Sheridan Orr

Posts Tagged ‘Customer Experience’

Customer Experience Lessons from the NBC Olympic #epicfail

In Brand, Customer Experience, Retail on July 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm

What retailers can learn from viewer frustration at NBC Olympic coverage.

I watched Bruce Jenner before he was a Kardashian.  I cried when Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect ten.  I ran the school track barefooted because Zola Budd rocked.  Therefore, I eagerly anticipate the Olympics.

With this joie to vivre, I opened a jar of hummus and a Pabst Blue Ribbon (I’m patriotic too) at 4:00 on Friday.  I anxiously scanned 2000 channels only to find that the opening ceremony was tape delayed.

Moreover, I was blocked from the BBC live coverage because of the agreement with NBC.  After consulting with my tech friends, I downloaded Tunnel Bear and tried to watch it that way to no avail.

My frustration at being blocked from live coverage was compounded by the fact that Twitter and other social media were buzzing with images and comments from the ceremony—a ceremony that I could not watch for another three hours.  I returned the hummus to the frig, but kept the PBR out to nurse the agony of defeat.

A New Hash Tag is Born

Once the broadcast started, my annoyance erupted to frustration.  The commercials were overwhelming, the commentary made even my 13-year-old son say “They really don’t know much do they, Mom?” and many poignant parts of the ceremony were edited out in favor of commercials and interviews.

Two hours into it, I gave up but not before seeing that I was not alone. Twitter was no longer buzzing.  It was flaming and the most popular hash tag was #NBCfail.

As a businessperson, I understand that NBC paid $1.2 Billion for the Olympic coverage and needed to recoup that investment.  However, the way they treated me as a customer, made me dislike the brand, abandon the coverage and lose my enthusiasm for the games.

Some of the problems that NBC had with the Olympic coverage are not unlike things that retailers do to annoy their customers.

Real Time in a Social Media World

For the past year, the 2012 Olympics have been touted as the “first social media games.” As such, NBC should have figured there was an expectation for real time data.  In a globally connected world, ‘now’ is the norm.

A delay of three hours feels like an eternity.   In that amount of time, the meme is old and something else is trending.  Because of this fast transmission of information, consumer patience is at an all-time low.

The competing demands of modern life make time a precious commodity.  If you don’t value your customer’s time, then they will go elsewhere.

Don’t Dumb it Down

Because of easy access to information, Gen Y might not be able to name all the state capitals.  Instead, they’ve become very adroit at looking things up.  Moreover, they are worldly and politically astute

Jokes about the names of countries or saying how Sudan has that genocide thing sorted do not endear you to customers no matter the generation.

This is especially true because there were many interesting things that could have been discussed.  For instance, the success of Tubular Bells actually launched Virgin Records.  Why did the commentators feel the need to focus on the vapid rather than the relevant and interesting?

Today’s consumer is sophisticate and craves information that is factual and in context.  If you try to be gimmicky you will alienate rather than endear your customers.

Over Restriction Causes Revolt

Because NBC blocked me from seeing content in other avenues, I went out of my way to circumvent them.  Moreover, I’ve only watched one bit of coverage since then—the women’s gymnastics.

If Nadia Comaneci was competing in this year’s Olympics, I’d surely have missed it because the camera was trained only on Americans.  Isn’t that the fun of the games?  To see the diversity?

Because I felt so restricted as a consumer and viewer, I opted out.  Instead, I get my coverage from other sources.  If you are too restrictive in policies, then your customers will seek ways to avoid engaging with you.

Quid Pro Quo

Part of the bargain of network television is that you get free content and they get to market to you.  Likewise, your customers know you need to make money in order to remain open to serve them.  However, they expect things to be reciprocal and in balance.

Unfortunately, NBC quit respecting my time and interests by airing a commercial every five minutes and eliminating coverage—like the tribute to the London bombing victims in favor of Ryan Seacrest.

In addition, NBC did their advertisers a disservice.  I was so bombarded that 1. I can’t remember any specific advertisement and 2.  I was irritated with the abundance of commercials and that had a transitive effect on the brands presented.

When you lose sight of why your customer is there and instead focus on your own objectives, you risk alienating them.  Customers understand you need to make a profit.  However, you need to ensure that they never feel victimized as you do so.

More commercials than content made viewers abandon NBC coverage.


