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Uncategorized

[test] How many interviews do you need for customer alignment

As a behavior driven user experience consultant, I do a lot of user research and user testing

Across a wide variety of customer segments and industry categories. So over the last 19 years, I’ve learned a lot.

By listening.

My goals in user testing are two-fold:

  • Find and correct basic usability issues that prevent the user experience from failing
  • Get insights that help my client(s) get a competitive edge

What’s the right consumer research method?

I’ve found one-on-one user research to be the best approach to hit both of these goals.

Why one-on-one research over focus groups or surveys?
Focus groups are better at the why and the what – but the why is surface level. The very nature of social settings lends participants to present an ideal version of themselves. In doing so, they hide the personality quirks that define their real-world behavior.

So it’s no surprise, that when I talk to my product or marketing friends about one-on-research, I get the same question.

How many customer research interviews do I need to align my experience to my users’ needs?

For qualitative research, my answer used to be – well, it depends. Or sometimes 5-7 users – a Nielsen recommendation – if I sensed the desire to do just a few.

And fit is extremely important – fewer, representative users are far better than a larger pool of users who don’t fit your persona(s).

I went back and did some analysis. And reviewed it in subsequent research projects over the next year.

I was stunned to find that the answer could be illustrated in a simple sketch. Or, to borrow a photography term, near the top of an S curve.

Here’s the sketch that shows how many users to include in your customer research project.

Sketch:How many user interviews to get alignment

5-7 Research Interviews: Basic Usability

Basic usability issues are solved near the low end of the curve. 5-7 representative participants are enough to identify issues with usability.

  • Basic comprehension (message clarity)
  • Navigation – organization and labels
  • Message clarity
  • Content priority
  • Calls to Action visibility

 

At this point, you’re simply trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work and why. And get consistent WHY so you can move on to the next step. At this point, you also start to identify any outliers.

66

User research and user testing

Across a wide variety of customer segments and industry categories. So over the last 19 years, I’ve learned a lot.

By listening.

It’s also important that you focus on understanding and listening more than solving problems or pitching your product. Here’s a useful guide on how to be a good moderator.

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Secondary Insights

At this point, you’re simply trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work and why. And get consistent WHY so you can move on to the next step. At this point, you also start to identify any outliers.

Tertiary Insights go here ans

At this point, you’re simply trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work and why. And get consistent WHY so you can move on to the next step. At this point, you also start to identify any outliers.

Other Insights

At this point, you’re simply trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work and why. And get consistent WHY so you can move on to the next step. At this point, you also start to identify any outliers.

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Categories
User Research

Sketch: How many customer research interviews do you need?

As a behavior driven user experience consultant, I do a lot of user research and user testing.

Across a wide variety of customer segments and industry categories.

So over the last 19 years, I’ve learned a lot.

By listening.

My goals in user testing are two-fold:

  1. Find and correct basic usability issues that prevent the user experience from failing
  2. Get insights that help my client(s) get a competitive edge

Choosing the right consumer research method

I’ve found one-on-one user research to be the best approach to hit both of these goals.

Why one-on-one research over focus groups or surveys?

Focus groups are better at the why and the what – but the why is surface level. The very nature of social settings lends participants to present an ideal version of themselves. In doing so, they hide the personality quirks that define their real-world behavior.

So it’s no surprise, that when I talk to my product or marketing friends about one-on-research, I get the same question.

Q: How many customer research interviews do I need

For qualitative research, my answer used to be – well, it depends. Or sometimes 5-7 users – a Nielsen recommendation –  if I sensed the desire to do just a few.

And fit is extremely important – fewer, representative users are far better than a larger pool of users who don’t fit your persona(s). 

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

So back to the issue of how many participants. 

Well, I went back and did some analysis. And reviewed it in subsequent research projects over the next year.

I was stunned to find that the answer could be illustrated in a simple sketch. Or, to borrow a photography term, near the top of an S curve.

Here’s the sketch that shows how many users to include in your customer research project.

5-7 Research Interviews:Basic Usability

Basic usability issues are solved near the low end of the curve.

5-7 representative participants are enough to identify issues with usability.

  • Basic comprehension (message clarity)
  • Navigation – organization and labels
  • Message clarity
  • Content priority
  • Calls to Action visibility

At this point, you’re simply trying to figure out what works or doesn’t work and why. And get consistent WHY so you can move on to the next step. At this point, you also start to identify any outliers.

