I have yet to meet a business owner who doesn’t care about his or her clients. As a matter of fact, many make it a point to give their clients a voice through a variety of means, including customer satisfaction surveys, the creation of customer advisory boards, focus groups, as well as periodic one-on-one meetings with management. Yet despite all of these efforts, many companies still struggle to find ways to improve customer loyalty.
The problem may stem, in part, due to basic psychology. Loyalty is often the result of an emotional connection to a product or service, and the part of your brain responsible for some of your emotional reactions is different than the part responsible for cognitive tasks. So if you ask a customer if they’re happy with a product or service, their response will be driven by the cognitive part of their brain which will consider cold, hard facts such as whether they got what they asked for, whether they received it in a timely manner, and whether the price was commensurate with the value. What’s missing from the response is their consideration of their emotional reaction to the offering.
Apple is an excellent example of a company that harnesses great design to trigger customers’ positive emotional reactions to their offerings. Think about every mobile phone you had before the iPhone. They came in big boxes. You opened them up to find a dead phone that you had to charge for 24 hours before the first use. And, once you finally fired up your new phone, you had to wade through pages of microscopic print in an illegible user manual to figure out the phone’s basic functions.
Apple changed all of that. The first iPhone shipped in a beautifully designed box. You opened the box to find a fully charged phone. Then you pushed the power button and the screen lit up with an inviting, “Hello.” You didn’t have to pour through a user manual to figure out how to use it, because the menus made sense. Whether you love Apple or not, they demonstrate how great design creates a strong emotional attachment and loyalty. And that great design isn’t limited to products, which is obvious when you consider the outstanding service in their retail stores.
So how do you break through the cognitive barrier to get a more meaningful idea of how your customers actually feel about your offerings? One option is customer journey mapping. Journey mapping involves diagramming all of the steps your customers take as they engage with your company—not just how they use your product, but every step from initial engagement with your company, to purchasing, and post-sale support. Mapping the journey can reveal aspects of your interactions with customers that create either positive or negative emotional reactions.
Once a journey map is created, you can storyboard potential product or service changes for customers in order to gauge whether the changes enhance the customer’s experience (storyboards help customers visualize the experience, triggering emotional rather than simply cognitive reactions). The feedback received in these types of design sessions can be much more valuable than traditional customer feedback programs, and can help you identify improvements that increase sales, margins, customer loyalty, and referrals.
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