5 Key Things about Customer Experience
It's not all about the feels...
Before I became a Product Manager, I was a Customer Experience Manager.
I learned a huge amount about what makes a valuable customer experience. Here are my 5 key takeaways.
1. Customer Experience is everyone’s job
Wait, what? Isn’t customer experience just another way of saying user experience? Isn’t that just a job for designers? No, and no.
Customer experience is everything that affects a customer's perception of a product and organisation.
“The four components of Customer Experience are brand, product, price, and service.” Source: McKinsey:
Nearly everything that an organisation does in some way touches one of those four components.
One of the biggest challenges I faced as a Customer Experience Manager was that people thought I ‘owned’ the customer. But no individual or team can do that. It’s a team sport.
From a product team perspective, while UX and Design will often lead research into customer experience, they can’t be left to own it either. Customer experience is a shared accountability.
2. Delivering a great product experience isn’t about feelings, it’s about needs
Customer Experience Managers know that what makes a good experience isn’t how it feels. It’s about how well it helps you meet your needs.
The world’s best products meet their core customer needs really well.
Take Google. There are roughly 8.5 billion Google searches each day. So, pretty successful.
Google Search came about because the founders identified an unmet customer need: to be able to find the information they wanted easily and quickly on the internet.
The solution to that need was hugely complicated - the Google algorithm - but was entirely focused on simply meeting that need in the best possible way. The interface is famously minimal. There’s little overt personalisation, no clutter with articles or adverts. As it happens, that was by chance. It owes its stark look to Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s limited knowledge of HTML.
But that happy accident led them to a customer experience truth: don’t get in the way of your customers meeting their core needs as effectively as possible.
3. Time and Ease are universal customer needs, whatever industry you’re in
When I was a Customer Experience specialist, two things continually came out in customer needs analysis: Time and Ease.
How long I had to wait to get through to a contact center agent.
How annoying it was having to enter all my details again.
How much of a pain it is having to print out a return slip.
Since I became a Product Manager, I’ve found that these two needs are almost universal.
Amazon and Spotify changed their industries and the world by focusing on Time. How many days I had to wait for my item to be delivered. How many seconds I had to wait for my music to be available.
Time is the most critical element of how good a product interaction feels - how long I expected a thing to take, and how long it actually took.
Always explore your customers' perception of time, using qualitative interviews to probe how they think and feel about it. What counts as fast for one experience could be snail slow for a different journey. Don’t assume. Because we humans never really lose that toddler mentality... whatever it is, I want it NOW!
Ease is the other key driver.
Before Uber, booking a taxi in a new place was a difficult experience. You had to find a phone number for a firm that looked like they might be ok, phone them (ask anyone born after 1985 about that particular terror) and hope they were open, had a taxi available that would take you where you wanted to go, and that it wasn't going to cost too much. Hoping it was going to be a safe, clean journey, that you’d get there ok and making sure you’ve got enough cash to pay made for a very stressful experience with a lot of uncertainty, effort and mental load.
But that was just how it went. No-one really challenged the taxi booking process until Uber uncovered value in making that experience easy.
They created a customer journey that take the effort away from the user. Features like driver ratings, estimated costs, pre-set payment options, estimated arrival times, shared journeys with friends… the list goes on and keeps growing. Their customer experience is designed to feel easy.
4. Study the what and why to define core customer needs
The examples above came about through a deep understanding of the fundamental things a customer needs to achieve. But how do you know what those needs are for your specific product and industry?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just asking your customers. In the famous words of Henry Ford:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
There’s no short-cut. We do need to ask a lot of questions. But most of the time we probe to understand why they need to achieve an outcome, not what they want to do. That’s how we can uncover the really valuable needs.
Study what customers are doing, how they’re feeling as they do it, and most importantly uncover why they’re doing it. I like to use a Customer Sentiment Map to overlay purpose and emotion at each customer journey stage.
Creating great product experiences often means knowing our customers' needs better than they do themselves.
5. Be brave when you find a winning experience
I’ve found that succeeding in Product Management takes a lot of courage. A large part of the value we bring is in calculating risks and placing bets. Customer experience isn’t all that different.
In the 1990s Apple was struggling. They turned their fortune around by recognising that their target customers wanted to feel like they were creative, special, and part of a select group. It’s a core human need for belonging. That feeling of being different from boring(at the time!) PC users.
Their Think Different philosophy spun out of a marketing campaign, and underpinned everything they created to give their customers a feeling of being valued and belonging to a brand that pushed the boundaries.
From brightly coloured computers to the ipod and iphone, they went in new and innovative directions. They took the big gambles.
With over two billion Apple devices in users worldwide, a large proportion of the world are feeling a bit special now too.
So when you find the right mix of customer needs for your product… be brave.
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