It’s also important that you focus on understanding and listening more than solving problems or pitching your product. Here’s a useful guide on how to be a good moderator.

Secondary Insights:

You might also get some insights into user journeys and feature prioritization, with this sample size, but not in much detail

7-11 Research Interviews:
Good User Experience Insights

Once you’ve identified basic usability issues, you’re at the next level.  Identifying your user’s behavior and usage patterns.

Once you go past the first 5 or so users, you now start to get deeper user experience insights.

Besides what you learn about basic usability you also get:

  • Actions taken/not taken & why
  • Content formats and placement
  • Deeper feature prioritization
  • Navigation – starting points, alternates
  • On-site user journeys (preliminary)
  • Basic competitive insights (preliminary)

At this stage, you start to get insights specific to your product or service experience.

For an e-commerce site, you might learn how people browse and search to refine a big list into a manageable set.

For a B2B marketing site, you might learn the right experience at different stages of the journey.

NOTE: 7-11 participants are a good ballpark, but yours might vary a bit.  This depends on how many primary segments you have, and how different they are from each other.

Think an enterprise company that is doing research across product lines or geographies.

11+ Research Participants:
Customer Journey Insights

Now you get a chance to dig deeper and get a fuller picture of your customer journey. Not simply on your site or app – but also the before and after. Digital and offline, if it is relevant.

With your participant set reaching critical mass, you also get validations and patterns:

  • Patterns in navigation, content usage, and flows
  • Validation of critical features (consistent why)
  • Customer journey insights (off-site + on-site)
  • Insights into long cycles and repeat visits
  • Platform comparisons (Desktop vs Mobile vs App)
  • Richer competitive Insights

Taking our e-commerce example further. When a prospect arrives at your site/app:

  • What knowledge do they have about your product?
  • Are they using the navigation to browse or get to the product they saw elsewhere
  • If they started from a reseller like Amazon, what brought them over – and how could you turn that into an advantage
  • Why would they buy from you, even if you were more expensive?

Secondary Insights:

At this stage, you start to hear the true fears and motivators behind your users’ actions or lack thereof.

You also get some insights into the decision-making process that includes other people. And the reasons to buy beyond features, ease of use and fit.

15-18 Research Participants:
Competitive Edge

After you’ve identified the majority of issues, your insights should turn a corner.

At this point you’re focusing on a few things:

  1. Validating your prior findings
  2. Digging deeper into the remaining areas of uncertainty
  3. Expanding the scope of your questions as you try to understand the broader customer behavior

It’s usually at this stage you’ll hear the participant say  “I shouldn’t be telling you this…”

And that’s when some of the richest insights come out. These might shed competitive light or the true reason behind a fundamental feature.

You need 15-18 research interviews for insights that deliver a competitive edge.

With this set you get a full picture:

  • Basic usability
  • Common patterns
    • navigation and user flows
    • content prioritization
    • UI and aesthetics feedback (if using visual designs)
    • content appropriateness
  • Prioritization of features – from critical to nice-to-have, differentiating features vs expected
  • Most used customer journeys (off-site + on-site)
  • Long sales cycles insights
  • Decision-making factors
  • Understanding of the true fears and motivators

These insights deliver one or more aha moments. Ones that help you define the competitive edge for yourself or your client.

Secondary Insights:

You also get a chance to explore the journeys that come up often or are most relevant or perhaps our unexpected

18+ Interview Participants:
Incremental Insights

In my experience, any user interviews past 18 bring only incremental results. Most of these are a rehash of what you already learned. You might pick up one insight or two per interview at this stage.

At this point, you’re spending most of the time in the validation of your prior findings. Notable insights diminish fast beyond this point.

You’re hitting the plateau at this stage and covering the same ground as before.

And once you go beyond 25, the sheer number of conversations and your notes starts to overwhelm. You start to hit analysis paralysis and spend a lot of time checking and rechecking your conclusions.

I wish I could say I haven’t done more customer interviews than I needed, ever. Sadly I have and suffered for it.

Hopefully, this will help you avoid that pain.

Research Takeaways

  1. Define what your goals are for your consumer research or user testing first
  2. Identify the number of research interviews you need based on the guidelines above
  3. Get the participant fit* right using a screener
  4. Schedule more interviews than the smallest number to account for no-shows

* Fit – Participants that resemble your segment or persona. It’s better to test with a small representative set than a large number of participants, who may not match your profile.

