How not to create a fulfilling Customer Experience.
by Dave McRobbie, Digital Strategist

How not to create a fulfilling Customer Experience.

“Customer Experience is at the centre of everything we do”

“Our focus on customers is why we exist as a business”

“Our attention to the needs of our customers is what makes us different”

Etc.etc.etc. Blah.blah.blah

It can sometimes be insufferable can’t it? Especially when every single experience you have with a brand that espouses these statements is not customer focused, is complicated and confusing or leaves you feel undervalued, underappreciated and annoyed.

I’m sure that the marketers and even the CEO’s that develop these commitments honestly have the very best intentions when starting a customer focused transformation/digital transformation/customer first (delete as appropriate) initiative and programme of work.

Ultimately though, they don’t deliver. Ultimately, they get lost in a web of technical confusion. Ultimately, the customer is forgotten.

Why does this happen?

There are many reasons – but to prevent this article being fifty pages long I’d just like to focus on three prime (non) considerations.

Too much focus on tech  

We’ve all been there right? We’ve looked at the latest tech – imaging what voice interactions can do for our lives (with the help of persuasive marketing) – “I can order stuff I don’t need using my voice rather than my fingers!!” We’ve looked at the latest software – imagining what a new platform can do for our business efficiencies (with the help of a supplier) – “I can reduce costs by 20%!”

Then we put both together and think “Imagine what voice driven by an efficient platform can do for our customers and our business!” It can’t fail can it?

But it does – our focus on customers has already been lost by looking at the technology and the imagined benefits for ourselves and our business. I use the term imagined – because we don’t yet know, we have no experience of using the technology in our business with our particular customer base. And who knows – maybe the uptake of a technology (Google Glass and even Alexa) won’t be as fast as we imagine, if at all.

Don Norman (pretty much the godfather of effective human focused design) said, “Technology moves fast, humans change slowly”. Remember that each and every time you are confronted with a piece of new tech.

Assuming customer behaviour and need 

You have personas, user journey maps and use cases. You track your users all over your digital assets you have full knowledge of social media engagement and behaviour, short of following each and every customer home each evening you know everything about them.

So you feed this knowledge into the design of ‘their’ experience. Where there are gaps in your knowledge you feel confident to make insight-driven assumptions about what they need. Then you create a prototype service or product and are pretty astonished when customers use it in a completely different way to what all your research showed.

How did this happen?

Well one reason may be because customers (who we must remember are you and me) are contradictory beings – “we want everything now, everything yesterday, and want it perfectly, and you better stay on your toes because tomorrow we’ll want something different” (with a nod to Billy Connolly for the phrase..).

So we say one thing and do another, “That’s a good idea for a product” we say and then never use it, or worse use it in a different way to what we expected and have a completely different set of success criteria to one that we exhibited in the past.

One reason for this is that we have a mental model and mind map of how to interact with you and your business, we have set expectations (good and bad) about you and the tech. Heaven forbid if you don’t hit the ground running in you customer experience design because we may not come back.

By constantly involving us customers in your experience design process, by providing little and often ‘clues’ as to what the experience will be like, by assuming nothing, by identifying the real core ‘need driven’ experiences that we want and being constantly prepared for the fact that we may not be (inadvertently) telling the truth – you can mitigate the human.

Lack of scale 

“Good grief this customer engagement project is taking forever”.

These words that should strike fear into any customer focused experience designer. Delivering customer focused experiences is not a project it’s a business responsibility. It is more important that any ‘IT’ or marketing department. Each and every part of a business is driven on providing customers with the best experience possible.

IT decisions are made with a customer focus in mind (and not just procuring a CRM). Marketing campaigns are focused on tapping into a customer’s unmet need (and not just having a Social Media team). Ironically the number of businesses that have customer experience within marketing teams is shocking and completely inward looking (that’s for another piece).

Clearly, there are individual projects within a customer experience programme and clearly, these have to have timelines, constraints, budgets etc. But the scale of designing, delivering and improving your customer experiences is huge, its never ending, it touches every, single part of your business – each and every department, office, channel should be constantly challenging itself on how to improve the experience for customers (be these internal or external).

By doing this – not only do you deliver default business efficiencies, not only can you better deal with contradictory humans, not only do you not invest in the incorrect technology but you give customers want they need and in return they give you loyalty, time and when needed forgiveness

So, there they are – three (not exclusive) reasons poor customer experiences are put in place;

  • Focusing too much on tech.
  • Making assumptions into our customers.
  • Believing that Customer Experience is a project.

Being aware of at least these three strands will I hope, keep you pragmatic, realistic and customer focused when driving forward customer experience improvements in your business. 

UX Consultant Emma Peters

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