Balancing surprise and simplicity for better customer experiences
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a series of recent articles from Lenati’s blog.
Of all the different approaches to customer experience (CX), there are two that seem to have come to the forefront in common discourse — we’ll call them "surprise and delight" and "effortless simplicity." While these are seen to be competing concepts, they are both valid depending on the customer’s context. This has led to a fair bit of confusion around how people speak about CX design.
First is the premise that customers should experience "surprise and delight" at every step of their journey. This sounds great at first (aiming to exceed the customer’s expectations seems like a good idea), but only if the customer’s basic needs are met.
In the book "The Experience Economy," authors Pine and Gilmore went so far as to propose using theater as a metaphor for "staging customer experiences" around a brand theme. Service interactions are highly scripted, retail spaces are stage sets, and service reps actors playing roles aligned to the theme. But attempting to make surprise and delight happen in the real world can be cumbersome and contrived, especially if the customer’s original mission hasn’t been completely fulfilled. Even if the customer is 100 percent satisfied, aiming to drive deep engagement at every point can be overwhelming for the customer, creating a brand perception that is fake, insincere and inauthentic.
"Effortless simplicity" is about reducing effort and time for the customer. Matthew Dixon & Co., authors of "The Effortless Experience," explain that most transactions (e.g., checking out of a hotel, booking an airline ticket or paying a parking fine online) are best improved by reducing the amount of interaction with the customer. According to their research, a customer service interaction is four times more likely to foster disloyalty than loyalty. The goal here should be to simply get out of the customer’s way and let them get on with their lives.
The approach you take should be dependent on the channels in question, the characteristics of your brand, and the expectations of your customer. For most transactions, especially those in digital channels, the less information the customer needs to provide, the lower the wait times, the fewer keystrokes, the better. But this should not always be the case, especially with in-person experiences. A premium purchase guided by the personal touch of a well-trained sales associate, the brief conversation with a barista, or the extra moment spent with a family doctor can all be worth that extra bit of time and effort.
In the practice of architecture, there is a saying: "If you can’t hide it, make it a feature." In other words, anything that is visible to the visitor needs to be meaningful, and everything else needs to disappear completely. The same can be said for CX: reduce the customer’s effort where you can. Everywhere else, align the experience to brand.
Do the “surprise and delight” and “effortless simplicity” approaches to retail customer experience complement or contradict one other? What advice would you have around maximizing each approach?