Categories
Artificial Intelligence

The 7 customer experience areas where marketers are already using AI – TWO CHARTS show the trend

Artificial Intelligence is moving from being a buzzword to implementation.

AI offers the promise of one-to-one personalization to deliver engaging customer experiences.

And high-performing marketers are starting to use machine learning driven AI in a strategic manner.

Namely, how to personalize the overall customer journey.

In that sense, they are starting to use machine learning beyond product recommendations. Rather, they’re trying to understand users journeys within and across their channels.

The holy grail?
Predict the consumer’s journey in the future to deliver a personalized user experience.

DATA SOURCE

The charts in this report are from two Salesforce reports. One done in 2017 and other completed in December 2018.

Based on the similarity of questions, approach, and audience, these two charts show an interesting trend. How marketers perceptions and use of AI has changed in the last two years.

My takeaways from comparing both the charts are at the bottom.

Chart ONE: Marketers actively using AI to improve customer experience in 2019

Source: Salesforce State of Marketing FIFTH edition report (PDF).Name

 

Chart Two: Marketers prioritizing areas for AI in 2017

Source: Salesforce State of Marketing FOURTH edition report (PDF)

AI usage to enhance customer experience chart - 2017 report

 

Key Takeaways

  • 29% of Marketers are now using AI (compared to 20% in 2017) to improve their customer experience. A notable increase of 47%.
  • Improving customer segmentation sees the biggest jump from 2017 (277% increase). It shows the desire to serve up highly personalized experiences. 
  • 83% of Marketers are trying to personalize the overall customer journey, up from 61% in 2017.
  • Marketers are equally keen about personalizing individual channels (82%) and promotional offers (83%).
  • Using AI to automate social interactions is new. This reflects the growing trend of support requests coming from social channels.
  • Being able to predict customer journeys using AI is low on the totem pole. I suspect this will be much higher in the next survey.

 

 

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Categories
Consumer Journey

7 Questions To Ask BEFORE Mapping Customer Journeys

Customers today have a dizzying array of channels and touchpoints to choose from when they set out to solve specific pain points.

Which channel(s) they start with and how their purchasing journeys unfold from there are essential in figuring out where, when and how a brand engages with them to get a desirable outcome.

If your message is out of sync, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best solution, your customer will likely pass you by and pick another one that seems to sync better.

The journey mapping exercise, when done well, visualizes customer behavior and interactions across channels, touchpoints and marketing stages. And that is essential in delivering the right message to the right consumer persona at the right touchpoint.

7q-cjm-customer-journey-mapping-participants

Over the years, I’ve run customer journey mapping workshops that involved as few as 5 to as many as 30 participants. I’ve had spectacular results and ones that left something to be desired. I’ve learned a few key lessons that have helped me become successful.

If you can answer these questions before you kick-off the exercise, you’ll have much higher odds of getting actionable outcomes from running your own exercises.

1. Specify the customer-facing issues

  • Specific: how do we improve conversions on our site for new purchasers
  • Non-specific: how do we optimize our site e-commerce experience

Specificity is critical. Being specific doesn’t mean being narrow, just focused. From years of doing these exercises, I’ve realized that this helps in all aspects from facilitation to finding insights, but most of all in getting the right people to participate, and tell them why we really need them.

2. Are your personas clearly defined? 

 

s-lsr-discovery-personas-2-v1

A lot of customer journey exercises start with the ‘User” or “Segment X”.

This is not a show-stopper. Where it does fall short is in the quality of insights you get at the end.

Empathy is key to mapping a person’s journey. By not being able to visualize the user or segment as a person, people have difficulty mapping that consumer’s journey. What you create is an empathy gap.

For example your Segment X – New purchaser, Woman, 24-35. This can translate to

  1. Persona 1: Urban woman, 26, Professional, Single
  2. Persona 2: Suburban woman, 35, Housewife, 2 kids

It’s far easier to visualize each of the two persona’s journeys over a combined, amorphous “Women, 24-35 segment”.

I’ve seen people struggle to visualize journeys using amorphous Users/Segments, but just add a few persona style attributes, and the change is transformational.

