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Part three: key customer experience questions

1st Aug 2007
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photo of Stuart Lauchlan

By Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor

Forrester Research suggests an approach called scenario design. This is based on the premise that no experience is inherently good or bad, but can only be judged based on how well it helps customers accomplish their goals. So companies need to ask themselves three basic questions:

1. Who are your target users? Businesses need to start with a clear picture of their target audience. Different customers have different knowledge levels. Project teams should craft personas, composite descriptions of real people who represent primary customer segments.

2. What are your key goals? Customer experiences should be designed to satisfy specific accomplishments.

3. How can you help them achieve those goals? How well does it work? Businesses must make it easy for target users to take each step on their way to their goals by designing clear paths that anticipate what users need to know and would like to do at each decision point.

Start with the brand. That’s what creates expectations and defines who you are. Your brand is a promise to your customers and the customer experience is how you keep that promise. But your brand promise is irrelevant if your customers do not believe it, so give customers reasons to believe in you. If you’re claiming that you kill 99.9 percent of household germs, how do you substantiate this? There was an advert in the US for a healthcare firm once that essentially ran: "Glaucoma – there are no symptoms, you could have it!" It’s not a brand promise that holds out much promise…

You need to work out where your main customer touchpoints are. Walk through your commercial processes. How do you generate customer demand? How are products sold? How do your customers use your products? How do you provide after-sales support? You need to end up with a map or a family tree of all your customer touchpoints and how they interconnect.

Then you can work out which elements of the customer experience are the crucial ones. Some will naturally play a larger role in determining your company’s overall customer experience. Functionality may be more important than fancy packaging. In some cases, played-down packaging may boost the customer experience. The manufacturers of face cream Strivectin have chosen to package it so that it looks like stretch mark cream that you’d buy in a chemist – because according to the customer ‘mythos’ that’s what it began as.

At some point you will almost certainly have to do some organisational realignment. Are the right processes in place? Are the right people in place? Is there anything or anyone in a crucial position who’s not in a helpful place, who’s inadvertently undermining your customers experience?

If we return to the e-commerce website example, some of the key questions that need to be asked are:

• Do users understand the site's value proposition?
• How does user experience on the site compare with competitors' sites?
• After interacting with the site, are users likely to come back?
• If not, do you understand why? Or can you find out?
• Is the customer experience consistent with brand positioning?
• Are particular types of users reacting differently to the site?
• What aspects of the site experience have the most impact on overall success (or failure) of the site?
• Can users easily accomplish critical tasks, such as searching and purchasing?
• What paths do users take in accomplishing critical tasks? Can you map their journey?
• At what point do users typically fail or give up? Why?
• Do users notice and make use of particular features on the site?
• Do users read and make use of information provided? Do they have enough information?

All of these questions need to be asked and the answers to them built into thinking about designing the customer experience. None of it is rocket science, yet the mistakes that are made are repeated so often as to indicate that basic lessons are not being learned. Gartner Group once described customer experience design as "where the process hits the fluffy stuff." There needs to be less emphasis on the fluffy bits and more on the process grind…

For top customer experience tips for the travel industry, click here.

This month's stories:

Customer journeys

Improving the customer experience through customer journey mapping

Customer journeys: mapping out the future

When customer journeys go wrong

Online experiences

How to create a great online customer experience

Usability’s invisible edge: offsite steps for online success

Are firms leaving customers stuck in the web?

Experiential marketing

What art thou experiential marketing?

Experiential: beyond mass marketing

Are these the greatest experiential marketing campaigns ever?

Consumer psychology and emotions

How to use emotions for profit

More than a feeling: measuring customer emotions

Delivering emotional satisfaction in the contact centre

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