NBC had an opportunity to create energized customers for themselves and the brands they represent.  Instead, they spawned two popular hash tags #NBCfail and #NBCsucks.   Some steps you can take to ensure that you don’t end up as the unpopular meme of the day are:

–       Ensure that you respect your customers’ time and provide them with the data they need when they need it.

–       Realize the clock has sped up and that means customers expect things ‘now’. Design your systems and processes with that in mind.

–       Recognize that today’s customer is sophisticated and resourceful.  Talk to them in a language that acknowledges this.  Yes, they want information in bite-sized morsels, but they don’t want it to be without substance.  The cardinal rule is to be authentic and useful.

–       Consider whether or not your policies and procedures are highly restrictive and designed without mutual benefit in mind.  If they are, you force your customers to go elsewhere.

–       Remember customers understand you need to make a profit.  However, they want to feel like they received value.

Think of social media as an opportunity get real time feed back.  If you listen and adapt then you will continually improve the customer experience. Hopefully, NBC will rectify some of their challenges before Rio in 2016.


The Hippocratic Oath of Customer Experience

In Customer Experience, Retail on July 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Retailers should follow the Hippocratic Oath when dealing with customers.

Hippocratic Oath of Customer Experience

For thousands of years, physicians have been taking the Hippocratic Oath to “first do no harm”.  This philosophy is also excellent advice for anyone dealing with customers rather than patients.

I come from a long line of shoppers—perhaps that is why I am so passionate about retail.  When I was growing up my Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother would drag me off for marathon shopping trips each Saturday.

We would frequent stores where the clerks all knew my grandmothers.  They would set aside things that might possibly interest them.  They knew their names, sizes, tastes and those of my other family members.  Contrast that with my experience this Saturday morning.

The Experience

I had a simple list.  Pick up a book club selection, find wrapping paper and a card for a gift, and a cake for a cookout. Fairly simple stuff—or so you’d think.

First, I went to Barnes & Noble.  In the spirit of transparency, I love my Kindle and have not purchased a physical book in a while.  However, Catcher in the Rye isn’t available digitally and that’s this month’s selection.  Therefore, Barnes & Noble had a perfect opportunity to ‘recover me’ as a loyal customer.  Instead, to be blunt, they pissed me off.

How did they do that?

Clerk:  Do you have a discount card?

Me: (in good mood) Yes, but not with me.  Can you look it up?

Clerk:  What’s your phone number?

Me: 919-xxx-xxxx.  That may not be the right number. We’ve moved and switched phones.  Not sure which number I signed up with.

Clerk:  That isn’t your number.

Me:  Can you look it up by my name?

Clerk:  Not here.  You have to go to customer service.  Do you want to buy a new card for $25.

Me:  You mean I have to get out of line to go find my number?

Clerk:  Yep.  (glares at me)

Me:  Why would I buy a new card when I already have one?

Clerk:  Clearly you don’t know your phone number.

Me:  (giant WTF stare and then I look at the line of people who I don’t want to make wait) Just ring it up.

Me to my husband as we leave:  This is why I love Amazon.

So Barnes & Noble has systems that don’t talk to one another.  Instead of trying to help me get my number, they try to sell me something I already have.  Moreover, I’m the perfect customer for them.  Books are a priority in my family.  Yet, they seem to be trying to get rid of me.

Next, I head downtown for my other items.  There is a stationery store by the bakery and I pop in for the wrapping paper and a card.  I can’t help but think the store smells strange—kind of like a litter box.  As I’m looking at my husband oddly, a giant Ewok of a cat rubs against my leg.  I’m in a panic as I’m highly allergic to cats.

I race to the door knowing my afternoon is ruined because I’ll be in a Benadryl induced stupor.  The clerk looks at me strangely as I bolt out almost knocking over a display.  Over my shoulder, I call out “Sorry.  Allergic to cats.”  I’m already wheezing as we make our way to the bakery.

When we enter the bakery, the experience is completely different.  The pastries are beautifully arranged. There are samples that the clerks are happily sharing with other customers. The cakes are so delicious that the customers are selling them to one another.

I ask a clerk which one she’d recommend for a summer cook out.  Eagerly, she describes the strawberry amaretto in butter cream.  I’m sold!  Carefully, she packages it up for me.