Solution: Create at least ONE persona per segment you’re interested in. Then pick the most important segment’s persona to start with.

3. What stages have the biggest gaps?

 

7q-cjm-stages-amazon-echo

You can map complete journeys from Awareness to Advocacy if you have enough time, well-defined personas and a decent understanding of customer interactions.

That combination is rare.

So for client-facing customer journey exercises, I tend to focus on part of the journey and set up the problem accordingly. We might focus on the journey from Awareness to Conversion, or Conversion to Advocacy or simply Conversion – Activation.

This helps in multiple ways.

We are able to map journeys for more than one segment. We can pinpoint the most likely interactions across channels that help identify gaps and find competitive opportunities for the brand.

4. Who do you need to participate?

In a customer journey workshop, you only want people who can fall into one of these camps
  1. Understand the product or service (Product/Service Leads)
  2. Understand customers/customer insights – (Customer knowledge)
  3. Impact customers directly (Marketers, Sales – need to understand how to make better campaigns/features/selling…)
  4. Executive sponsors – ensure participation, focus, and purpose

Ensure you have at least one from each camp. Then try and limit participation to fewer than 15. The more the number of people, the longer it takes – since you want all participants to contribute – and the greater the dilution of focus.

5. What can you solve ahead of time?

There are five pivotal components of a customer journey:

  1. Brand promise
  2. Customer personas
  3. Marketing stages
  4. Emotions
  5. Channels & Touchpoints

Working through all of them in one session is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

So how do you prevent that from happening?

What helps me be successful is pre-fill / have ready one or more of the components. At a minimum, I have the brand challenge and the target personas filled-in, ready to go.

6. How will you keep everyone focused during the actual exercise?

 

Modern technology has rendered us unable to maintain focus for more than a few minutes. From blinking LEDs on phones to mail notification sounds, distractions are within easy reach.

And when you’re in a thinking session like this one, your brain would love a break, any distraction will do – electronic or otherwise.

The goal is not to shut them all out, but have defined times when people can get that break. Doing so will allow your team to stay focused longer, and you’ll get better results.

What I do is allow laptops in the room, but have them closed as a rule. Then I also have everyone on their feet, next to a big whiteboard/poster, which not only keeps everyone engaged but also mitigates the sneak peek.

Finally, I have a parking lot area to capture insights or questions that are starting to lead us away from the journey.

7. How will you visualize (and socialize) your insights?

 

People want to know that they were helpful. In a customer journey exercise, your participants will often leave with more questions than answers – from their customer knowledge gaps.

So towards the end of the exercise, I highlight all the insights that we obtained from our exercise. And secondarily, I’ll point out the gaps, with an indication of how we’ll address the gap (customer research and data)

And finally, a week or so after, we’ll do a presentation to the executives, highlighting customer journey flows and insights with a shout out to the participants. That goes a long way in getting UX support and future participation.

Recap

There are many ways to run a customer journey mapping workshop. Not all of them result in insights that actually move your understanding of your customer forward.

Focus on these steps to make your exercise worthwhile.

  1. Focus on a specific customer-facing problem to solve
  2. Use clearly defined personas over  segments/audiences
  3. Focus on a limited set of stages of the journey
  4. Make a list of participants, especially the in-person attendees
  5. Seed with information to facilitate kick-off
  6. Maintain focus during the exercise
  7. Have a plan for visualizing and selling-in your insights

Have you faced challenges when trying to understand customer journeys?

Share them in the comments below.

2. Are our personas clearly defined?

 
Categories
Consumer Behavior

Alexa is changing our behavior – and our love for smartphones

Smart speakers – think Alexa, Google Home – are a runaway success. And they are gaining traction not only in the US and Europe but also India and China. 

Smart speakers are not only gaining traction, they are changing our habits. 

The big surprising change – decreasing our reliance on our most prized asset – the smartphone. 

I came across this first in an Accenture report (PDF) last spring.

Curiously titled “Time to navigate the super myway”, the report made a few bold claims. 

Among them:

  • If stated purchase plans hold, DVA device ownership will reach one-third of the online population in China, India, the US, Brazil, and Mexico by the end of 2018
  • “Since I got my DVA I use my smartphone for fewer activities: 66% Agree or Strongly Agree

Even though the study included a significant participant set n = 2,271, I was skeptical. 

I have two Alexa devices at home and didn’t think that my smartphone consumption had reduced.

