Customer Touchstone
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Why Customer Experience Principles?

Principle – Reflect the Customers Identity

Personal values and beliefs create a self-image. How we see ourselves in our world has a huge impact on our buying decisions. We buy products and services which best resonate with our self. Brands who do well are very good at picking up on our values and beliefs.

The world has moved on here too and this distinction for any brand is an important point to grasp.

“What Makes People Tick” by Chris Rose is based on values modes.

He is quick to point out, values modes, was not his invention and did in fact come out of CDSM – Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing.

The worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers are as different from one another as is a liking for marmite or not.

Reflecting the customer’s identity is no longer just about someone’s income, where they live or what clothes they might wear.

If a brand is able to reflect a customer’s identity and do it well, then it makes creating a market that much easier.

One of the key challenges for businesses is that many have become directionless. Products have become all things to all people, extra features are added in the mistaken view that people will more likely buy.

The problem with this particular belief is actually that more people don’t buy. All that happens is more people get confused. Confused because the brand no longer reflects them, confused because more features make it more complicated, confused because it’s money wasted.

So, they switch to another brand and all the good will and lifetime value goes elsewhere

One of my observations is the move towards licensing. On the face of it, this makes sense as the brand can earn more cash from a name that has been built over decades. Licensing seems easy, as there’s very little real investment needed from the brand name owner. No R&D, no manufacturing overheads, no distribution costs… but…

Problems can and do occur which detract from and don’t reflect the customer’s identity. And it’s not just because products are made in China!

I think the key point I want to make is this. A brand is not just an image. A brand is an experience and anything which detracts from the overall experience detracts from the brand.

People buy what they want, not what they need. People will buy based on their values, beliefs and self-image.

Principle – Satisfy a Customer’s Higher Objectives

And what exactly is a higher objective?

A higher objective is a goal or outcome.

When someone asks for a drill, what they really want is a hole. Whether a drill is best or not is debatable and the more we know and understand about a customer’s higher objective the more likely they are to buy.

Imagine this situation, three people are in a luggage shop browsing and all of them want a bag of some sort.

A switched on sales person might ask each of them what they are looking for with a question. He/she might ask what they want the bag for? The answers given (in this case);

  1. I’m going on holiday and want something to carry my gear in
  2. I want a bag for sports gear
  3. I want a large bag which is strong

Depending on the shop assistant and some are better at this than others, they may ask more questions which help them guide the shopper towards a possible solution. By the way, some shop assistants don’t ask questions and merely show people everything in the hope that something sticks.

Let’s assume our shop assistant is interested in helping our various potential customers and is confident in asking some more questions. What questions will help our shop assistant understand their higher objective and guide them to a solution they will like?

A higher objective is a goal or outcome and is personal to the individual (at least in this case).

Questions will need to connect to each other in such a way as to lead the customer and the shop assistant to a hopefully successful sale where all parties are happy. As an example;

  • For the person who’s going on holiday, one might ask;
  • Where is your holiday?
  • Which transport are you going to be using to get there?
  • How long is your holiday?
  • Is the bag for hand luggage or will you need something bigger?

As the shop assistant asks questions, they will gain a far better understanding the customer’s higher objectives.

The sports gear person is clearly very different, so questions might go along the line of;

  • What sports do you play or compete in?
  • How often will you be using the bag?
  • How much space will you need?
  • How will you use the bag? – Will it go in your car, be carried on a bus or will you use a bicycle?

It’s possible of course that this potential customer has a very specific outcome. Perhaps the sports gear he’s using are Tennis rackets and this person cycles to the court which is only a couple of miles from where he lives.

So maybe the luggage shop doesn’t have a solution and this shopper would do better with bicycle panniers supplied by another store/shop.

Since our shop assistant is friendly, knowledgeable and helpful, they direct the potential customer to another store.

The person who wants a large bag can be dealt with in the same way, by asking good questions.

In an ideal world every business would understand their customers and potential customers intimately. They would be able to empathise with them and be able to create products and services which sell like hot cakes.

The problem is of course this; we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where we are separated from our customers, the chief exec makes decisions and doesn’t really know what customers are going through.

Marketing departments are separated from the front line and bring out clever and yet misguided campaigns which miss their mark.

By focusing on a customer’s higher objectives, I think you’ll gain the upper hand. What do you think?

Principle – Leave Nothing to Chance

leave nothing to chanceIf only they wouldn’t make it so hard to XXXXX?

Having placed an order online why can’t I easily XXXXX?

It would be so easy to make this fitting fool-proof so why didn’t they spend a few pence extra, now I’ve got to return the product and get another and it must cost them a lot more.

