Agile, Customer Experience, Customer Strategy, Product Thoughts, Startup

Please, fix all the broken things.

FAIL stamp
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You should fix all the broken things in your product. You avoided some decisions in the past or made some decisions you might now choose to change, and now these broken things are still there. Your customers see this accumulated flotsam and jetsam and don’t think “you made the best decision you could have made at the time,” they just think “why is that thing so broken?” Don’t they care enough to fix it?

When your customers ask you to fix things, you can’t always fix them. There might be a very good reason you can’t fix that thing now, or to explain to your customer why it’s complicated. And I’d like to remind you that the longer those things are out there the more chances your customers have to get fed up and stop trying themselves. So here’s a simple set of ideas that can help regain customer goodwill (or make it bigger.)

Fix. All. The. Things.

Here’s one thing you can do today: make a list of the top 10 “cringe items” to fix. You know what they are – your customers tell you about them often. You might have a rubric internally for when they become truly important, and there is another way to measure whether something is truly a “cringe item.”  Ask a new customer if they think it’s weird. If they think that part of your product is weird or confusing, it probably is weird or confusing and you should make it better.

True “cringe items” emerge from this list of merely weird or confusing items. These are items that cause significant customer pain. If these items are difficult (technically) to fix, then build different ways to hold the customer’s hand and get them through the problem. You can write a blog post; you can have a call with the customer where you share your screen; and you can configure the product for them. Any solution that gets a customer through a cringe item might save a customer. You know what your cringe items are – and if you don’t know, you should ask all the people in your business who talk to customers – they can tell you.

After you know what the pain points are, make them go away.

Pain points are exactly that: things that customers find difficult. Sometimes, pain points of a product feel so bad for a customer that the customer goes away, especially when another company determines a way to make that pain point 10x easier to deal with and helps you get there. So make the pain go away.

This is an expanded version of “make it easy for the customer” because really what you are doing is making it so no customer ever again will have this problem. Ok, it’s not always easy. But fixing a cringe item offers the most return on your customer investment possible. Fixing a cringe item makes your customers believe again if they have temporarily lost faith. And fixing a cringe item brings hope to customers who’ve been waiting for you to resolve your decision debt and to do better.

Remember Pareto and the 80/20 rule.

Fixing the cringe items to improve the customer experience is a natural outcome of following the Pareto Principle. When you find the small number of cases that cause customer discontent, you should fix them if you want to maximize the investment benefit of fixing that things. Why not start with the things customers hate most? One reason is that customers famously don’t know what they want. But if enough of them are complaining about the same things, that should signal that it’s a great thing to spend more time on, even if you can’t fix it right away. So fix all the broken things. If you can’t fix them, invent a better way to help customers cope with them without getting really upset at you every time they try to do the thing they’d like to do.

You can find 47 other ways to improve the customer experience here.

Customer Experience, Customer Service, Startup

Can you measure customer happiness?

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photo by

A recent post from the folks at the Buffer team got me thinking about the idea of customer happiness, and the ability to quantify it and measure it. In my experience, when you ask service providers if their customers are happy, they generally have two ways to tell you: an average of overall satisfaction, and customer comments (those in the industry often call these “verbatims”) that stand out and let you know something great happened.

Yet both the ability to measure an overall average of satisfaction and the fact that super-positive customer comments exist fails to take large-scale customer happiness into account. The overall average is great for ensuring general consistency (and data geeks out there would probably tell me that the median customer service score coupled with a tight standard deviation is an even better metric of consistency), but it doesn’t account for any one person having a service experience that just didn’t compute. And the super-positive “verbatims” tell you about single great experiences but can be “halo” comments or anchor your expectations to a level of service that doesn’t exist.

Given your perception of great service is different from mine, and given it’s challenging to engineer true “customer success,” here’s a modest proposal to measure customer happiness and to get an exact and consistent measurement of that metric:

  • decide what the “happy path” is – the way that if customers have the best possible experience, they should act and the system should behave in a way that delivers the product or service in the expected way – and instrument your service to capture some of the data points you need to know to confirm that they’ve gotten there.
  • ask the customer how they feel at the beginning of the process about the service experience – a simple click to answer “How ya doin’ today?” or a smiley face on a Likert scale. Your goal is to get a baseline idea for how customers feel when they begin a service process.
  • then, ask the customer two or three “smiley face” questions at the end of the process: “how did we do?”, “how do you feel about it?”, and “would you recommend this to others?”. If the response is negative (bottom two boxes on the scale, present a free text area that asks them to tell you one thing you should change about the experience.

We can’t know what’s going on in the customer’s mind before, during, and after a service process. We can only get a snapshot of the things that they tell us when a process goes right or when it goes wrong. And if we agree that using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a guide for service, the goal is to create a service process that does more than just simply give safety and comfort. True “Customer Happiness” will also show signs of self-actualization – or the realization that using the service meets an unstated or unmet need and gives the customer the tools to become a better person – and will create a “virtuous loop” that makes the customer want to come back.

The table stakes for delivering customer happiness are to do the job right and be polite, whether you’re running an in-person service process or delivering that service remotely through another service or application. Combining the ability to get Big Metrics (service level, customer satisfaction, net promoter score), little metrics (testimonials and unaided praise), and placing that in a baseline of customer expectations is what’s required truly to deliver customer happiness. After all, if you are the best provider in an industry that historically has produced awful service experiences (yes, telecom and cable companies, I’m looking at you), you will be at best a necessary evil. Going beyond the customer expectation and delivering Customer Wow requires investment. And it delivers dividends far beyond that first cost.

Generous, Innovation, Productivity

Next year, I hope we all say more of what we mean

I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Whether it’s talking like ironic cats that have poor grammar, saying “it’s ok” when it’s really not ok, or just not waiting until your thought is fully formed to start speaking, we all say things we don’t really mean – we just thought they sounded good at the time (inside our heads.)

So next year, I hope that we all say more of what we mean. Mind you, I’m not advocating to say every hurtful thing that pops into your head at the moment that you think it (although erring on the side of saying a few more helpful and good things probably couldn’t hurt). What I’m suggesting is that the way we say things, the content of what we say, and the sound of the actual words is much more telling than we think – so make them matter a little more next year.

Here are three things I hope to do toward this end:

Press Pause Before Speaking

I can definitely wait before speaking my mind a little bit more. I’m too often guilty of the “I really wanted to tell you everything that’s in my head” disease, when often times sitting back and waiting is the best course. So, I’ll take a breath mentally this year before I think I need to say something.

Remember, it’s hard to take words back

Angry words are the hardest to take back. If all of us think – when we’re getting angry – about the motivations and feelings of the other person in the conversation, we’re much more likely to be insightful about what’s actually going on in that person’s head at the moment. And more likely to hold our tongues when we should.

Do and say more kind things, just because you can

When I think of the most unexpected good times this year, they were all related to people going out of their way to do kind things.We can all help a friend or a neighbor either with our everyday experience, because we lend a hand, or just by providing a kind word at the right time. So try it – do more random acts of senseless kindness – and see the benefits among your friends and family. And even if you’re not feeling like it, it’s part of an overall practice of having fewer negative thoughts. (But wait – wasn’t the whole point of this post to say more of what you mean?) Yep, it turns out that researchers have a lot to say on the subject – take a listen below.

Daniel Kahneman’s Ted Talk on Happiness and Experience