[Editor’s note: This installment is part of an ongoing series. You can start at the beginning in order to follow its logical sequence.]
The standard mantra for attractive is to have a product or service that provides a benefit, solves a problem or alleviates a pain point.
This basic description serves equally well as a point of departure in both the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) environment and the Business-to-Business (B2B) arena.
At the same time, it also falls short of capturing the larger opportunity to enhance the perception of a product or service in a manner that not only further elevates its allure but also endows it with personal meaning.
Thus, a notable drawback to this mantra is that it’s too succinct, which makes it somewhat oversimplified for today’s sophisticated marketplace.
While it’s undeniably true a product or service should furnish an explicit outcome along the lines mentioned above, it’s likewise advisable to tap into consumers’ psychological triggers as well, such as motives, insecurities, frustrations, hopes and expectations.
These affective traits invite the customer to more fully embrace the product or service on a deeper level, inasmuch as they relate to moods, feelings and attitudes.
Though they may be underlying in nature — implicit, subtle, vague or intangible — they are nonetheless real and can lend impetus to personifying the authenticity and worthiness of a product or service.
There are countless variations as to how this might play out.
For example, consumers may at first be unaware of the deeper satisfaction they’ll derive from a certain feature or capability until they’ve actually used it, experienced it or grown accustomed to it.
Or perhaps the very thing that provides, or would provide, an added measure of satisfaction tends to escape their conscious awareness until its absence makes its absence suddenly conspicuous — at which time the product or service becomes vulnerable to being regarded as less attractive, in need of (fill in the blank), or unappealing as compared to another alternative, which could involve going without.
There’s also the possibility of a customer feeling deflated or defeated in the wake of trying to use the product or after having had the service performed.
And then, too, there are times when consumers experience a sense of delight or reassurance just to see a feature included as part of the basic package, even prior to actually needing it or using it. Such is the case with saving back-up computer files, where it produces the psychological comfort of knowing there’s a Plan B to fall back on in the event something goes wrong with Plan A.
This sometimes elusive aspect of attractiveness adds an extra layer of difficultly onto the task of conceiving a viable product or service, and it also frames the way the task itself must be approached.
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who had a knack for satisfying this type of hidden demand, described it as instrumental to the development process. “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology,” he declared.
(It might be worth taking a moment for a short digression about the word “technology.”
In contemporary jargon there is a tendency to associate it almost exclusively with highly sophisticated devices like the stuff that comes out of Silicon Valley for example.
In a general sense, however, technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical — or entertainment — purposes. For instance, the invention of the wheel was a technological advancement — though not originally for the purpose you might think.
According to Smithsonian.com, “Evidence indicates they were created to serve as potter’s wheels around 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia — 300 years before someone figured out to use them for chariots.”
But imagine hovering over a shapeless chunk of wet clay trying to craft a pot while it sits atop a rotating square with four distinct points jutting out somewhere around knee level. Not the same experience, is it?
As terms go, then, technology encompasses a broad category of useful ideas and inventions.)
Customer Experience Engineering
The underlying objective is to be a merchant of customer satisfaction, as opposed to merely selling a product or service.
Forrester Research cites four reasons for adopting the customer experience as a rudimentary consideration in the development of a marketing strategy:
- There are fewer ways for a product or service to find a sustainable differentiator.
- Customers have no qualms about writing a harsh review online or switching to another provider.
- There are more documented cases of companies succeeding by delivering an excellent customer experience.
- Irreparable damage can result from a dreadful customer experience.
Assembling together the right collection of product/service attributes — not too little and not too much — so that they work in sympathy with one another, is the first step to making the customer experience a top priority.
When done well, this alone will give you a leg up for transforming a mere idea into a good idea.
In part 2, we’ll look at the contemporary concept of design for satisfying the customer experience imperative.