, a Naval Academy grad (Beat Army), flew navy rescue helicopters for 20 years. I went to 10 schools before college and became an expert in making friends.
  4. Started career here. I started my career at SEI and I’ve had the privilege of working with, supporting and designing technology for financial advisors, their staff and their businesses for nearly 10 years.

So now you know a bit more about me, what do you think? Believe it or not, you’ve already made a judgement. According to years of research by social psychologists, their studies would show that you’ve based your judgement on how warm and competent I seem. The warm and competence model is the universal way in which humans perceive, judge and interact with one another. When we meet a person, we instinctively measure their warmth by looking to see if they are trustworthy, sincere, helpful and friendly. Also, we survey their competence by observing their efficiency, effectiveness, intelligence, creativity and skill. To boil it down, warmth is the intentions others have toward us and competence is how capable the person is of executing those intentions. It only takes seconds (or 120 words) for a person to form a judgment about another.

If I did my job successfully then you have a positive impression of me. I presented myself as equally warm and competent

You don’t know me and haven’t had any real experiences with me, but you have your initial judgement.

Warmth and competence model of client experience Click To Tweet

Businesses are judged, too

Not surprisingly, this model of judgement also is used to evaluate businesses. Chris Malone and Susan Fiske wrote an entire book about it, “The Human Brand.” In the book, Chris and Susan are clear in saying that a client’s experience is rooted in the perception of the company’s warmth and competence. Key point here is that this is based on perception. The judgement is not based in actual first hand experiences. Think about companies that are known for a great client experience, Starbucks, Zappos, and Panera Bread are perceived as highly warm and highly competent. The thought of that hot cup of coffee brewed exactly to your liking is something that brings a smile to people’s faces. In the chart, these three brands are in the upper-right quadrant, which is the best place to be. Conversely, there are definitely companies that have low warmth and low competence, airlines and cable providers specifically fall in the lower-left quadrant. It seems people only share travel horror stories. I can’t remember talking to someone about how wonderful an airline was. Hidden fees, the disgruntled gate agents and lack of flexibility all hurt their ability to be perceived as highly warm and competent.

 The Human Brand

Source: The Human Brand

What about companies that are perceived to have an unequal balance between the two?  Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton are seen as highly capable but low in warmth. Their products are beautiful and well-made, but the exclusivity and the security guard at the door of each store isn’t inviting or warm. This is not a bad thing, if it’s a conscious decision. Louis Vuitton knows their customers expect exclusivity so being low in warmth supports their desired experience. It doesn’t mean that once a customer is in the store they don’t have a bragworthy experience.

Companies that are seen as warm but incompetent are entertained by customers, yet there’s not a lot of faith or trust placed in them. Government agencies, like FEMA, fall into this quadrant. FEMA was created to help people, but we know the lack of resources hold them back from executing. We have high hopes but we’re usually disappointed. In my opinion, this is the least desired perception for any business. Being perceived as incompetent many times can be irrecoverable.

Where do you fall on the matrix?

Social psychologists tell us that it’s human nature to observe a person’s warmth and competence in order to form our opinion of them. Chris Malone and Susan Fiske through their research also tell us that people form their perceptions of companies using this model. This is great insight for small, relationship-based businesses like yours. Being a financial advisor and the face of your business, a judgement of you is applied to your business and a judgement of your business is applied to you. Now that you know the method your clients and future clients judge you, ask yourself:

  • How warmly do you present yourself?
  • Are you viewed as competent?
  • Do you want to be like Starbucks or Louis Vuitton?

Knowing how you’re perceived is the first step in designing a tailored customer experience.

Do you have any client experience topics that you want to hear more about? Submit your idea(s) in the upper-right corner, email me or connect with me through LinkedIn.

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