“People don’t want experiences, that’s the stuff of Disney or cruise ships. People just want what they want and they want it to work.” I read that in a comment to a post on LinkedIn the other day and while I wasn’t overly surprised by the comment, I was surprised that it came from the CEO of a company. It clearly reminded me of the fact that there are still people, and some in high places, who believe that only product concerns really matter. I am continually surprised by the ignorance of many business leaders who dismiss customer experience as a fad, however, dismissing it doesn’t remove the fact that experiences matter because they happen whether you think they matter or not. They have since the inception of business and always will.
Imagine you have a leaky faucet in your kitchen and you call a plumber. The plumber comes in grumbling about something or another, barely acknowledges you and simply asks where the problem is. You usher them to you kitchen sink and they begin looking around. They open the cupboard under the sink and begin pulling out everything while commenting that they have to get underneath to get it fixed. Now sitting with your stuff littering the kitchen floor and the plumber sprawled under your sink you await some news as to exactly what to expect. To no avail though, that conversation never happens, you just see the plumber madly working away and making a bit of a mess.
After an hour or so, your plumber announces that they have had to replace your faucet and the job is finished. They pack up their tools and leave. Of course, none of your under-the-sink items have been replaced, no, that’s up to you to get done. In addition, your floor is a mess and you later find a small leak right around where the faucet attaches to the sink. Now the product doesn’t work properly and you have to make another call.
Contrast that to this.
You call a plumber and they arrive. They greet you professionally with a smile. They are wearing those little “booties” to protect your floor. They ask if it’s alright if they open the cupboard under the sink and explain that they will need to move everything. However, before that begins, they take a picture and let you know they are doing that so they can replace everything the way it was when they came in. Following that, they place small mats around the work area to keep things clean.
After surveying everything, they explain exactly what they will do, the costs and how long it will take. When they are finished, they show you the completed work, test the faucet with you, encourage you to use it, and then replace all of your under-sink items exactly as they were per the picture they took. Before leaving, they wipe up all around the work area and let you know they will be following up the next day to ensure everything is to your satisfaction.
Both plumber stories are examples of a stark reality, like it or not, for all of you disbelievers out there, customers have experiences whether they are designed or just happen by default. And those experiences can be good or bad – and, by the way, they are all memorable, our brains don’t just dismiss them because the product is great and fault-free.
The comments by the CEO above show just how ignorant many business leaders are to the reality that the hubbub about experiences isn’t about making every customer interaction a thrill ride at a theme park, it’s about making the interaction with your business easy and pleasant while providing products and services that make customers successful. Essentially, the experience is about getting customers what they need, how they want to get it. It’s a two-pronged thing that involves product (what customers need) and interaction (how they want to get it), and again, like it or not, both of these elements have existed and will continue to exist forever, it’s just that business is only now coming to terms with the interactive piece and giving it the attention that has been neglected.
If you think about your business, how is your customers’ experience? Is it easy, are your processes thoughtful of what the customer must endure? How is the interactive, human element? Do you welcome customers? Do you accommodate their preferences? Do you listen and allow customers to have input? Do you provide information that keeps customers in the loop as far as what they can expect, pros and cons, how long things will take, etc.?
We don’t live in a product-centric world anymore, perhaps we never did. Customers need things to be successful and they want them delivered in ways that make them feel good, confident and safe. Is your business sitting in ignorance or is it moving forward with enlightenment? Consider more than your product, consider the experience, improve it, and make the memory of your business something positive and noteworthy.