Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Effortless Experience Is A Tool In Your Customer Experience (CX) Toolkit, Not A Goal

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash
The business world loves easy answers, but the secret to success is often shrouded in nuance. Take the current trend in customer experience (CX): Effortless and frictionless experiences. In a world of “unexpectedly high call volumes,” complicated return policies, and mobile apps that make us want to hurl our phones, it’s pretty clear that most brands tend to make it unnecessarily difficult for customers. It is also evident that brands that remove unnecessary friction improve their ability to foster strong customer relationships. But take note of those qualifiers in those last two sentences—“unnecessarily difficult” and “unnecessary friction”—because the proper CX for your brand demands you make smart decisions about where and when customer effort is not only necessary but even a good thing for the customer and your brand.

Being effortless is not a simple goal for you to strive for in every touchpoint of your customer journey. There are times effort is good. Effort sometimes produces feelings of pride and accomplishment. Effort can imbue a product or brand with emotion. Effort can reduce risk and costs. And one customer's effort can add value for other customers. There are times when the customer and brand both benefit by having the customers get their hands (metaphorically) a little dirty.

For example, which is more effortless: Buying a teddy bear off the shelf or spending an hour crafting your own at a Build-A-Bear Workshop? The reason children (and parents) love their Happy Hugs Teddies Bears and Kabu Catlynns is that they take the time to personalize the product, adding clothes, shoes, sounds, and scents. Each bear is special, like no one else’s, and that is thanks to the customer's effort. A completely tricked-out Build-A-Bear plush will cost you time, effort, and a 300% or more premium on the teddy bears sitting waiting on the shelf, but your kids will treasure it forever.

Which is more effortless: Having a TV stand delivered to your home or spending two hours making an IKEA BESTÃ…? The “IKEA effect” is so well known, it even has its own Wikipedia entry. It is described as “a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created.” IKEA has said that having customers build their own furniture is a reason for their attractive pricing, but it is also true that your effort constructing IKEA furniture provides a sense of “stolthet” (which is Swedish for pride), and it’s a big part of IKEA’s success. In one study of the Ikea effect, researchers found people who built their own products were willing to pay 63% more for the product than would non-builders. (Of course, not everyone wants to put in that effort, so IKEA has partnered with TaskRabbit to provide assembly services—an important reminder of the need to understand your personas and craft different journeys for different needs.)

Which is more effortless: Being done with your transaction once you get out of a cab or taking time to rate and review your rideshare driver’s friendliness, cleanliness, and skill? While transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft have been effective at removing friction from the on-demand transit experience, there are key moments when they add, rather than subtract, effort. Rating your driver gives you a sense of control, makes you feel valued, and encourages a sense of community where every rider helps out everyone else to weed out bad drivers. The Lyft experience would be less without the customer effort required to rate each driver.

The problem with effort isn’t that effort is inherently bad; it is that brands add effort for the wrong, often careless reasons. To learn more about the science of effort, why brands often get effort wrong, and how CEB's pioneering research helps brands understand why and where to be effortless, please read the complete blog post on 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What I Learned About Influencers and Advocates By Being One

Step back in time with me: It’s December 1994, Boyz II Men is crooning “I'll Make Love to You” on the radio, Prodigy opens up the Internet to users of its online service, and a guy with a giant love for Disney decides it would be fun to create a web page. I launched a single-page called Lampwick’s Guide to Disney on the Web, never expecting doing so would turn into a five-year life-changing journey leading to a voluminous Disney fan site, a free trip to Disney World, and a new career in the nascent field of Internet marketing. I'd like to share three lessons that I learned from my experience as a Disney influencer and advocate.

My old Lampwick website

Lesson 1: Brands (Not Influencers) Must Prove Influencer Authenticity

When I launched my Disney fan site, I didn’t do it to become an “influencer” (a term no one used yet), but I did wish to become an “advocate” (in the original sense of the word—helping others—not in the way we think of it today in a world of billions of interconnected people who, some seem to think, exist to help brands raise awareness.) I wanted to share my love of Disney and help others to have their own great Disney experience. And therein was my first lesson about influencers and advocates—the best ones do it to help others, not to become famous or get free stuff.

Today, the “influencer” concept is such a part of our Internet-saturated culture that teens with a few dozen followers declare themselves influencers on Instagram, and it can seem there are more influencers on LinkedIn than there are influencees. While it might have been easy in the late 90s to spot early-adopting influencers on the embryonic World Wide Web or in Usenet groups, it is far more difficult in the era of purchased followers and #fakenews. That means the burden is on brands to use the tools at their disposal to find not just the loudest voices but the most authentic ones. Marketers have come to understand the largest followership does not necessarily mean the greatest influence, but recognizing the intent of influencer candidates requires more than just counting followers and looking for keywords.

Lesson 2: Commit to Building and Nurturing Influencer Relationships

As my Disney site grew, so did my visibility and influence. My site was included in Luckman’s World Wide Web Yellow Pages, an actual printed book of websites. (There was a time before search engines, you know!) And as my visibility grew, so did my interactions with the Disney Company.

Some of those experiences were quite exciting—like getting an early sneak peek at the plans for the Animal Kingdom park. But other exchanges with the company were frankly alarming. A Disney lawyer contacted me to accuse me of stealing IP (and was bemused to learn I was on his company’s PR mailing list). And one Disney “webmaster” (remember those?) reached out to inform me that the Walt Disney Company exerted copyright on any photos taken inside their resorts and, by the way, my site had hundreds of photos I’d snapped inside Disney World. He didn’t want me to take down my site—he just wanted me to understand my place. As a Disney fan and very active advocate, I found the discussion distressing, and it caused me to question my effort to maintain and grow my fan site.

To learn my second and third lessons, along with the long-term benefits of treating your advocates and influencers right, please continue reading this post on my Gartner blog.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Beware the Customer Experience Case Study

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash
Case studies. Everyone craves them. But are they success guideposts to follow, or might they have the power to mislead us?

The lure of case studies is that they offer us peeks at others' success, providing useful models or best practices to follow. But I've always feared that case studies can give something a veneer of believability, sparking within us a modicum of false conviction while leaving us no closer to action and success.

In my years covering and leading social media, I have seen the Oreo "Dunk in the Dark" tweet used as a case study dozens of times, and yet no brand has ever repeated that success. That brand victory was a lightning strike--an unrepeatable occurrence that transpired thanks to the exact right mix of event, audience, context, maturity level of social media, creativity, brand, and rapid action. A thousand brands and a million tweets later, few if any have managed to recreate the alchemy of Oreo's tweet heard round the world.

We may view case studies as patterns to follow, but how many case studies are like the Oreo example? If someone walked into a casino, put chips down on double zero and walked away a thousand dollars richer, his or her case study would not help you. You can step the same way to the same table with the same bet, and your outcome will not be the same. (Well, it would be the same one out of every 35 spins on average, but you could still go broke trying.)

Case studies are created for a reason--most are designed to sell you something or to help a professional promote their career. That should not make them immediately suspect, but it should cause you to ask questions.

To learn the questions you should ask and to ponder what you can (and cannot) learn from Amazon and Zappos, please continue reading on my Gartner blog.