But then I came across another report.

This one is by NPR and Edison Research, titled the Smart Audio Report.

What sets this one apart is the ongoing nature of their research.

First done in winter 2017, then again in spring 2018, and recently in winter 2018.

This will be a good resource to track if you’re curious about voice as an emerging platform.

There were two key trends from this ongoing research.

1. Increased Ownership and Usage

Smart speakers in US households grew by 78% and people bought more than one.

A

 

2. Decreasing Smartphone Usage

Smart speakers owners use smartphones less for a variety of activities.

Takeaways:

  1. Smart speakers represent a fast-growing platform
  2. Growth is coming from both early and late majority of user segments
  3. Smart speakers are impacting smartphone usage – weather, music, podcast, news briefings apps are the most at risk
  4. Companies will need to focus on a blend of digital and physical experiences to retain users where voice is an available alternative
  5. Amazon, Google, and Baidu will likely be the key players and fight for dominance worldwide
Categories
Bite-size UX User Research

Bite-size UX: One-on-one research vs Focus Groups

Categories
Best Practices Customer Experience Recent

9 Reasons large companies fail to deliver a great customer experience

As a User Experience consultant for many years, I’ve worked with several large companies. Well-established companies staffed with smart and motivated people.

However, in almost all these cases, it has been challenging to deliver great customer experiences without first solving internal issues. Over the years, I’ve observed that there are a few that are always present, regardless of company industry.

By shedding light on them, I hope people tasked with improving customer experiences in large companies can benefit from my journey in delivering successful outcomes.

9cx-customers

1. Inward focus

In a recent project we spoke to 30+ internal executives and team members. And THREE customers.

This in a business where each deal is in the multi-millions. What’s worse was that everyone internally had little, if any, knowledge of what their prospects wanted from the site. How can you deliver a great customer experience without knowing your customers’ need?

SOLUTION: Do original customer research – with recently converted prospects AND prospects that did not.

2. Lack of purpose

Too often the site redesign is undertaken without a clear business goal. Redesigning your site to make it ‘more modern’ is not a purpose. In a Business to Business environment, you need to understand exactly when and how your site comes into play.

For one of my clients, we found out the first visits to our site and those of competitors were all about ‘getting to a shortlist’. What decision-making info is readily available. Will you make the cut?

SOLUTION: Make an internal list of the top 3-5 roles your site/app can *realistically* achieve. Then make that you overall strategy and design focus.

3. Lack of leadership in redesign projects

Eventually when a project is launched with an external design agency, there isn’t a clear internal lead. One who listens and sorts out points of contention, or overrides specific team requests.

On one project, we had 15 people – everyone with the CMO down to the project manager with an equal say in design and UX reviews. The first launch was a near disaster with the sheer amount of UI functionality barely performing on an archaic backend.

SOLUTION: Designate a project lead, not just a project manager. Empower them to prioritize and filter comments and suggestions to the design team.

4. Design by community

We’ve all been in meetings where we ‘speak for the consumer’. In reality we use the consumer as a … to get our agendas covered. IT wants to manage risk and resources. Marketing needs to hit their numbers.

Product wants to show the new cool feature that they just added. PR and Brand want to focus on the brand ethos. Executives want ‘to add value’. The customer is lucky to get a seat at this table.

SOLUTION: Collect all the needs and wishlist. Then score them against Customer Needs, Business Value and Technical Constraints to build a roadmap.

5. We know everything about our customers

Conversely, there are teams that rely on data and will tell you all about their A/B test successes and survey data. But not the underlying reasons why.

Why would a new visitor buy from us, when they can get a better deal at 800lb gorilla X? In this scenario A/B testing and analytics based optimization will only see incremental lift. To see more, you’ll need to change something your offerings, or your processes that your customer can’t get elsewhere. That ‘something’ is what data can’t help you with.

SOLUTION: The baseline solution is to have a UX person be the voice of the customer. The better solution is to conduct actual research.

 

6. Takes forever to get it live (or changed)

In enterprise, getting anything live on the site can be a long, arduous process. One of my enterprise e-commerce clients had a small IT team responsible for IT infrastructure and content publishing. Unsurprisingly, marketing was not very open to testing new ideas – since it would take weeks to change anything.