Then she asks me “Have you thought about what you are going to do for your sister’s shower?”  I instantly order yet another cake.  I don’t feel upsold.  I feel relief.   And guess what?  I can’t wait to come back.  I feel a bit of that joy of those Saturdays spent shopping with the women of my family.

Contrast that with how I feel about the other two stores.  I’m not going back to a store that wants me to do all of the work and them to just take my money.  I’m definitely not going to the cathouse.  In fact, as my eyes swell shut, I reach for my phone to add a tip on Four Square “AVOID if you are allergic to cats.”

First Do No Harm

When you are crafting a customer experience, you need to seriously consider if your processes, procedures or choices cause your customers pain.

For instance, up to 30% of the population has a cat allergy.  On what planet does it make sense to alienate that many potential customers?

Why would you train your staff to try to sell someone a new discount card before you try to look up their old one?  Or even worse, why would you implement a system that doesn’t allow for multiple ways to look up customer data?

Things to Consider

When you are creating user journeys or customer experiences, make sure you look for any places you may cause the customer pain.  Some things to consider are:

  • Are you doing anything that could potentially alienate customers (is your store accessible, clean, dander-free?)?
  • Can customers easily find things?
  • Do you have procedures that make the customer do the work?
  • Are you selling at the right time? (not when the customer has a need that you are not resolving)
  • Is your staff adequately trained on how you wish them to engage with the customer?
  • Do you have adequate feedback loops so complaints can be addressed before they become big issues?
  • Are you monitoring social media for ‘customer pain’
  • Do you shop your stores anonymously to see what the experience is like?


Like physicians, retailers need to ask themselves if what they are doing causes damage to your customer and the relationship you want to have with them.  It is difficult for anyone to go from pissed off to delighted in one experience.

Therefore, you should be vigilant in looking for things that may potentially do harm.  While there are not lives at stake, the viability of your business may be.  My husband and I are already taking bets on how long the cat stationery shop will be in business. Anyone want to take a long position?

Is Your Customer Experience Smashable?

In Customer Experience, Retail on July 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

Joshy enjoys his extended vacation at the Ritz-Carlton

When was the last time your loss prevention team became an Internet sensation because of excellent customer service? Well, that’s what happened when Joshy went missing.

Joshy is the beloved stuffed Giraffe of the youngest member of the Hurn family. Sadly, Joshy didn’t return home from the vacation with the rest of the Hurns. Desperate to console a distraught toddler to sleep, the family told him that Joshy decided to stay a bit longer on vacation, but would return home soon.

When Joshy was finally located , he returned home with a scrapbook documenting his extended stay, his own loss prevention badge and some goodies for the rest of the family.  Can you guess where the Hurn’s stayed?  Yep. The Ritz-Carlton.

We all read business books that meticulously document models and methodologies to ensure that we craft excellent customer experiences.   These models always seem daunting, expensive and impossible to implement.  One of the darlings and frequent case studies found in those books is the Ritz-Carlton.

However, what the Ritz did in the Joshy incident doesn’t require a change management behaviorist to be on call 24/7 or a major Cap X investment.  Instead, it was a piece of a smashable brand and experience.

The Smashable Experience

 In 1916, Coca-Cola executives approached the Root Glass Company with a challenge—design a Coke bottle that would still be easily identifiable even if smashed into shards.  The result was the Classic Coke bottle.  Martin Lindstrom wrote about smashable brands in his amazing book Brand Sense.

Lindstrom argues that your brand experience should be like the Coke bottle—easily recognizable even in pieces.  Some of the examples he uses are the Harley Davidson sound, the voice of Disney, the smell of Abercrombie and the Intel tone.   Each of these pieces adds up to tell the overall brand story in a unique and identifiable way.

As retailers, we need to be deliberate about what those brand impressions are when it comes to our experiences. Surely, the Hurn’s visited a lovely resort with posh beds, clean rooms and friendly staff.  That’s what you expect from the Ritz-Carlton, right?

However, do you expect loss prevention to be as amazing as the mojitos by the pool?  Clearly, the Loss Prevention team considered themselves an integral part to the overall ethos.   Moreover, they went out of their way to prove it. That is what makes the Ritz-Carlton brand and experience smashable.

Is Your Experience Smashable?

