Think From The Customer’s Perspective

I was browsing my web email, and I saw an ad for web hosting. The ad was actually set out pretty well because I remember the two pieces of key information: Web hosting for $9.95 a month (free domain, etc.) and the prominent text on the ad: “Superpages.com”

Well, I suppose the ad authors can be forgiven if I didn’t click through the ad. Instead, I typed “superpages.com” into my browser.

The page so prominently called out in the ad carried not even a hint that superpages.com offers web hosting. And by now the ad was no longer displayed.

I typed “superpages” and “web hosting” into the search engine, and found a news article that repeated a 2005 press release. About 2/3 of the way down, it mentioned “my.superpages.com” so I tried that.

There is a mention on that page of web hosting, but it took two more clicks to finally get a page that mentions any details. I stopped at that point.

A couple of things come to mind here.

First – take the perspective of your customer, or better, find someone who doesn’t know the details or designer’s intent of your system and have them navigate it in unexpected ways. Just how many obstacles do you throw in front of the customer who wants to buy your product? How much digging must the prospective customer do in order to get basic information?

Second – and this is much harder – take the perspective of your competitor’s customer. Go buy their product. Experience what their customers experience. Don’t rely on market surveys, go and see for yourself. (“genchi genbutsu”)

What if:

Airline executives bought tickets through their own web site, rode in coach, and checked in just like everyone else – every time, not just as an experiment. They need to be a “frequent flyer” just like the very customers they are trying to retain. What if those same airline executives had to do 50% of their travel on competitor’s airlines? In coach, waiting in the same lines as everyone else.

Do you think it would be interesting for an executive of a prominent red-tailed airline to know that the “elite” line for check-in is much slower than the regular one? Or that they mix re-booking for a canceled flight in with first-class check-in and slow the process to a crawl? What would be that airline executive’s experience if he were to wait in line and just listen to his customers talk to each other? (He would hear the complaints nobody bothers to make because they think nobody cares.)

What would that airline executive’s experience be if he sat in the seat across from the flight attendant who lets all of the customers know what a terrible place his airline is to work. (I have had this experience twice, with the same flight attendant, but I fly a lot.)

What if Ford executives were directed to buy and drive….. Toyotas, and get them serviced at their local dealer just like everyone else. Would they learn anything? Not that Toyota is perfect, certainly their U.S. dealer network is pretty much just like everyone else’s. But that Ford executive might just find a weakness to exploit. What kind of car does Alan Mullally drive? What if auto executives had to buy their cars from heavy-handed closers just like everyone else?

But all of us frequent flyers can laugh about the airlines. What about your company? Do you really know what your customers experience?

Market surveys just don’t do this. They aggregate, consolidate, take averages, and generally dull the senses to what is really happening.

Go and see for yourself.

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