Customer Experience is Not Rocket Surgery

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Let’s get this straight. Rocket Surgery doesn’t exist. It’s a made-up term combining two things people think are hard: rocket science and brain surgery. It sounds so hard that no one would even believe that a Venn Diagram of these things could even exist (or maybe it would just be strange, like that feeling you get when you see someone on the street these days riding a Segway.) But Customer Experience does exist.

And one of the great problems with Customer Experience (capital C, capital E) these days is that there is a “Right Way” to do it. (And a wrong way.) Please don’t mistake this rant as a screed against those who try to learn what customers want to do and to help them achieve it. I just want to point out that when we (the Royal We) have the feeling that “Customers Don’t Get It” and that “They are doing it wrong” and that “They don’t know what they’re talking about” we’ve really missed the point. Because customers are the reason that we are here.

So here are a few modest ideas to make your Customer Experience feel less like Rocket Surgery (or whatever acronym you might have in your environment that sounds sort of like that made-up term):

  1. Get Out of the Building – this is a classic, shared by Eric Ries, Steve Blank, and a host of others as a cardinal rule of understanding your customers. Go talk to them – in their environment – and ask them what they’d like to do that they can’t do. And instead of telling them what they should do: just listen.
  2. Create Random Acts of WOW – The next time a customer makes a reasonable suggestion, just ship it. Don’t worry about the impact to the schedule, the placement on the roadmap, or anything else like that. Just trust that if one customer made the suggestion, there are 10 more (or 100) that you haven’t talked to yet who feel the same way. And it doesn’t matter to them if it’s done perfectly.
  3. Make a list of “cringe-worthy” experiences¬†– like the “broken window” theory of policing championed by former NYPD police chief WIlliam Bratton, the basic idea of capturing and eradicating bad experiences one at a time starts with finding and cataloging those experiences and asking yourself if you would put up with them as a customer in your own product. You may not have the equivalent of an annoying Squeegee guy asking you for a buck, but you know what I mean. Find and remove more of those cringe-worthy experiences, and your product will be better.

So delivering customer experience is not hard. It’s not brain surgery, rocket science, or rocket surgery. But it is harder than just hoping that problems get solved. It involves identifying small things that your customers care about, identifying ways to move beyond those problems, and the ability and will to deliver them unexpectedly that turns a mediocre experience into a potentially great one.


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