Focus on the Customer Experience
Not too long ago, I read a book based on a recommendation of a good friend (Jeff Kallay) called The Experience Economy.
This book is NOT about technology, it's about experience. So even if you hate technology, this post is relevant to you. Of course, if you clicked the link and have read this far, you probably have some interest in technology or you are related to me. (In either case, thanks for reading. I get a nickel for every reader and a dime for every comment. With four kids, every nickel and dime helps...)
Let me summarize the book for you: "leave customers with a memorable impression." I found it fun to read and while some of it seems obvious, it is a good reminder of how important experience is.
More and more, companies are focusing on the improving the experience. The book makes it clear that this is going to be even more important as our economy continues to evolve. The last two days I was in Geiger strategic planning sessions where many times the discussion turned to the customer experience and what we can do to ensure our customers have a great experience with our sales partners, our associates, and our technology.
From a technology standpoint, Amazon sets the bar for customer experience. Sure, Apple is fantastic and provides a great experience including their amazing retail stores, but I love the Amazon experience.
Currently, my team is focused on helping improve the experience for our buyers AND our sales partners. We are in the process of building a new order entry system for sales partners. We spent weeks doing wireframes and mockups of how the order entry system should work. We did not write a single line of code. We started with our original product and lots of discussion. We moved to doing wire frames (using www.mockflow.com) and then discussed the wireframes and made changes. Then when we felt we had a good workflow, we provided the wireframes to our internal workflow/graphic designer who brought a different perspective. He made the user interface better while also questioning some workflow assumptions made in the design process. He helped us identify some significant improvements in our user experience before he changed the interface.
He crafted a really great user interface that my team was very excited about. My team agreed, the new interface and workflow is going to be a huge improvement. But...
We wanted an even better experience. So we contracted an experienced non-industry UX designer to help us craft a better design. HOLY COW. We were excited with our internal designs, but the external designer made significant strides in terms of the user experience helping us in a number of ways to improve the experience across platforms. Finally, we shared the new design with some sales partners and they provided a few additional suggestions but more importantly, were extremely excited about the interface (yes, actually excited about an order entry application, and there is not much more boring than order entry).
We've now improved the "user experience" significantly with the order entry process from a design perspective. This drives all the "back office" work that needs to be done to make sure the experience is fantastic from start to finish. Specifications are wrapping up and code can now be written and the programmers have a clear vision of what the users expect.
Most of my readers aren't programmers and don't have a large staff of developers waiting to implement their great user design. So you have to rely on your technology partner to make great decisions. But you can provide a great customer experience beyond (or in spite of) technology.
Focus on your customer experience. It's extremely important to customer acquisition and retention. And for those of you who can, focus on the entire experience from technology to delivery and follow up. User experience is more than great service, a great experience will leave you with a great memory (like perhaps the time I wore jean shorts for this blog). Leave your customers with a great memory no matter if you are a geek, a sales person, a spouse, a CFO (ok, that may be pushing it...), or any other position. You are responsible for your customer experience.
P.S. I don't really receive a nickel or dime when you read this blog. But I still like hearing from you in comments or private messages.