Friday, November 13, 2015

Three lessons online can learn from offline customer experience

An article on HBR today makes a lot of sense on consistency of customer experience online and off.

And it notes we have different expectations online versus off.

But the question is should we? When we talk about improving customer experience its often, where a business already cares about customer experience, a question of giving it the same emotional feel online as off.

This is difficult stuff. And it needs examples to help us shape a response.

Many years back I recall Doc Searls talking about his wife's annoyance with sign-ins and registrations online - the sort of barriers people seeking to transact in the real world rarely come across. And when we do... "Can I take your postcode please... and the number of the house?..." we feel something unnatural and data capturey is taking place, something we'd rather not soil ourselves with...

Lesson - The best experience requires no sign in and no registration.

And as I noted recently - online we may be cutting organisations more slack than we would in the real world... because no one sees us fail when we try to 'get in' to your online presence. The very human emotion of embarrassment is removed.

Lesson - Dance like no one is watching, by all means, but Test your online customer journeys like someone is watching.

Imagine you are a retailer who has built a reputation on no quibble returns - money back immediately? How can you replicate online the satisfaction provided by handing over the faulty item in person in the store and getting credited back immediately on the card you paid with (usually prompting an instant repurchase from stock).  If my transaction is recorded and available in all channels then this can be used to verify I do possess the product in question. In selecting to send it back, generating a postage paid printout address, or even a label to attach to it for pick up from home, I should be granted an instant refund - before the item is even boxed up to be sent back.

Why - because this shows me the retailer trusts me (and trust is reciprocal) and I am much more likely to repurchase from the same retailer, right now, to replace my faulty item - a loyal customer ready to tell friends all about my great experience.

If I fail to send the faulty item back what's the worst that happens? The retailer loses the full value of the item and the consumer gets blacklisted (but only after a period of reminder communications, of course).

Fearful retailers could trial limiting the value available to do this online, and/or providing vouchers which can only be spent with the same store. But I suspect the more trust you offer, the more you get back.

Lesson: Don't forget the core emotions you are trying to generate online. If you've built your reputation on no quibble in the real world, how do you remove all the quibble when online?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Manipulated virtual reality - the terrifying future of advertising

Image via
The Minority Report nightmare, of personally-targeted ads no matter where you turn, has already been superseded. It's become product placement on digital TV.
Those products can be digitally airbrushed in to respond to who is watching, where and when. And with so much of TV consumed via digital means today, that's easy to know down to the individual.

God help us as we take our first wobbling steps into an always-on world of virtual reality through such devices as google glasses.

When the virtual layer is applied in response to who we are, where we are (whether in your head or via 3D narrowcast to instances where-ever we turn) we won't know whether the product we are looking at, picking up, drinking from, is what we thought it was, or a product 'placed' by a rival. Think you've picked up a Coke can and opened it? It's actually a Pepsi you are drinking. Ha! Made you take the challenge. Aaaargh!

The reason this is so scary is because it is both so do-able and so predictable given how the marketing industry has remained so wedded to old models of interruptive advertising.

The radical digitisation of product placement as seen in the BBC example linked to here is a response to the fact that they've noticed we don't like to be interrupted by ads. Digital TV allows us to effectively adblock - by zipping past each ad break because we aren't watching live.

Instead of learning the lesson that we don't want interruptive ads, they move the ads into the bit we want to watch uninterrupted (the shows) in the form of placements.

I'm wondering what it will take for some of these guys to let go and refocus their smarts and their tech on a model that both their clients AND their clients' customers, would actually welcome.

I fear some will be painting the sky while we stare pointedly at each other before they get the point.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

A stitch in time...

A stitch in time, if you aren't familiar with the phrase, is not the most recent Dr Who episode. It is an ancient phrase which carries with it some ancient wisdom.
It means deal with the small problem now before it becomes a larger one: a small hole may require one stitch. Leave it and, as the idiom continues, you 'll end up with a hole requiring nine stitches (A Stitch In Time Saves Nine).

There is a lesson in this for those engaged in customer experience. If you can identify where customer's emotions are at their most intense in their journey and apply your efforts in real time at that point, you'll make the biggest difference. The effort required may be quite small - provided it is 'in time'.

This was evidenced to me last week in an experience with a leading online travel booking service. I'm not going to name them because even though I remained unsatisfied by the outcome I was impressed by the personal efforts of the CEO & President and hope he'll be taking on board the advice I am sharing now.