All customers and by definition all of us go on a journey when we buy something. Be it a service, a product, communicate to a government department or three.

A customer’s journey is not just at the point of sale. The journey starts from the time of seeing an advert, searching online, using social media, reading reviews, physically visiting a store, a business or looking at an Ecommerce site.

The look and feel of the packaging, the instruction manual, handling the product or experiencing the service.

Once we’ve got our new purchase, how do we feel handling it? Did it have everything we need to get the most out of it? Was it intuitive in use or do we have to read the manual? And so on…

Typically, a customer’s journey is made up of multiple small steps. Each small step is an opportunity at leaving nothing to chance or creating unnecessary tension for the customer.

We need structural tension to pull us towards our vision or goal but when it comes to customers we should be aiming to reduce tension, encourage the journey to flow naturally from one stage or step to another and onto the final sale.

The universe often conspires to provide opportunities and stories to make the point.

Short Story 1

Our washing machine gave up the ghost yesterday after around 15 years of loyal service.

There’s a large out of town shop we use occasionally who sell, computers, TV’s, cookers and washing machines etc.

On entry to the store, I was greeted with a smile and a helpful young man who was tending to his job of promoting TV’s offered to help me on my quest to find and hopefully buy a washing machine.

Since he wasn’t a washing machine expert, he approached a middle aged lady who was typing something important on to her computer. I assume it must have been important because she barley looked up at him or yours truly.

A brief exchange left me flabbergasted.

Question to shop assistant – I’d like some advice on buying a washing machine please, could you tell me the difference between your own branded product and other washing machine’s I might be interested in.

Middle aged lady answers without moving from her precious computer. Do you want a machine that breaks in 18 months or do you want a Samsung with a five year guarantee?

My follow on question to shop assistant –  Are you saying that your own brand will break in 18 months and is that guaranteed?

Middle aged lady – Well, I have a Samsung and it’s been great.

Now, I did end up ordering a new washing machine but not from this particular lady.

The experience left me feeling angry and insignificant. The store in question had an opportunity to invest a little time and make my customer journey and experience a happy one but they failed.

Short Story 2

I wanted a new bicycle so that my wife and I could go out and explore the world at a leisurely pace. My wife is already a keen cyclist and I was impressed with her bike and decided to buy the same model.

The people in the cycling department were great. Even though they were busy, they made sure to acknowledge me and would get to me once they had helped a couple of customers in front of me.

Having concluded the initial transaction. In this case it was agreed they would order a bike in for me, build it so I could try it for size and I could pay for it if I liked it.

Great service all round and I’m delighted.

At the time of my visit I thought about also popping into the car service area next door. My car’s air conditioning had packed up and I wanted someone to take a look at it for me.

So, I popped into the car service reception where a mechanic (I presume) was on the phone. I waited patiently for him to finish the call and to nod or do something to acknowledge my presence.

After a minute or so, our telephonist/mechanic left the reception area and continued the conversation in the service bay. I could see him through the glass area between the reception and service bays. I still got no acknowledgement and left after a couple of minutes.

The contrast in my experience couldn’t have been greater. Bicycles great and car service rubbish.

Now, if the employee was a mechanic why not do the human thing and acknowledge me. I would have waited a lot longer. Does the company know they have a problem? Is it a problem with a system or was it down to the individual? Why was my customer journey experience so variable?

The only fact I can report is that my money was spent elsewhere with a local supplier.

Does your business leave anything to chance? What do you think it would cost to fix? What is the value in £s of gaining more customers and keeping existing customers happy?

Principle – Set and Meet Expectations

customer expectationsDoes your business set and meet customer expectations?

Let’s face it, we humans are quite an emotional species. We laugh, cry, experience joy, sadness, anger and happiness and a whole lot more. What has this got to do with customer experience, setting and meeting expectations?

I think it’s time to do a bit more reading or discuss some reading I’ve done and the work of Daniel Kahneman’s and his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

Have you ever looked forward to; getting your hands on a product you’ve ordered, going to an event you’ve booked, a holiday, a birthday and had your expectations crushed!

If not crushed, were you disappointed or did you feel somehow let down?

On the other hand, did you experience happiness or a general feeling of wellbeing in regard to any of the above?

Those feelings are our emotions which have been kicked into gear by our predictions of a future which hasn’t yet happened.

It’s human behaviour and nature to look ahead and view the future. If when the future arrives it fits with our past thoughts and feelings, we feel content or happy. On the other hand, if our expectations are less than expected we feel unhappy or hacked off.

If I take my recent story about a visit to a store to look at and buy a washing machine, we can see that my expectations weren’t met. The end result is a general feeling of being let down.