When you shop your stores, how smashable is your experience?  Do you ‘feel’ the ethos of the brand?  Is it easily distinguished from your competitors? Do all of the pieces add up to tell a brand story?  And does the resulting story align with what you discuss when you are sitting around the table in corporate headquarters?

This is why those business books and customer theory books seem so daunting.   The problem is not just in one department or store.  Instead, it encompasses everything from merchandising to store design to marketing to even loss prevention.  So where do you start?

Creating a Smashable Experience

If you really want to create a smashable brand and experience, you have to do an honest assessment of where you want to be and where you are.  I typically take executives on an ‘empathy field trip’ in their own stores at the beginning of a consulting engagement.  Sometimes they love me at the end of it and sometimes they hate me, but I force them to be brutally honest with themselves.

Once you have created the map of current experience then you need to consider:

  • Have you clearly identified what that experience is going to be?  If this is not aligned with your brand-neither can be smashable.
  • Have you identified ways that you can do things that are differentiated from your competitors? And whether or not your customers really care about those things?
  • When you enter your locations, does it look, smell and sound like the experience you want?
  • Do your employees behave like the embodiment of your brand?
  • Do you hire people who reflect what your brand stands for and is it part of your culture?
  • Do you train employees in what type of experience you want to create?
  • Do you speak to your customers in a consistent voice across all channels?
  • Do you choose the things to go the extra mile on wisely?
  • Do you have ‘delight metrics’?
  • Are there ways to share stories to create a virtuous circle?


You don’t have to frame break your entire customer experience and strive to be the Ritz-Carlton today.  Instead, figure out what your unique customer experience is going to be.

Even small improvements, if they are deliberate, can help you build your way to a smashable brand.  Surely, the Ritz didn’t have a policy on what to do with lost stuffed toys.  Instead it had clearly defined customer experience in mind and this permeated every department.

Unlike the Coke bottle, you don’t have to build it all at once.  You can start from the shards and fuse them together to build a smashable experience.   Just identify where you want to start, what you are building towards and rally the troops.  Your customers will thank you.  The Hurn family certainly thanked the Ritz.

Four Hot Retail Trends Made Better by Customer Self-Service

In Customer Experience, Retail, Self-Service on June 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

Even iconic Liberty is setting up a temporary location to attract Olympic visitors

London is buzzing this summer.  People flocked to the city for the Diamond Jubilee. While it captivated the world’s attention, it was just a warm up for the Olympics.   As athletes and devoted fans from around the globe descend on the city, retails are getting prepared.  Therefore, you can see some of the hottest trends in retail on steroids.  Four in particular are made better by incorporating self-service or kiosks.  They are:

  • Pop Up Locations
  • Smaller Footprint Stores
  • Millenials
  • International Shoppers


 London real estate was already at a premium.  However, the massive influx of people this summer has made that even more pronounced—especially in locations surrounding the Olympic venues.  Therefore, retailers are getting creative with pop-up locations.  Even Liberty, the famed British department store has taken a temporary space in an outdoor area on the main promenade where Olympic revelers will pass en route to the park.

Trendy retailer H&M is opening a sports-focused store that will feature active wear in Union Jack colors.  These stores will be open for ten weeks in Covent Garden and Westfield Stratford City.  It isn’t just London that is seeing this trend, H&M is opening a pop up location in Miami Beach this summer.

The value of pop ups is being recognized by other entities beyond retailers.  EBay created several pop up locations.  Wired Magazine erects an electronics pop up in New York at Christmas every year .  Even the Flaming Lips have puckered up to the pop up trend .

Retail expert, Brian Walker from The Retail Doctor told Smart Company, “Pop-up shops give you instant accessibility, instant wow factor if done well, and put you in environments that you might not be otherwise.” He continues,  “A pop-up shop is an extension of the brand and should be treated that way – so investment of capital is key.”

Pop ups allow retailers, websites, magazines and even bands to capitalize on compelling events and locations as well as keep their brand top of mind.  Because of their temporary nature and space constraints, pop ups typically have limited selection.  By introducing self-service, kiosks or tablets, pop ups could be nimble as well as offer a broader range of items.

These locations are ideal for endless aisle types of applications.  Moreover, shoppers heading to the Olympic park or to South Beach may not want to be burdened with parcels.  A kiosk would allow visitors to purchase from the extended offerings as well as have items delivered at their convenience.