Contrast this with a nimble enterprise company like eBay. They have the process to test new pages quickly. An under-performing page can be pulled within hours, sometimes even minutes.

How do you stay nimble against growth-focused start-ups as other barriers fade away?

SOLUTION: Provide more autonomy to content publishing. Alongside, offer a greater openness to fail small by testing and iterating.

 

7. Too much customer detail

One company I worked with had 50+ personas. Each persona was a customer segment had at least a dozen ‘facets’ included metrics to describe them. Worse they overlapped because a ‘Frugal Shopper’ could also be an ‘Impulsive Millenial’.

This caused analysis paralysis and the personas were never used internally. How many customer segments do you have – that actually interact with you on an ongoing basis. Use the 80:20 rule.

SOLUTION: Create 5-7 main customer segments. You can then create more flavors for each, so long as they are actually being used during the design and content creation process (product).

 

8. Paranoia about security

How about a username like A7H34JH. Or passwords that can only be 8-12 characters without a special character for one system (web application), but with special character for another (customer support). 90-day mandatory change.

If your customers are creating ‘forgot password/username’ requests almost as many times as they log in, you’re failing them.

SOLUTION: Allow friendly usernames and a password policy that is not overly restrictive that causes people to write down their passwords.

 

9. Lack of Executive Support

There are executives who still don’t understand or trust the web.

There are companies, even in the technology sphere, who still treat anything digital as secondary or ancillary. It’s only personal relationships, they say. Their customers don’t make buying decisions online.

This often creates a lack of conviction behind ‘digital transformation’ initiatives, resulting in a digital presence that is muddled and out of sync – internally and externally.

SOLUTION: Focus on big-picture strengths and weaknesses, with case studies showcasing competitors who are using digital to gain an edge.

Categories
Customer Journey Recent

Must Read: HBR on shortening sales cycles by using customer journeys

Commentary on recent research with a perspective from a UX consultant and trainer.

Mapping customer journeys is crucial in understanding moments of truth.

However, only 17% of marketers have the ability to fully analyze a customer journey. That creates challenges if your customers are evolving faster than you can react.

 

Using Customer Journeys to shorten the sale cycle

David Edelman and Marc Singer from McKinsey wrote last week in HBR about streamlining decision journeys.

The explosion of digital technologies over the past decade has created “empowered” consumers so expert in their use of tools and information that they can call the shots, hunting down what they want when they want it and getting it delivered to their doorsteps at a rock-bottom price. In response, retailers and service providers have scrambled to develop big data and analytics capabilities in order to understand their customers and wrest back control.

They regard companies as being reactive using big data and analytics to figure out customer journeys in this new multi-channel landscape.

Further, they argue that there’s an opportunity to streamline the customer journey by shortening or eliminating the consideration stage.

streamlining-customer-journey

 

Why map Customer Journeys?

This article from SAS provides an introduction and a great rationale for mapping customer journeys.

The biggest takeaway is that done right, customer journey maps can lead to quicker sales cycles

If you take a moments-of-truth approach to your customer relationships, you know that identifying customer moments of truth happens well before you engage a customer. In fact, knowing those moments of truth can help you prepare to be in the moment with the customer, which leads to benefits like bonding and, ultimately, customer advocacy. If you apply this idea, you should expect better qualified leads and quicker sales cycles.

 

Are companies taking advantage? Not according to Econsultancy research

econsultancy-customer-journey-readinessIn partnership with Adobe, Econsultancy surveyed nearly 2000 digital marketers and e-commerce professionals. They found that lack of capability is a key issue in matching channels and content to the customer journey.

The natural progression from developing journey analysis capabilities is to implement marketing activities that correspond with the customer journey.

But only 10% of companies surveyed match channels and content to a ‘well-mapped’ customer journey, while the vast majority (64%) only match them to one that is ‘roughly-mapped’.

 

My perspective:

As a User Experience consultant and trainer, I regularly conduct customer journey mapping sessions inside enterprise organizations and agencies.

I find that most marketers and e-commerce leaders do understand customer journeys as being crucial in understanding customer behavior. Especially with fast-moving, digitally savvy consumers.

But the marketing focus still remains on reactive campaign marketing (social, web or email).

This means mapping customer journeys as a proactive way to decipher consumer actions often falls by the wayside.

