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Guest Post: What does your retail pricing say about you?

Shawnby Shawn Phillips

As a self-professed retail geek, I’m always noticing prices and deals that retailers offer. More than that, though, I notice what these prices really mean. What are you saying to a customer when you set the price of a product? It’s a good question, because you end up saying a lot.

Price is, of course, one of the central touchpoints of retail. But it’s a lot more complex than it seems. The customer wants to feel good about the amount they paid for their purchase, and while this can mean that they feel like they got a great deal, it can also mean that they feel like they paid a fair price for a premium product. If your customer feels like a high-quality product is priced too low, they might start to doubt the quality. Read more

Why is Ace Hardware trying to buy my loyalty?

Settergren'sNo neighborhood is complete without the local hardware store. Ours is Settergren’s, an Ace Hardware that’s been in business for over a hundred years.

Like most of it’s compatriots, it’s the anti-Home Depot. You get a good selection at a decent price. But what really matters is the convenience and the really good advice from people with dirt under their fingernails who know what kind of nail to use and can recommend the best caulk for your situation. We stop by there not just to get tools, but to ask for advice on a job or to look for a contractor.

Settergren’s is a neighborhood institution. On a Saturday afternoon it’s crowed with people coming for paint, nails, mulch or a shovel. They’re active in the community and neighbors regularly talk about how much they love Settergren’s.

So it surprised me when they came out with a loyalty program. You earn points by spending money with them which comes back in the form of a card good for $5 in purchases.

Who thought THAT was a good idea? Read more

Customer journey maps are all about expectations

Picture2Nobody likes surprises.  Even positive ones can ruin your customer experience.

Here’s a case in point. I was teaching at an insurance company when an employee told me a story. A customer filing a claim told him, “my agent said I don’t have rental coverage. Now I have to pay for the stupid rental car.” The employee informed him that the agent was wrong – he did have rental insurance. But instead of thrilling the customer, it frustrated him.

His relationship is with the agent who sold him his policy. That’s where his trust is. Instead of being happy that he now has rental coverage, he’s confused – who does he trust? How does he know who’s right?  And if the rental coverage is wrong, what else might be?

Map it Out

That’s where effective customer journey maps can really help you understand and prevent customer problems. Effective journey maps show customer expectations and highlight when they’re not being met. They isolate those moments of truth when customer expectations are dashed. One of my first customer journey maps was the health savings account journey (HSA). My client had a “single sign-on” for their health plan and their HSA. For some reason, customers felt this meant they only had to sign in once to get to their HSA (I know – strange, right?).  Of course, that’s not how it worked.  While they only had to enter their username once, they had to enter a second password to get to their account. Surprise!

A surprise for the company was that website login was the number one cause of customer attrition. Their customer journey maps highlighted the issue. Luckily they were able to quickly make at least small adjustments to improve the process, combined with an educational campaign.

That’s the power of effective customer journey maps. And I’m not talking about Excel or Visio boxes on a chart. Or PowerPoint slides with a few bubbles.

No, clearly understanding your customer journey and their challenges requires a well-designed map to instantly show your reader where problems are. Notice how Jane’s inability to order a product above results in a significant drop in engagement.

Do you fully understand your customer’s expectations today? Or will you be as surprised as they are?

“No, Bill. You don’t want wider seats.”

At a recent dinner party I explained what I do for a living. One attendee responded, “Well, then can you please call Delta, and tell them I want wider seats?”

I responded, “Actually, you don’t.  People say they want wider seats, but their behavior says that they really don’t.”

“Oh, you mean the hypothetical general public doesn’t want wider seats?”

“No, Bill.”  I responded. “I mean that you specifically don’t want wider seats.”

—————-

Surveys Don’t Tell the Full Story

The problem with many customer experience surveys is that they recommend the equivalent of “make my seats wider.” It’s a common practice to ask customers to rate importance for different factors, then compare that to satisfaction. But it just doesn’t work.  Since you measure each item in isolation, everything is free.  And so there’s nothing to ensure that respondents’ answers match their actual behaviors. Expensive things like wider seats have just as much weight as free peanuts.

