Don’t Force-March All of Your Customers to a New Improved Experience

For business trips, I recently bought a small rollerboard–you know, the kind you stow in the overhead compartment in a commercial airliner.

Big deal, you say. Well, that was a mildly wrenching decision for me, and it wasn’t what I would have preferred, but my options had become distinctly limited. I had been packing my business clothes into carry-on suit bags since the beginning of my career. However, my latest suit bag’s zipper had become hopelessly broken and I needed a replacement (I won’t name the brand–but I was not happy with the workmanship on that bag). But finding anything other than a rollerboard, or its equivalent, in the stores near my house was becoming next to impossible.

So I took the big leap–and my wife says it was about time. She always wondered why I chose to hand-carry a clunky bag everywhere rather than wheel around my belongings in a container with a telescoping handle. But I rather enjoyed lugging around the suit bag–indeed, I had built up my muscles in order to shoulder this and other traveling burdens with grace. Also, doing so had become a comfortable habit for me, and I don’t break habits lightly.

What, you ask, does any of this have to do with engaging customers as individuals, and how do advanced analytics and big data come into the picture?

Well, the whole notion of “optimal customer experience” is something you think you understand. You may think that most customers adore your new website redesign, your new interactive voice menu redesign, your new mobile app redesign, and other tweaks to your “engagement” front-end. And you might think customers are as sick of the clunky old designs as you are. And you might be right, for the most part.

But most customers might also be ever-so-slightly habituated to those prior ways of interfacing to you. So any changes to these design might disrupt their lives to some degree, and produce confusion and anxiety while they’re re-habituating to the new order of engagement. I’m also quite habit-loving and idiosyncratic in my online habits, and have nicely adjusted my ways of thinking and interacting to the clunkiness that abounds everywhere online. I will rarely adjust these habits to conform to “better” online designs  without some reluctance, grumbling, and cursing.

Engaging customers as individuals means incorporating listening into the never-ending tweaking and tuning of your systems of engagement. As you consider whether it makes sense not only to redesign but to impose the same redesign on all customers, listen closely to the distinct perspectives of each individual customer. You should use such technologies as Voice of the Customer, social media listening, clickstream analytics, speech analytics, and behavioral graph analysis to determine whether your current multichannel engagement design is indeed faulty, or whether in fact it’s fine (albeit inelegant) from each customer’s point of view. You should avoid treating this intelligence as merely commentary on a redesign that you will nevertheless force onto all customers.

Some customers might be perfectly OK with your prior portal, app, and other designs. Gathered through the advanced analytic techniques sketched above, interaction-optimization intelligence–linked to their profile in your big-data repository–might convince you to not force-march every segment of customer to experience your new redesign.

Experience is something you don’t force on anybody whose continued loyalty you cherish.

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