If you run a business, all you need do is to understand your customers’ expectations and then leave those customers with positive memories of their experience. They are then more likely to come back and pass on their experiences to their friends.

In a way this all sounds very easy so why is setting and meeting customer expectations so hard?

Emotions

http://www.forbes.com/sites/adrianswinscoe/2014/11/11/the-longest-lasting-emotions-in-customer-experience/#1c2038ab76a5

There is a huge problem in the way companies are structured which can and does cause a customer’s experience to be less than it could be. This applies to setting and meeting expectations as well as other core customer experience principles.

As a business develops and expands, new staff are taken on, new departments are created. With new departments comes budgets and with budgets comes targets. Over time these form silos and it’s the culmination of these process which are I believe at the root cause of many customer experience problems.

A marketing department will create buzz, excitement, glossy brochures and do a great job of promotion and packaging.

The excited customer buys the product or service and is then disappointed with the product because it didn’t meet expectations. They contact product support having navigated a telephone answering system which leaves them baffled. Having invested or wasted time they find that the support people can’t help because of some internal system or process which stops them.

Perhaps your company isn’t guilty of this transgression but I bet there are other things which cause stress for the customer due to a gap between their expectations and what is delivered.

A customer’s journey is not limited to sales but can and does brush against other departments in the organisation.

If a business has a team whose focus is customer experience where do they sit in the organisation? Is it a subset of marketing? Does someone from customer experience sit on the board?

It’s my belief that every organisation be driven by customer experience. I think we are in the throes of an evolution where small, nimble businesses understand this insight and are taking business from much larger organisations who are trapped with old models.

Brian L. Joiner wrote a book called “Fourth Generation Management – The New Business Consciousness.” This book connects customer experience, management and how changing a business’s philosophy and its view of systems can bring rewards.

I bought a copy of this book from a book reseller and didn’t cost me a lot of money.

 Principle – Effortless

serviceWe are all lazy!

Okay, perhaps that’s a bit harsh but I do think we would prefer to use as little effort as possible.

Whether it’s time, energy or money we seek to optimise them in such a way that we get the most out for the least in. By the way, although I include money please don’t assume I mean everything should be cheap.

Value for money is really based on someone’s perception only and has nothing to do with price. It’s perception of value for money that’s key.

http://www.mycustomer.com/service/management/customer-experience-smackdown-customer-effort-score-vs-nps-vs-satisfaction

I sometimes wonder whether some businesses really understand the difficulties which customers have in actually buying something from them!

Have you ever experienced the amount of effort needed when you land on a website and want to buy something! This is something Amazon do so well but some others do so badly.

As I was writing this piece, I thought I’d do a bit of research on effortless customer experience and found a large business with a website who had a book which looked interesting.

In a prominent position on the website was a button clearly labelled “Order the Book.” I clicked the button and was then taken to a screen which said “Click on your preferred retailer below to order your copy.”

This is where it all went a bit wrong because having clicked on my retailer of choice I was presented with a darkened screen and a small image of the button/link I just pressed. There was nothing I could do from here apart from close the image down via a small X in the right hand corner.

So a business who has a focus on effortless customer experience has just made me increase my effort, added to my stress and made my life a bit more complicated.

I suspect there’s a small problem in the html coding on the website which has caused this somewhat embarrassing error! It wouldn’t be hard to fix but I wonder whether other people and potential customers have found the same problem and just gone away.

I did send them a quick email to highlight the problem and hopefully they will get it fixed.

My point here is that it’s not necessarily that hard to get the code right nor is that hard to get the code wrong. A missing character in the html coding is all it takes to spoil the experience and add to the effort needed to buy something.

I would ask the question and not for the first time. Have you tried to buy a product/service from your own business? I mean really put yourself in a customer’s position who doesn’t yet know your business.

Is their experience going to be as effortless as it could be or could small parts be improved? Small parts that could have a large and positive effect!

Here are some bulleted points which should help you identify ways to make the customer journey as effortless as possible;

  • Less, but better
  • Prioritise customer experience around less effort
  • Limit choices to a manageable number
  • Reduce time on task
  • Reduce wait times
  • Reduce the possibility for error
  • Use convenient channels
  • Be in the right place, at the right time
  • Speak the customer’s language

Principle – Stress Free

stressedI’ve already written a little about stress

One person’s pressure is another person’s stress. I think it’s important to highlight the difference between pressure and stress. We tend to grow and learn when put under pressure whereas stress is not a good emotion to experience.

In certain situations, we may seek out pressure because it helps us improve in certain aspects of our life. For example, we may put ourselves under pressure to improve a sport we enjoy.

As a general rule of thumb we don’t enjoy stress when we want to buy something.

