Have you ever become frustrated trying to extract a product from its plastic shroud? Or maybe you’ve even gotten hurt, jabbing yourself with scissors or slicing your finger with a knife trying to open a plastic package.
Clamshell packaging—a form-fitting, sealed plastic shell—was invented in 1978 and began to be adopted by manufacturers to protect their products. But consumers hate it. The terms “wrap rage” and “packaging rage” were coined to describe that feeling of anger that comes from wrestling with a hard-to-open package.
In 2008, Consumer Reports wrote, “Too often, today’s packages force consumers to fight tooth and nail to get at what’s inside. Make no mistake; we’re talking literally teeth, fingernails, knives, wire cutters, pliers, hacksaws, ice picks–whatever it takes to get the job done.”
One source estimates that around 6000 Americans go to the emergency room each year to treat an injury received while opening a package.
Packaging rage got the attention of folks at the online retailer Amazon. In 2008 they started working on what they called “Frustration-Free Packaging,” asking suppliers to stop using clamshells, wire ties, and the like.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO at the time, said, “I shouldn’t have to start each Christmas morning with a needle nose pliers and wire cutters, but that is what I do. I arm myself, and it still takes me 10 minutes to open each package.”
Today, many items that Amazon ships have simple, easy-to-open packaging. Some products simply ride in the shipping box with no extra packaging. The customer opens the box, grabs the product, and is good to go—without additional tools (or tears).
What is customer experience?
Amazon cared about packaging because they cared about their customers’ experience. “Wrap rage” is not a good experience.
Customer experience is similar to customer service but much bigger. Customer service is answering customers’ questions, educating them on the product before or after the sale, and solving problems for them.
Customer service tends to be reactive, responding to the customer. Customer experience, on the other hand, is proactive—designing the customer’s experience so fewer problems or questions arise in the first place. A good customer experience results from treating customers how we would want to be treated.
Hubspot, which makes marketing software, defines customer experience as “the impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey.”
The impressions we form about a business often come from our interactions with two things: its people and its products:
- If a salesperson treats us disrespectfully as a customer, we will have a negative customer experience.
- If we buy a product that is hard to use or easily malfunctions, we will have a negative customer experience.
But that’s not all. Customer experience encompasses all touchpoints– places where customers interact with our business. This includes our website, policies, processes, communications, and more.
People have always wanted to have good experiences with businesses, but customer experience has become more important in recent years. Technology, wealth, and easy access to other options have changed consumer expectations. If consumers don’t get the treatment they expect or feel they deserve, they will quickly abandon our business for a competitor who may treat them better.
Two important aspects of customer experience
It’s helpful to consider these two related aspects of customer experience:
- Feelings: Customers will make decisions based on how they feel about their experience with your business or product.
- Memories: Customer experience is more than what customers experience—it’s also what they remember about their experience.
Let’s say I have an embarrassing moment eating at your restaurant. I knock over my glass of lemon tea, which spills across the table and puddles on the floor. That’s not your fault, of course. It’s mine. But how your waitress responds is part of what creates my customer experience.
If your waitress quickly and kindly cleans up the spill and pours me another glass of lemon tea (at no extra charge), I will remember the waitress’s gracious response and how she made me feel respected despite my clumsiness.
Let’s consider another fictional situation. This time your business is at fault. Your roofing crew came to my house to replace the shingles and accidentally damaged one of my wife’s rose bushes. I may feel annoyed at the crew’s clumsiness.
Property damage is not part of a great customer experience. Is it possible to turn a bad experience into a good one? Yes. If your crew apologizes and promises to return the next day with a replacement rosebush (and plants it for me), I will feel respected and I will remember that feeling of satisfaction of things being made right more than I will remember the initial mistake.
In his book From Impressed to Obsessed, Jon Picoult calls this type of scenario (fixing our mistakes) a recovery. He writes, “An exceptional recovery can exert a disproportionate influence on how customers perceive and remember the entire encounter. In short, a great recovery can actually eclipse the negativity of the failure itself, creating a more loyal customer than existed before the problem even arose.”
Both of these examples have to do with turning a bad experience into a good one, but remember, creating a good customer experience is something we need to be proactive about. We want to design every touchpoint with the customer in mind.
COURTED: A customer experience checklist
What kind of experience are you giving your customers? The acronym COURTED serves as a quick way to evaluate how you are doing, and you can apply the concepts to your own situation.
C – Clean
O – Orderly
U – Understanding
R – Respect
T – Time-saving
E – Easy
D – Dependable
Whether customers come to your location (a store, for example), or you go to theirs (as a service business), they appreciate cleanliness. Facilities, vehicles, clothing, landscaping—apply this concept wherever it fits.
Orderliness communicates a sense of competence and carefulness while also making life easier for your customer. Are shelves in your store organized and labeled? Does your job site have at least a semblance of orderliness?
Is your catalog or website neatly organized so that customers can quickly find what they are looking for? Is it clear to customers what to do next and where/how to do it?
Has a salesperson ever tried to sell you something that you weren’t interested in or that wasn’t the right solution to your problem? That’s not a good experience, is it? Making sure we truly understand the customer’s needs and situation helps us provide them with a good experience.
This concept also applies to being understanding—showing empathy and care for the customer as a person.
Do you practice proper etiquette? Give each customer a cheerful greeting, shake their hands, and smile. Make sure to remember the names of your regular customers. Instead of pointing— “It’s over there in Aisle 3”—escort your customer to the right place and make sure they have what they need. Don’t let customers get the feeling you are too busy for them.
Whether in person or online, pressuring customers to buy (or buy more) is not respectful. Bombarding customers with marketing emails is not showing respect for them.
Be respectful of your customer’s time and their property. Respect them personally as fellow human beings that God created and loves. We owe each customer the love, respect, and attention we would want for ourselves.
People are often in a hurry and want to save time. They can become frustrated by needing to wait two minutes in line to check out, or even waiting two seconds for your website to load on their phones.
Timely communication is important too. How long do your customers need to wait for a response after leaving a voice message, sending an email, or requesting a quote?
Do you ship orders promptly, using a fast and reliable service? Is your product easy to unpack, assemble, and set up? Is there anything you can redesign to make it faster for them?
There are two kinds of effort that customers want to avoid: one is mental effort when something is hard to understand. The other is physical effort.
Try to be easy to do business with. Make it easy for customers to learn what products or services are available. Have good signage so they can find your location easily. Is your marketing collateral easy to understand? What about product instructions? Is your product easy to operate?
Use simple and clear language to explain your service offering, payment terms, and guarantees, as well as what steps they need to complete in order to buy (and make this process as short and simple as possible). If customers have to jump through too many hoops to make a purchase, they will probably look for somewhere else to buy.
Proverbs 25:19 says, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.” Customers need to know that they can have confidence in you and your product and that they won’t be disappointed.
Show your customers—and employees too—that you are dependable by following through with tasks on time. If you can see that you are going to fall behind schedule, let your customer know as soon as you can.
Dependability is more than just about creating a good customer experience. It is an integrity issue. When we are dependable, we display one of God’s attributes. We and our products will sometimes fail, but He never does.
Try asking a customer what you could do to make their experience with your business easier or better. Identify a common sticking point and design a better way to do things. As you repeat this over time, your customer’s experience will steadily improve—and their loyalty will too.