The process of mapping consumer journeys is actually quite simple. It can be done on a whiteboard with a simple template in as little as a few minutes for a particular scenario. And it can be learned in a 3 hour workshop.However, the mandate has to be conveyed, especially with integrating it into the regular workflow.

Categories
Best Practices Customer Behavior Recent

What can a cabbie teach us about conversion

As people’s attention spans drop, and options for their distractions explode, how do you get them over the line? How do you persuade your visitors to take an action that moves your business forward?

One answer is to take advantage of our inherent human desire to find shortcuts.

 

Real-world Scenario

Take this real-world scenario I recently witnessed in downtown San Francisco. A few of us were walking up to a line of cabs ahead of us. It was a warm, sunny afternoon, with more cabs than passengers.

cabs-line
I noticed that one of the cabs had its passenger door open  – not all the way, but just enough that you could see it. This cab was the third one down from the very first waiting cab.

As we walked up the line, the first person walked all the way to the first cab. All good so far.

The second person however grabbed the partially open door and jumped in. Rather than walk just one more car-length, this person picked the faster option, made irresistible by that partially open door.

Now this would be easy to dismiss it as cheating or a personality trait. But there’s something else at play here – mental energy and its role in decision making.

 

Decision-Making

Our brains start making decisions right when we wake up. Some decisions are easy (shower), others quite taxing (clothing selection). This continues throughout the day leading to mental fatigue. And to counter that, our brain continuously looks for ways to make quick decisions. So if it gets a chance, it’ll take a shortcut – as long as it doesn’t lead to a penalty.

Stores use this tendency to all the time at the checkout line, to tempt you with candy bars, knick-knacks and such, but a cab driver using it was the first I’d ever seen.

 

Why does this matter for your business?

This is important because it can have a direct impact on engagement and conversion – good and bad.

The Bad: What doorways currently exist that are siphoning off your site users today – into non-converting pathways or off the site?

The Good: What kind of doorway you can build in your site/app that nudges people to follow it over the others?

 

Putting this in practice

In countless usability sessions, I’ve seen people prefer pathways that require ‘mindless clicking a few times’ over one that required big decision-making up-front.

  1. Take a look at links and call to actions on the converting pages of your app/site, starting from the initial screen.
  2. Categorize them from a mental effort perspective – mindlessly simple to complex decision-making
  3. Next, remove or dial-down the links that take users to non-converting sections of your app/site.
  4. Simplify the ones that are important – by creating intermediate steps.
  5. Measure over 30 days to see which ones entice your browsers to convert more.
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Mint customer support email tear-down

At most companies, customer support is about retaining customers while keeping costs down. So you are pushed towards self-service options (online/phone) OR customer support is out-sourced altogether.

I share two examples – one good and one bad to illustrate how to use email to build loyalty. Especially if you cannot fulfill the customer’s request.

 

The BAD Example

This was from a Financial services startup – very similar to Mint, but focusing on Investments. Here was my original question.

My Email: Portfolio within Investing, I see a chart in the Holdings tab. that compares me (YOU) against Dow, S&P etc. What is it comparing? What is the basis for the squiggly line?

Reply 1: 5 Days Later

Thank you for your email. You index is the performance of all the publicly traded holding and the vertical line is the performance of your holdings against the the benchmarks or the indexes.

I then followed up with a question.

“What does performance mean?”

Reply 2: 15 Days after follow-up email

Term performance is used in context of how your holdings are performing (are they profitable or losing money).

That’s all. No context or further explanation. I could have googled this myself. And more importantly, no context as to what time-period is being used.

Takeaway: I can expect leisurely, brief and somewhat useful responses even for basic elements that are displayed prominently. Will this improve if I become a paying customer? Not sure.

The GOOD Example

I had a much more challenging issue. I could not use an email address I had used previously to sign up on Mint.com.

Mint’s answer was useful, detailed and personable. The actual answer is below.

mint-customer-email-notes

Using it in your own system

Here’s a template to follow:

DO:

  • Provide a short, personable greeting.
  • Rephrase the question to show your understanding
  • Directly answer the issue
  • Provide context if necessary
  • Provide a timeline, if there is one
  • If no timeline is available, be clear and honest – better to annoy them, then to lose their trust

DON’T:

  • Don’t give a vague or non-answer
  • Don’t try and dance around the problem – you will lose trust

Try this for a month on your customer support emails and you’ll see happier customers and happier support staff.

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