While your business might be out of the red when it comes to its finances, have you accounted for the state of your customer experience?
While this key performance area that doesn’t have hard metrics associated with it, it’s something you need to stay on top of. In the simplest terms, ‘experience debt’ is caused when there is a gap between a customer’s expectations and a company’s performance.
‘Technical debt’ is a familiar concept to software developers, which is defined as an implied cost of choosing an easy solution now, instead of a better approach that will take longer. Essentially, choosing a quick fix in the present has the potential to raise issues in the future. In the software development context this approach is acceptable as you can take a product to market quicker and continuously make updates as you go. But, this method is dependent on making those continuous updates to ensure that you always working on improving the total experience and getting that much closer to the perfect product.
Similarly, this line of thinking is just as applicable to decisions that impact customer experience and the experience debt it can create within your business. After all it’s not only about UI and UX but also your products, services, retail environment, company policies and culture. There is an imperative for companies to continuously track, audit and improve their customer experience delivery and not let the business stagnate with version 1 of what has been taken to the market. Continuous improvement is essential to not taking your customers for granted and letting your business stagnate.
Here are some examples of how experience debt can show itself in a retail context both in-store and online:
Identifying experience debt:
There are some simple ways to identify and manage experience debt which all starts with first categorising it. Knowing what kind of ‘experience debt’ a particular issue relates to helps with communicating and addressing issues in and across internal teams. Taking a lead from how ‘technical debt’ is managed, there emerge three key categories:
This experience debt is created out of conscious decisions. For example, choosing to forgo creating a digital presence for your brand before launch so you can concentrate on getting the product right and launched sooner. Also classified as ‘good debt’ since you can get something to market quicker. But, its only ‘good’ in the short term and is important to capture it on a backlog so that it isn’t forgotten and can be addressed in the future. Deliberate debt is essentially a trade-off where you are negotiating internally at the expense of your customer.
Customer expectations change over time. Your store design which might’ve been the talk of the town a decade ago, could be dated and inconvenient in 2021. Where 10-day delivery for online orders was perfectly acceptable, customers might expect it to be cut down to overnight or a maximum of two days now. Accidental experience debt accrues over time and requires a proactive investment into regularly reviewing the business with the context of the changing marketplace.
The proverb death by a million cuts is an apt description for experience rot. Small negative experiences might not matter on their own and easily ignorable by your customers. But add a dozen or more issues into the mix and now you’ve got a sizeable problem. They are generally made up of the kinds of things that slip by unnoticed or not important enough to be a priority while there are bigger daily business issues on hand. Long sign-up forms to the newsletter, poor mobile website experience, outdated website content, long waiting time to talk to customer care, long delivery timelines… everything adds up.
Managing experience debt:
Once recognized and identified, there are steps to manage experience rot in your business with simple internal mechanisms:
- Track and regularly review internal processes: Just because you have done something a certain way a million times does not mean it’s the right way. Take all emotion out of the picture and have an objective approach to reviewing the way your business does its business. Always start with the ‘what?’ What are we trying to achieve? What happened along the way? What is the compromise and effect it is having? What can we do to fix it? Tracking these reviews over time will ensure there is an ability to prioritize efforts with a conscious pathway of continuous improvement.
- Treat experience debt like an unconscious bias: Take any blame and finger pointing out of the process. What’s important is that stakeholders can understand the resulting effects that the debt will have and are comfortable talking about it.
- Create a positive culture around experience debt: Encourage your teams to keep an eye out for things that seem out of step and more importantly to bring it to the attention as soon as possible.
- Invest into market and customer research: Finding yourself in the dark with what your customers are all about and how your business measures up against competitors? Reach out to external experts who can give you a hand. A little investment in understanding your customers will go a long way.
In today’s world, it’s important to make good customer experiences one of the key priorities of your business and stay focused on continually maintaining and improving it. End up falling short one too many times and you result in sending your customers straight to your competitors!
So, coming back to the key question – how deep in experience debt do you know or suspect your business is in?
At Energi, we specialise in deconstructing the experience your business is delivering, both to internal stakeholders and to your customers. Shop With Me, our newest shopper experience platform allows you to see the world through your customers eyes and more importantly helps you understand how your businesses is experienced from an unbiased outside view.
Highly customisable to your needs, this dynamic platform can host studies focusing on customer service assessment, customer journey mapping, product and service co-creation, customer segmentation modelling and UX and communications testing are a few use case scenarios.
Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how Shop With Me can help you supercharge your business with the best experiences across all your business touchpoints.