posted by Brian J. Curran
3 Thresholds Your Customer Experience Must Pass
If you hang out with me for long enough, you will undoubtedly be peppered with what my friends call “Curranisms”. These are the sayings, colloquialisms, and quotes I use over and over—ad nauseam. My favorite is the saying “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
As I have gotten older and wiser (or maybe just older), I have tried to reduce the amount of effort I exert (the squeeze) to achieve a valuable outcome (the juice). It’s not that I have become lazy, it’s that there is always a smarter, easier way to accomplish something. That’s what consumers are seeking when they engage with your brand. Will they get the maximum value for the precious time and energy they spend? If you can’t answer yes, it’s time to reevaluate your customer experience.
Here’s a great example: My family recently planned a trip to Europe, and we decided to take trains in between the cities we visited. To ensure our seats were together, I set out to make reservations. I had a number of booking sites to choose from, including travel sites like The Man in Seat 61, travel service companies like RailEurope, and direct providers like Austrian Federal Railways. Like any consumer with a need, I began my journey by researching all of my options.
Before I gave my business to any of these service providers, I made sure they passed 3 key thresholds:
Threshold #1: Is the Customer Experience Useful?
I determined if each booking site was capable of answering my most basic questions. Can I find a schedule? Do they have a seat map? Can I determine which trains will get me there the quickest versus which trains stop at every village between here and Timbuktu?
I needed easy access to all of that information, at any hour of the day. Sadly, not all of the providers made it past this first threshold. They were eliminated early in the process with no opportunity to be involved in the selection phase, and more importantly, the buying phase.
Threshold #2: Is the Customer Experience Usable?
While I appreciate the ability to speak with someone via chat or phone, I prefer to do my research without the pressure of someone asking me for an order before I feel ready and informed. I examined which sites made it easiest for me to navigate, try different options, and place orders in a seamless, intuitive way.
During this process, I remember thinking, I wish these guys had the XXX capability that Austrian Railways has, and, why don’t they show the same options to XXX as RailEurope does? I was deciding who to engage with not based on price, but on who was going to make this easy for me. A majority of the providers who made it past the first round were eliminated here, and that’s a shame. It doesn’t take much effort to map the journeys of your customers and design a site that’s usable by multiple segments.
Threshold #3: Is the Customer Experience Meaningful?
I was not just taking a train. I was taking my family on a vacation to Europe to immerse my children in another culture and build lifelong memories. It’s not just about being useful and usable –it’s about being meaningful. Did the websites address my concerns? Did each brand take into consideration that I am unaccustomed to the language, the culture, and the key places that would not only help me achieve my functional needs but allow me to achieve my emotional needs? While many of us don’t start our search looking for this, our subconscious keeps score and adjusts our attitudes toward a brand based on its ability to make us trust that our emotional needs will be met.
Two sites made it to this last round and, probably to your surprise, my decision was not based on a matrix that I created on paper. I had a gut feeling about who I wanted to do business with in the long run. The three thresholds were definitely in play, but beyond that, people make decisions every day based on feelings. I spent my money with the companies that made me feel the best throughout the process—and will more than likely use them again the next time I travel in Europe.
Ask yourself: Is your brand useful, usable, and meaningful to people who are engaging with you? Do you understand the journey they are on and what their functional and emotional needs are? Are you designing experiences that make your brand standout among your competitors—across the three thresholds and the feelings that drive gut decisions?
If so, squeezing your brand is well worth the juice for your customers.
Have questions? I’m always happy to discuss new ways to design valuable customer experiences: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.