Where should you focus your customer experience management efforts?



PHOTO: Maksim Shebeko


I’ve been thinking about pizza all day so decided to order one for dinner. I choose a new, well-known restaurant to try, pull out my phone, search for the app, browse the menu to order exactly what I had in mind, and pay for my order. I am waiting for the delivery by following the driver on the way to my house so that I can open the box and enjoy it.

It’s a typical customer journey in today’s world, made up of many small moments – some digital and some analog – that blend together to create a customer experience. Some of these moments carry more weight in the overall experience than others because they trigger an emotion that has some impact on the outcome. It’s the moments that matter.

In design thinking, we use research and data to understand how the customer experiences the journey — and we empathize with the customer’s feelings at every step, paying special attention to those moments that matter. We can deliberately design these moments to minimize pain and maximize the chance of pleasure in order to achieve a specific outcome – for example, reducing customer churn, securing renewal or buyout, or improving employee retention.

There is a lot of attention today around the concept of “delight”. Google the topic and you’ll find a number of articles on “X Ways to Delight the Customer”. It’s never a bad idea to have. But it got me thinking: most of us don’t work with unlimited resources, and we usually have to decide where to prioritize our time and effort. Faced with this choice, is it better to opt for that lasting impression that truly delights or to fix something that is broken?

The “end peak rule”

I believe the “tip ruleroffers a good context for thinking about this question. Based on research by Daniel Kahneman and Barbara Frederickson, the Peak-End Rule recognizes that the brain is not digesting every moment or data point along the way. Instead, it gives more weight to the most intense positive or negative moments (“peaks”) of the experience and to the final moments (“end”).

In my pizza trip, I had a great experience ordering through the app, and the pizza arrived earlier than expected. I am delighted. But when I open the box, the pizza has the wrong topping (and I really hate mushrooms). This “final” experience undid much of the considerable effort invested in the previous moments.

Related article: Do you need customer journey orchestration?

Why and how to raise positive peaks

During the pandemic, everyone has learned to interact more digitally. As most companies have oriented their activities towards digital, aiming for customer delight has become a necessity to differentiate themselves from the competition in order to maintain a certain level of loyalty with customers.

It’s important to understand that ‘pleasure’ does not equate to satisfaction, with many understanding that customer delight means exceeding expectations to make a lasting impression.

But if you “create” positive moments, will they actually feel real? In their book, The Power of Moments: Why Some Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, Chip and Dan Heath discuss the intentional engineering of moments that delight. They explain how the designed moments should be both memorable and meaningful, i.e. they convey a positive feeling such as connection, pride or insight. This is no different from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and in fact, you could say that negative experiences result from not meeting basic physiological or safety needs.

Customer surveys won’t always do the trick

How do you do? It goes without saying that knowing the customer is key to designing experiences that delight. But do customers always know and express what will delight them? They may not say they care about something, but if they do, a differentiated experience can change the outcome. You’re unlikely to get this kind of information from a survey. You have to be on the ground, having the right conversations.

Find and elevate the moments that are most useful or valuable. For example, starting a new job can be an overwhelming experience – with a lot of information being sent to you in a short time. Even in the best of times, it’s not uncommon to have doubts. Find ways to help new employees through some of the times that might increase apprehension. Give them a calendar of meetings already arranged to get to know you rather than asking them to arrange those meetings themselves. And celebrate the start of a new relationship.

Related Article: 3 Ways Data Science Is Critical to Customer Experience

Why and how to repair negative points

Some would argue that meeting expectations should come before trying to delight, because people tend to remember negative experiences better and more clearly than positive ones, according to research by Randy Larsen, PhD. This is called positive-negative asymmetry, or negativity bias.

Many studies highlight the impact of a negative experience on purchasing behavior. For example, in new research from Qualtrics and ServiceNow, 80% of customers said they switched brands because of a poor customer experience, and 43% said they were at least somewhat likely to switch brands after just one negative customer service interaction. A 2021 study by the XM Institute and Bruce Temkin suggests that poor customer experiences jeopardize $4.7 trillion in sales.

It’s also been proven that solving problems delivers better returns than improving what’s already good. Research published in harvard business review by a division of the Corporate Executive Board measured a greater jump in loyalty from “not meeting expectations to meeting expectations” than from “meeting expectations to exceeding them”.

Determine why customer expectations are not being met

How do you do? First, identify negative spikes and perform root cause analysis to understand why the experience is poor.

Determine the drivers of negative outcomes and think around those drivers. Again, it helps to really dig deeper into customer perspectives and understand what expectations are not being met and why.

Sometimes customers struggle to articulate what they need in the first place. A good example of this is captured in the book Outside In: the power to put customers at the center of your business by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine; part of it is how FedEx has redesigned its package drop experience. Through observation, he learned that placing a package in a giant pile created a negative feeling about the safety of the shipment. As a result, he removed a negative peak moment by having five pre-sort windows behind the customer agent to properly “sort” the package.

One of West Monroe’s customers also had a similar problem. As a software publisher, they saw a discrepancy between revenue sold and revenue recognized, identifying that the root of the problem was a poor experience in the transition from software purchase to installation and deployment. use of the software – what they called “the launch failure”. By addressing this experience, he removed a negative peak moment by setting the correct expectations with the customer and ensuring they can use the software, as intended.

Related article: Are you asking the right questions about customer experience?

Why and how to design a positive ending

Remember pizza? My next order is unlikely to be from this restaurant, despite the very smooth digital experience at the start of the journey. Likewise, a bad flight experience on the way home from vacation can cloud the trip, even if the vacation was great. I might be inclined to choose another airline next time.

Due to the nature of short-term memory, customers tend to retain more recently presented information better – and this influences their behavior in the future.

Create a positive ending to the trip. Praise the customer for asking you for help in solving a problem or completing a process. Or recap what you’ve accomplished together. For example, Mint Mobile features an on-screen celebration at the end of signing up for a new service and transferring a phone number, congratulating the customer on their decision to “save money.”

Be intentional about the experiences you provide

COVID-19 was an unexpected event. We’ve all thrown rocks in the pond during a trial, looking for something to have an impact. Now things are more settled and companies need to be more intentional about the experiences they provide.

The right orientation depends on your organization and your customer, whether they are consumers, employees, or another type of stakeholder. Chances are it’s not a simple exercise with an easy answer. Here are several key questions to ask:

  • What is the result you want to achieve? If you want to reduce churn, you might want to fix the negatives. If your goal is to increase growth through acquisition or expansion, focus on the positives, but make sure the negatives don’t hinder growth.
  • What does the data tell you? To understand what drives the outcome you want, there is no substitute for learning from customers – on the job. Press all the quantitative and qualitative data you can.
  • What kind of experience are you trying to deliver? Consider your target customers, what they want or respond to, and what you do that differentiates your organization from others.
  • What budget and resources do you have? Since we don’t live in a world of infinite resources, figure out where you can achieve the greatest potential ROI.

Related Article: What Do Customer Experience Teams Really Look Like?

Conclusion: Use a design mindset

Whether you’re aiming to turn a positive into a delight, fix a negative, or nail the ending, the next steps are similar. Adopt a design mindset and use a human-centric approach.

Develop a hypothesis, not a permanent solution. Get out fast – conceptualize, test and experiment, learn, measure and make adjustments based on what you learn. And, most importantly, when something works, be ready to adapt and build on it.

Michael, ssenior director of customer experience for West Monroe Partners, knows that a one-size-fits-all solution won’t work with customer experience, so he brings a strategic, human-centric vision and toolset when solving your toughest problems.

He acknowledges that companies are more successful when they have a clear understanding of their target customers.

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