I mentioned right at the beginning of this chapter that one person’s pressure is another person’s stress. It’s also true to say that stress is a personal feeling which is unique to the individual.

What does this mean?

Getting stressed will normally relate to something which is outside our control so we can’t just move away from it.

For example, we might buy something on-line and look forward to receiving it. Once it arrives we find that the instruction manual is hard to read or worse, there is no manual.

We get a little bit stressed and this creates negative emotions.

The businesses and services we all buy from will often not even be aware of the stress involved for the poor old paying customer. They don’t know what it’s like to get a product without a manual. This is therefore a great opportunity to do something which helps a customer and where the business can reap the rewards.

An ideal world would perhaps be error free but we live in the real world where errors happen. What we can do of course is reduce the number of errors and therefore the emotion of stress within customer experience.

If you want to get into lots of detail about errors, I’d suggest you read a book by James Reason called “Human Error.”

In the meantime, lets return to the points which Matt Watkinson suggest are important guidelines;

  • Consider the customer’s competence
  • Limit choices to a manageable number
  • Make options distinctive
  • Let the customer undo their mistakes
  • Clarify the reason for the task
  • Provide frequent and responsive feedback
  • Consider any distractions in the environment

Let’s take a look at a couple of these points;

Consider the customer’s competence can appear to be subtle and at other times is like a big sledge hammer.

I recently bought a new shed in which to store two bicycles. So I looked at a few in my local DIY store, the product my wife and I both liked was no longer available (so why have it on display)?

Ended up searching online and decided to buy based on the website offers. Buying was easy enough and the item was delivered on time.

The problem started after I looked at the instructions and the various panels and other wood. The only wood item clearly marked was the floor and so I had to try to work out what all the other items were from the enclosed instruction leaflet.

I don’t spend a lot of time building sheds although I’m normally fairly competent with most work around the house.

The end result is confusion and delay as I try to work out what goes where. When couple with the fact that a couple of panels needed work doing to them, you can imagine the frustration and stress building up.

This could have been solved by labelling each panel/piece and or making the instruction leaflet clearer.

Having now completed this shed, I would be more competent in putting together another shed.

I think my point here is that the stress I felt could have been less if the company had thought about my competence or lack of and it wouldn’t have taken very much to fix.

The question I ask myself is this, would I recommend this particular shed supplier or not?

Not a straightforward answer because they were price competitive, they delivered on-time, their ordering system was easy enough but I can’t get out of my mind the frustration in building the shed.

Perhaps a qualified recommendation with an explanation of what to expect when building/erecting the shed.

Wouldn’t it have been so much easier to fix the obvious errors, take away my expenditure of effort and reduce my stress by improving the labelling and instructions.

They could of course have added a simple video instruction via a QR code on the instruction leaflet with details of the critical points.

In closing this section why not take a look at your business offerings and really dig into the customer’s journey to see where customer stress could be reduced.

Principle – Indulge the Senses

fractal flowers formWhat’s more important form or function?

Form without function is pretty much pointless because people will in the end see the deception. I see some marketing campaigns as all form where the product reality fails to meet the expectation.

The danger of focusing on function only is that it fails to appeal to the emotion, it becomes a utility. Take our hospitals for example where function is everything and form seems to count for nothing. The patients are merely a widget going through the functions of the hospital.

What does this have to do with indulging the senses?

I think each of our senses can be indulged and much though not all is down to the combination of form and function.

Our main senses are;

  • Sight or Vision
  • Hearing
  • Touch
  • Smell or Scent
  • Taste

Some products and services lend themselves to multiple senses, I’m thinking of the experience eating out at a restaurant or gastro-pub.

All products and services could use one or more of our senses and really tap into our emotions.

Have you considered the sound of a car door closing, does it make a pleasing thunk or does it clatter? What about the smell inside the car? Does it smell new or have the smell of old cigarette smoke?

Too often a product is designed to a price point. Knobs, buttons and the general feel are compromised to the extent that paying customers won’t return and buy again.

Music and scent can be incredibly powerful. Who has never heard a record and been transported to an old memory which triggers your emotions.

The tactile feel of a switch or button which has a reassuring click is surely much better than any old functional button which fails to indulge our senses.

Selling a service, then what about creating and building a website with images, sound and video. Some websites seem completely stuck in some kind of old limbo and have failed to understand the power of newer media.

Is it just me or are companies cutting back on packaging?

Buying a product online, we await delivery with eager anticipation, open the outer box only to see a low cost package in which our new product is nestled.

Yes, I know cutting product costs goes right the bottom line but think of the damaging customer experience disappointment.

Instead of indulging our senses we are disappointed. Disappointment is not a great experience is it!

About the Author Steve

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