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Understanding The Customer Expectations Critical To Customer Experience

by David Brock on January 6th, 2015

Recently I wrote Responding To Customer Experience Disasters.  It’s stimulated some interesting discussion, some deeply personal because of the situation I wrote about.  One of the most interesting comments came from my good friend, Tamara Schenk, who tended to think of the situation as an ethical issue–less a business or customer experience issue.

I can understand Tamara’s perspective, both she and I were reflecting on things that impacted each of us personally.  But I think she raises a very important issue about customer experience and design.

Until we put ourselves into the customer’s shoes, until we understand what drives them and their expectations, it is impossible for us to think of or design the customer experience.

In the case of the story, I shared in the post, and Tamara’s similar experience–the issue is deeply personal, impacting the health and safety of people we love (we were part of the customer experience, even though vendor/supplier may not have realized that).  To my parents, it was the same–health, safety, self esteem, frustration.

In other situations, it may be different.

For some, our performance and customer experience we create may impact the ability of our customers to meet commitments they have made to others.  We create a bad customer experience and it ripples through to their inability to meet commitments–creating a bad experience for their customers.  Their customers don’t care that we failed, they just see that our customer failed.

For some, our performance may cause a customer to fail disastrously in their performance to their customers.   Reading the daily newspapers, we see stories about failed airbags, costing $100’s of millions to car manufacturers, and huge liabilities with their customers (I’m not really addressing malicious malfeasance, and legal issues in this post).  We read stories of major supply chain problems that delay the ability for us to buy our precious smart phones and other devices–we blame the manufacturers of the devices because they can’t build them and we can’t buy them.

For some, our performance failure may result in the customer (an individual) losing his job.  He bet on us, counted on us, yet something failed.  Maybe he bought the wrong product, maybe he made a bad decision, maybe we failed to meet commitments.

Sometimes, I think we tend to think of customer experience inappropriately.  We tend to think of customer satisfaction and retention.  We tend to think of NPS.  We may think of customer profitability or other things.

While those are aspects of the customer experience, they are really derivative of the core issue of customer experience.  Customer buy our products/services and use them for a reason.  They are buying our products and services to achieve something, to produce results, to make something happen.  They have expectations and dependencies based on the decisions they make.

Some of the reasons they buy may have life threatening impacts.  Some of the reasons may be critical to their business.  Some may be convenience, or just to feel good.

But those are the reasons they buy.  Our abilities to enable them to achieve their goals are what create their experience.

All the things we measure about customer experience — satisfaction, retention, NPS, profitability — are not the customer experience, but derivative of the customer experience.

So the customer experience is for the customer, their experience is the result that is created.  As we design the customer experience, we need to focus on what they need to achieve and assure that we support deliver on their expectations in achieving those goals.

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