In May my wife booked our family a half-term break in Morocco. With less than 24 hours before our flight last week, the hotel sent us a confusing email which we took to mean they were shut and couldn't accommodate us. I informed the online booking service who we had used, who went off to find an alternative. But it didn't suit us. The long and short of it was I spent all day trying to find and book an alternative and sort transfers - all of which was last minute stress and actions no one wants and indeed most people expect all that stuff to be sorted by their agents with significant upgrading involved.

With an hour of the business day remaining I finally got booked and it took a series of emails into the evening (we were getting up at 1:30am) to confirm a transfer would be waiting for us when we landed the next morning.

I had asked The booking service to book and pay for the transfer. They told me they could not but if I kept a receipt they would meet the cost.

And so they are doing. But my level of stress when trying to get the transfers booked means that this 45 Euro 'apology' feels little more than a sop. Had they had the ability to book and pay for the transfer and simply tell me it was all sorted at the time I was in emotional flux, the impact could have been much more significant. That is, if they had done what I could do, what any human could do, but apparently not what this company's policies allowed, I think I would have felt much better.

In the cold light of day, after the emotional challenges, after the holiday, 45 euros just looks like money. It could have been a problem solved. It could have been the stitch that saved nine...

Being able to take real and meaningful action at the point of emotion is a critical part of the customer experience journey today. Too few businesses have enabled or trusted their Customer Service teams to think fast - to act like their CEO, to apply a stitch in time (one example is in my book The 10 Principles of Open Business)

The resulting costs in terms of additional customer support time, lost goodwill, damage to brand reputation and lost customers is worth considering by anyone at the helm.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

UX starts at the front door

What's the message you've designed?
No matter how good the customer experience is within your doors, if your customer can't actually get through those doors, everything else is wasted.
I had lunch in a steak house in Milton Keynes yesterday as I prepared for a meeting with a colleague.
I was seated near the window and close enough to observe as potential diners approached the entrance.
I think I could make one, simple, physical change to that entrance and at least double conversion.
In the short time I was there (a little less than an hour) I saw at least 15 people walk up to the front door, try to open it, fail, and walk away.
People rarely see your embarrassment at failing a simple test like opening a door on the internet (so perhaps they try again and again, allowing us to get away with poor online design?). But in the real world, in front of your friends and passing pedestrians on a Milton Keynes pavement, that embarrassment is real and all that you need to prompt you to keep on walking to the next restaurant.
By the time I came to settle the bill there had been so many failed attempts to get in that I felt it fair to point out the issue to the fella taking my credit card details. To confirm my point, it happened to another would-be customer as we discussed the problem. The member of staff dashed off after that one, but they'd already gone.
To put this in context, there were less people inside dining than had failed to get it. Half the revenue was failing to get past the front door.
What, I wondered, makes this door so great a challenge?
The door very clearly states 'pull'. And the instruction is correct. And to be fair, I had managed to get in, hadn't I?
The problem, I think, is that we typically expect an entrance to open inwards. My front door at home does this and, I'm pretty sure from the pov of entering the room, so do the rest of the doors in our home.
My guess is we come to expect doors to open inwards when they are entrances - no matter whether they are covered with explanations to the contrary (signs don't work, by the way).
The episode highlights how important it is to really push out the ends of end-to-end when we map customer journeys. Sometimes you must, literally, put yourself in your customers' shoes and walk it.
So Middletons, my free piece of advice to you today is, change your entrance door to one which opens inwards. You could double your revenue overnight.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Could VW fines lead to a dirtier planet?

I note that VW is cutting $1bn a year from its investment budget as it strives to balance its reputation-and-fine ravaged books.
Let's imagine that the rest of the car industry takes this as an opportunity not to get ahead, but to take its collective foot off the gas too on investments. After all, they face many margin pressures of their own.
So perhaps the consequence of VW cutting back is that the whole industry will cut back - perhaps $10bn of investment gone per year for the next three years.
What was that $30bn being invested in? New more efficient, less polluting, more recyclable carrs - and the plant to make them.
The consequence of VW being fined for cheating on emissions may well be a less clean planet than might of been had nothing been done.
Surely the aim is a greener planet?
To that end the concept of punitive fines - and the attendant public furore around them - is not doing its job.
Perhaps instead VW should be directed to ring-fence greater amounts of investment for innovation in green technologies, that may actually have the consequences intended.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?