 Even after the Olympics, London real estate will be at a premium.  For brands and retailers interested in a more permanent spot in highly desirable locations, the smaller footprint store has become a mainstay.  Over the past few years, giant retailers have responded to changing consumer behaviors and adopted a more focused approach. Smaller footprint stores are ideal for urban locations and create a more European shopping model where consumers visit the stores daily—which is ideal for brand engagement.

Target created stores that were almost half the size of their traditional stores (60,000 sqft vs 120,000) for their urban locations.  Walmart Express was born to allow the retail giant to fit into this new reality.  In addition, stores like Kohl’s and Office Depot are embracing this trend and getting away from the mega store to broaden their appeal.

Like pop up locations, these smaller footprint stores are unable to carry the full product portfolio. Not to mention, have you ever tried to wheel your newly purchased office chair through the streets of Seattle?

The limited space and the realities of urban living make these locations ideal for kiosks, which can expand product and delivery options.  In addition, these stores don’t have room for support staff.  Retailers could take advantage of hiring kiosks to off load many of the human resource tasks.  This would ensure that associates focused primarily on the customer.


 Millenials are not only the athletes in this year’s Olympics they are a large percentage of those who will be drawn to the games. In a previous blog, I wrote about how self-service and Millenials are an ideal match.

Millenials will outspend Baby Boomers by 2017; however, they also currently punch above their weight.  That means they spend more than their actual purchasing power.  In addition, they shop in an entirely different way than their parents—who they trust less than random people online.

To meet the demands of this generation, retailers need to ensure that reviews are easily accessible.  Kiosk or shelf level tablets would be ideal to help these informed consumers complete purchases.  Because they are wired all the time, they are great researches and users of technology.   You don’t want to put your associates in a position where a customer pulls out their phone to show them they are wrong about their own products or specials—which could instantly derail a purchase and mar your brand.

According to a RSR paper, The Retail Store in Transition, an uninformed associate is worse than no associate.  Moreover, most Millenials don’t even want to bother talking to an associate.  They’d rather interact with an avatar or something ‘less human’.

Retailers can appeal to this demographic by ensuring peer reviews are available through out the store, providing easy access to information in a visually appealing way and empowering associates with technology to further the conversation.

Self-service and kiosks are ideal for this.  However, be aware that this is the Apple Generation and it has to be sleek, elegant and modern.  Any boxy, clunky things that are not graphically appealing or don’t work on the first try will be quickly abandoned and Tweeted about, Facebooked and Pinned under #fail.


 When I was growing up, Italian food was considered exotic.  Now, even in my small suburban town, I can eat at 30 different ethnic style restaurants and encounter six different languages on any given day.  This diversity is changing the shopping landscape.  Every four years we are reminded of how diverse our world is with the Olympics.  Can you imagine being an associate at the H&M location in Covent Garden trying to articulate the merits of products to people from every country on the planet?

Self-service and kiosk can make life easier for both the associate and the shopper by providing information in multiple languages.  This trend isn’t just for retail, but healthcare, public spaces like airports and public transit as well as universities.  Providing information in multiple languages in a single location is simple with a kiosk whether it is products, services, frequently asked questions, timetables or way finding assistance.


With summer heating up and the biggest shopping days ahead of us, retailers should consider how they are going to make these trends even better shopper experiences.  Self-service can make small spaces have big impact by expanding offerings.  It can help limited staff meet growing demand by offloading administrative tasks such as managing job applications.  In addition, it can bring the viral, social shopping experience into the store by incorporating reviews and rankings.  Finally, it can create a personalized experience no matter which language you speak.


To Ignite Your Customers, Fire Up Your Employees

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2012 at 7:51 am

The connected customer can find anything they want. Your employees can differentiate the experience and your brand.

I’m one of those connected customers.  I scan QR codes.  I read product reviews.  I’m never without my phone and it is loaded and ready with Google Shopper, Red Laser and Barcode Hero.  I write reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp!  I seek feedback about products  from my friends on Facebook and Twitter.

My son is an avid soccer player. He probably knows  as much about the merits of different products as most people who sell soccer products.  He’s a keeper and therefore his goalie gloves are superstitious item (I won’t even talk about his sock ritual!).  They have to be Reusche. Period.  If they are not, then his goalie mojo will evaporate.

In short, we are connected consumers who are crystal clear about what we want.

