Its In The Details
No detail is too small to influence a customer's experience of your business. Not even the details the customer doesn't notice.
One of the threads in Daniel Kahneman's work Thinking, Fast and Slow is: elements invisible to our conscious minds have profound effects on our behaviours and perceptions.
One experiment Kahneman cites demonstrated people exposed to words associated with old age (without making the associations obvious to the subjects) unconsciously walked more slowly afterwards. In a reverse experiment people who were directed to walk slowly for an extended period of time were unconsciously primed to more quickly recognize words associated with old age.
In another experiment in a British university the amount people contributed to the shared lunchroom "tea fund" on an honour system varied up and down like clockwork when a wall poster in the vicinity of the donation box switched between pictures of human eyes or pictures of flowers. You can guess which image resulted in greater honesty.
In psychology this is called the priming effect.
I can think of no better reason why a business must commit significant effort to designing a great customer experience. The value and necessity of that level of commitment are twofold: it is extremely powerful and extremely complex.
In software and other design disciplines we have UX or user experience specialists. Why don't we have CX or customer experience specialists? These would be people expert in the elements and systems of creating and testing for great experiences. When I Google the term "CX specialist" very little of relevance to this shows up.
One person in an enterprise, call them your CXO, should manage this process across all organizational silos. A customer's experience of your business can begin before you are aware they exist (walking by your shop or seeing a post about us in Facebook) and extends through the whole of the customer experience cycle. If one person is not responsible for this cycle, who will ensure a great customer experience between areas like marketing, PR, customer service, shipping, and after-purchase support?
Not only does the whole of the customer relationship life cycle have to be monitored and tuned, many potential triggers for priming customer behaviour and responses along the way also have to be considered. These can range from language used in ads or how we answer our phones, to the music playing in the building, to colour schemes, artwork, lighting, scents... a veritable feng shui of visible and invisible signals and forces lost to anyone not tasked with paying attention.
So where to start in considering the subtle prompts that shape how our customers experience us?
- Forget 'us' marketing to 'them'. Authentic & positive customer experience happens when our and their values and culture align. That is how you connect with your tribe. You can't fake that; they are you, or there is no connection at all. I think of that every time I see a "fun" car commercial aimed at under-30's, who clearly aren't buying. And they aren't. It has never been a good idea to try to please everyone; when it comes to creating an engaging experience, it is simply not possible.
- Fly your freak flag. This is no time to try to be vanilla. Stake out your territory and stick your flag in it. We won't identify with you if you try to be half of something. And don't worry about rubbing some people the wrong way. I often remind my clients that if you don't have at least some enemies you don't have a brand. You don't won't just a brand, you want a memorable brand.
- Pay attention to the subtle stuff. One of the reasons priming can have such a powerful impact on our behaviour is because it operates below the threshold of our cognitive censors. In response we behave in certain ways but don't appreciate why. The people in the British experiment didn't contribute more money to the "kitty" because they thought "someone is watching me". They just threw in a bit more money without considering why. Go over every detail of your customer experience cycle, asking yourself "why, how, what, who" from the perspective of the tribe you are closest to.
- Pay attention to everything. A brand wanting to create a "360" experience must get beyond slogans and colour schemes. Everything about our business should confirm our values and culture both overtly and subtly. This involves everything from the qualities of our products to the cleanliness and aesthetics of our bathrooms.
- Be consistent. Remarkable customer experiences go deeper than the surface of branding and marketing efforts. Consider your role in the community, your recruiting and other HR practices, your customer service and help desk systems; your management practices, mission statement and policy manuals all need to line up. These pieces are typically not considered as impacting customer experience. Priming is real however, and it is exactly the subtle signals that slip under and around our brightly coloured marketing messages, that can shape the authentic experience our tribe is looking for.
Download our free eBook "360 Marketing" to learn how to manage your Customer Experience Cycle.