To show what I mean, let’s play this out.  I call Delta and somehow find the magical IVR prompts to reach the right person. She hears my plea and responds, “My goodness – you’re right!  We’ve been looking at this wrong! We’ll fix that immediately.”  So they remove one chair from each row to allow for wider seats.  What will happen? Will travelers flock to Delta to take advantage of the space?

Read more

Customer Journey Map Round Table Review

I had the opportunity this week to host a CXPA round table on Best Practices on Customer Journey Mapping for B2B and B2C. We had great participation from a number of companies, including Fidelity, Thomson Reuters, and ServiceNow.

We discussed two very different meanings for the term, “Customer Journey Map:”

  • A research activity where you work with customers to understand the steps they take as they experience your journey, and the emotional impact of each step along the way. I wrote a white paper on the topic here.
  • A workshop where you bring members together to lay out the customer journey, often involving the people and systems that impact that customer journey. These workshops are also called Customer Ecosystem Map workshops, and I put together a SlideShare on the topic here.

Read more

Logitech: Sometimes Automation isn’t Your Friend

I received this email today.  While this is a B2C example, I think we can all see the risks inherent to any of our businesses.  I did not edit this email at all, outside of deleting the reference number.

Hi Jim,
This is <agent first name>, from The Logitech Customer Care Team.
How’s everything going, Jim?  We have sent a response and we haven’t heard back anything from you. We just want to make sure that we were able to address your concerns before the system automatically tag your case as closed.
Is there anything else I can help you with? If your issue has not been resolved, please do not hesitate to update me.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to visit our website at http://logitech.com  or reply to this e-mail.
This is your support reference number: [reference number].
Thank you for choosing Logitech and have a wonderful day.
Sincerely Yours,
<agent first name>
Logitech Customer Care Inc.

Now, this wasn’t the most personal email I’ve ever received.  Especially since this is the third time I have received this exact email from a tech!

Scripts are useful, and they help ensure consistent service.  But over-reliance on them really doesn’t help. Using the exact same message coming three times shows you are inauthentic, let alone signing off as <agent first name>!

Have a great holiday weekend!

<customer experience blogger>

Measure Your Customer’s Entire Journeys, not just the Touch Points

Have you had a great customer experience? One you really enjoyed – a flawless purchase of a car, a fantastic trip, or a great B2B partnership? Now think of the opposite – a cell phone provider who frustrated you, a business partnership gone sour.

What made the difference was not an individual touch point, such as a call center or website. Instead, it was the overall journey – the process of purchasing the car went well, or the upgrade to a new phone caused far more trouble than it was worth. Individual touch points contribute to the experience, but it is the accumulation that matters.

See the Larger Pattern

Your customer experience is a journey. But too often, we manage it like a series of touch points, without looking at how these touch points fit together.

And herein lies our customer experience challenge. It is easy to measure website satisfaction or the customer service skills of a call center rep. We do this regularly. But what if your customer looks at your website for information, can’t find it, then calls your rep? How do you measure this entire interaction? The rep may do a fabulous job of handling the complaint, but the journey was a failure.

Read more

Best Buy’s New Store Format: Beautiful Design Limited by Store Execution Issues

Best Buy unveiled a new store format last week at its flagship location a few blocks from their corporate headquarters. I visited the store twice last week. You can find more general review at The Mama Report, including photos, as well as at the Star-Tribune. The store has opened to rave reviews, and understandably so. The new format is beautiful, and greatly increases the opportunity to play with and learn technology.

The company traditionally introduces new store concepts in 1-3 stores, evaluates them, and determines which parts (if any) to scale. There are too many changes to include in one post, including such additions as a “Solutions Central” to ask questions, educational “digital displays” teaching about products, and vignettes that allow you to see how appliances might fit into your home. I will focus on the overall look and feel, and three specific areas: Tablet Central, the 3DTV Experience, and the Magnolia Design Center. This post reviews the format, and gives advice as to which parts should be scaled.

Full Disclosure

I worked for Best Buy for six years through 2008, and still love the brand. My last three years I designed interactive experiences such as those featured in this store. Several are clearly descendants of projects I led. This makes me more familiar with the issues than most. Read more