So why are we in the car on Saturday morning driving to a store 12 miles from our house when I could easily purchase what I want online?  One simple reason.  The employees at the Soccer Post.

If I’m being honest, I don’t usually like to talk to store clerks.  It’s not that I’m anti-social.  It is more that I really like to do things for myself.  I have all the information that I need at my fingertips.  What I want from them most times is to be courteous and let me settle my bill quickly.  So why is the Soccer Post different?  Because the employees are passionate.

It is clear they love what they are doing.  Their enthusiasm for the latest Joma shoe or ‘epic’ goalie jersey is contagious.  They know who has which patents on which type of finger saves in everyone of the goalie gloves they carry.  They truly understand the crazy sock ritual–something even I as the mother don’t get.


 Much has been written about the loyalty and caliber of Chick-fil-A employees.  The turnover among Chick-fil-A operators is only  5% a year. Among hourly workers turnover is 60%, compared with 107% for the industry.  They don’t pay any more than other fast food chains.  They don’t have any greater benefits.  The career path and training at McDonald’s is far superior.  So why are Chick-fil-A employees so much better?  The answer is not merely that they have a religious foundation and they recruit and hire from church communities.  It is not that they are closed on Sunday.  It is more than that.  They hire employees who believe in what they stand for.


Retailers don’t need to shut down their stores on Sunday and stand outside of churches with job applications as their new HR strategy.  The Soccer Post in Raleigh has the same type of employees and they were recruited from the elite soccer players in the area.

So what is the formula for getting employees excited?

Clarify what you stand for

It does not have to be a religious principle, but it should be clear and something that is easily understood.  In truth, if your brand is well done it should be instantly obvious.  It doesn’t have to be a lofty goal that a future Miss American contest quotes.  It can be simple like the Soccer Post—performance soccer gear for all levels.

Hire only those who believe

Once you’ve articulated what you stand for you, only hire those who have similar values.  We’ve all made bad hires because we were time crunched, dying for an extra set of hands, afraid that the headcount would go away if we didn’t act quickly or various other rationalizations.  I have been guilty of it myself and have always ended up regretting it.

When I asked the owner of the Soccer Post how he recruited such good employees he said “I find those who love the sport and I figure I can teach them retail.”

How often have you looked at a job application and tossed it aside because they had no retail experience?  Or worse does your HR team do this and you have no idea?  If you are unsure, should call your recruiters right now and give them some additional screening criterion rather than ‘previous experience.’

When you make bad hires, you are not the only one suffering.  Your brand and your customer are the victims of these poor choices.  Wait until the right candidate comes along.  Recruit from communities where people with your beliefs congregate.  This is  much easier than ever before with social media.  Moreover, these communities are global.  Leverage Linked In, Facebook and Twitter to find people who match your philosophy and aspirations.

Create a Culture Around Your Beliefs

Let’s say you are a struggling consumer electronics retailer.  You spend a lot of time hyping new products to your customers.  Do you also do that for your employees?  They are the ones who are going to be helping customers select products.  Do your employees exude enthusiasm about the latest television or video game?  Do you celebrate successful product launches of what you are trying to focus on?

If you are a women’s apparel store, do you get your teams excited about the latest in fashion?  Do you send them Twitter updates about the trends live from the runways?  Why not?  If you’ve hired well, then these people will want to hear this type of information and will eagerly share it with your customers.  Think of it is quick, inexpensive employee training.

 Make the Tough Choices

I’m sure Chick-fil-A has heard the business case from every freshly-minted MBA on why they should open on Sunday.  However, Chick-fil-A is steadfast in remaining closed so that employees can attend church and be with their families.

If you clarify what you stand for and something comes along and opposes that, you have to be willing to say “No.”  For instance, lacrosse is becoming big where I live.  What would happen to the experience at The Soccer Post if they started carrying lacrosse gear?  I’m guessing they would have to hire lacrosse experts too.  So when I wanted to know the specs on the new Reusch gloves, I’d have a lacrosse player trying to help me?  Or perhaps they’d go back to the old reliable “Must have retail experience.”


If you want your customers to be passionate about your brand and what you do, then your employees have to feel that enthusiasm as well.  In a connected world, customers can find lower prices, free shipping, etc.  Focus on things that can differentiate you and having great employees is one of the easiest ways.


The Elegance of Simplicity: Creating Experiences the Drive Purchase

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm

It’s 9 pm and my son has fried his computer.  I’m not entirely sure what that is oozing from the bottom. He fervently denies that he had any liquids in the vicinity.  I’m prone to believe him since it smells like olive oil.  As soon as we determine the motherboard is hosed, I realize I’m going to be purchasing a new computer whether I like it or not. Image

 I know that he likes to play games and make videos.  I also know that he needs it for schoolwork. I’m aware of what my budget is for an unexpected purchase of this size.  That is the extent of it.

 First, I go to several websites and see list of specs: quad core processors, discrete-class graphics, six-cell lithium batteries and graphics card benchmarks in crossfire mode.  Frankly, I don’t know what crossfire mode is and I leave the site to go research that.  The retailer had me at their site, with an acute need (it is the end of the school year) and willingness to purchase.  However, the way the products were presented drove me away. 

 Next, I scanned a QR code that I had received in promotional material from an electronics store. I hoped that the code would take me to a deal or information presented in a way that I’d easily know what to purchase.  Sadly, the code took me to a boring and not very useful product spec sheet that then directed me to another link.  Why didn’t they direct me where they wanted me to go to start with? Frustrated, I decide to try my luck with another site. They have a different approach—a list of brands.  Now it is 11 pm and I still haven’t ordered a computer. Image

 While this may seem like a rant, it is just a real example of what customers go through when trying to purchase.  Recently the Harvard Business Review published a study by the Corporate Executive Board.  In the study, they interviewed 7,000 consumers and hundreds of marketing executives and experts.

 The purpose of the study was to identify, “what makes consumers “sticky”—that is, likely to follow through on an intended purchase, buy the product repeatedly, and recommend it to others.”

 The result was a surprise to marketers who thought that customers wanted to learn about the product and information.  Instead, customers were really there for a discount, purchases and reviews.


 While the differing perceptions of the business and customers may be interesting, the greatest finding of the study was that the single thing that made an experience sticky was by far decision simplicity.

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”  Steve Jobs BusinessWeek



When I talk to customers about why they don’t like self-check out, it isn’t because they are craving interaction with a person.  They tried it the first time because they wanted to save time.  Their frustration comes more from the fact that it   complex and confusing –so much so that they’d rather wait in line.   One of my loyal test subjects said,  “You have to scan in one place, swipe your loyalty card in another, pay for in still another place if it is credit and yet another if it is cash.  Heavens knows where your change and receipt might come from.”  


 So if customers reward simplicity with purchase and loyalty.  If they are easily frustrated when things are complex and overwhelming, how can we craft  customer experiences that deliver what they want? 

 Quick Diagnosis

To help customers find what they are looking for consider using guided quizzes.  This would have been tremendously helpful as I shopped for my son’s computer.  I could select that he games, he needs it to be portable for school, and he likes to use it to create videos.  This could easily be presented in a fun way and you could categorize the selections as “Game Geek”,“Steven Spielberg” or “Einstein” so that customers know where they fit.  Then you could write the specs that differentiate the product in a way that customers can easily digest the relevance and understand the context.

 Make Product Reviews Front and Center

The way the information was presented sent me off searching for ‘testimonials’.  However, if they were front and center I might have stayed on the path to purchase.  The truth is people trust ‘a jury of their peers’ far more than marketing copy.  Use that to your advantage.

 Avoid Multi-Channel Frustration

If you focus on simplicity then you can easily display the information no matter what the screen size.  People can find what they need.  Moreover, ensure that applications are consistent across multiple channels.

 Create A Decision Map

These are simple to do and don’t have to be flow charts.  All they have to do is map where customers have to make decisions.  Then see how many of those you can cut out without compromising what differentiates your product or brand. 

 Cull the Clutter

When I manage designers I usually take their first draft and then say, “Great.  Now take away everything that is not essential.”  A clean screen makes it easier for customers to focus on the content.  Too much going on is not better. It is just too much.

 Movement Studies

Find a great UX designer who can do t studies when you are in a prototype phase.  These studies yield invaluable insights that can save you time and money and help you create a simple elegant experience


The elegance of simplicity, as Steve Jobs said, is a lot of hard work. However, the reward is an engaged customer who is keen to purchase and share their experience with others.

 Link to Study:



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