This is #4 of the 9 Characteristics of Great Customer Experiences. It is closely related to #5: The customer feels a sense of accomplishment for an activity.
These two characteristics -#4 and #5 - are unique in the characteristics set because you are enabling a customer to feel productive rather than allowing your experience to reflect your brand and personality and using that to capture their attention. It's less about what you are doing and more about what you are enabling.
Helping a customer feel he is experiencing progress or accomplishing a task is not really something you can control or influence; it is something a customer needs to experience himself. There is no "secret" for all customers to feel this way. There are techniques and approaches that can be used, tools that can be offered, but it is a personal experience that is different for each customer. He has to experience progress or accomplishment in his own way.
The customer feels that he is experiencing progress - whatever that may mean.
This characteristic of great experiences is similar to #5 (The customer feels a sense of accomplishment for an activity.), but different. You may be asking why I made 2 different characteristics about similar topics.
(I asked myself the same thing and mediated on it for a long time for a proper answer. And I mean a LONG time.)
I was ready to revise my list from 9 characteristics to 8, but after thinking about it some more, I realized that I had a little wisdom when I originally created this list. There is a difference between progress and accomplishment.
Progress is feeling movement towards your goal, sensing that change is truly happening. You are typically moving forward in a process or journey. But moving forward doesn’t always mean that you are going directionally forward. It means you are moving forward to your goal. Sometimes our path to a goal requires us to move backwards, sideways, or diagonally. The feeling of progress often includes taking a step back to take a step forward.
Here's are some examples.
- Let’s say you are ordering food at a restaurant. You may have an idea of what you want to get, but progress may mean that you ask questions, you reconsider options, and make a new decision. Or you decide to change your order completely.
- If you are buying software, you may have your mind set on buying specific hardware or software, but after some research you realize that maybe it doesn’t solve your problem. Maybe you need something different. So you start over and find something else that may be more suitable.
- If you are using a product, you start using its features and functionality. You realize half-way through that there is a better way to do what you want. You course-correct and start over.
This is why I am challenged by journeys. Journeys imply that there is one way, a direct way, to achieve a goal, but that’s not exactly true. It’s how a company defines a path to purchase or to complete another task. It doesn’t consider how the customer or prospect thinks or makes a decision. They may follow that general direction, so a mapped journey makes a great guide, but it’s not the only path. Progress is a highly personal experience. It’s about the prospect and customer, their decisions, their goals, and their understanding of what’s happening along the way.
The secret to progress is based on the customer’s decisions.
Customers may decide not to purchase. Customers may decide to use your product for something slightly different than what was intended. It’s about what the customers truly want to do and how they want to do it.
Feeling that you accomplished something is a little different than progress. Accomplishing something implies a decision, a sense of finality. It also implies that you completed part of a process. It’s not ongoing. The next post will cover this more, but essentially, the difference between progress and accomplishment is that progress is ongoing until you reach your final goal; accomplishment means to feel that you completed a process, or part of a process, full stop.
Why is movement important to customers and prospects? They want to feel that you are helping them move towards their goals. This can only happen when they are in a partnership with you. If someone is experiencing progress with your company and it is truly providing guidance to a customer, there is the feeling that you are becoming an extension of your customer. You become a little more than a partner, and more like a family member.
And this should be encouraged because relationships are the cornerstone of business. It is through these relationships that people choose to do business with other people and companies. Business doesn’t just happen between companies. It is between people. When people get together with a common, shared mission, great things happen. Progress helps cement relationships.
Help customers define progress
One way to help customers is to assist them in defining what progress means for them. Most people have set processes in their companies to purchase new devices, objects and services. Consumers usually have a method to make a purchase decision as well. And that process or method is always dependent on the company they work at or the individual himself. For companies, either the company works with existing “approved” vendors and to choose a new one, there is a process. For consumers, they have their own approaches for deciding what to purchase.
Given the highly dependent nature of this process, you need to provide guides and checklists to help people choose for themselves - define what they should know and identify each step of the way. Don’t ignore existing processes. Enhance them. Provide tools that make them better defined or augmented.
Appreciate your customer’s process
Companies sometimes forget that customers have their own way of doing things. They want to tell the customer the best way, and that only goes so far. Remember that the customer has the final word. As a company or vendor, you need to understand your customer, provide input and guidance, but respect and appreciate your customer’s perspective and process. Sometimes a customer doesn’t have a process. Sometimes a customer may have an odd perspective of a situation. Or a customer may not want to listen. That is their decision that you need to respect. Progress is about them - not about you.
Same with using a product. You may have spent time and energy constructing the perfect product to use only to realize that the customer wants to use it in a different way, or selects a different path to complete a task. This is normal and why usability testing is so important to get feedback during the process.
The rate or timing of progress is dependent on the size of the sale or task to be completed
Progress is quick and easy if the item to purchase doesn’t cost much or solves a key problem. If the cost is significant in relation to the customer base’s income or revenue, then the timing will be longer.
Same with the task to be completed. If it is a relatively easy decision, then it would be quick. Otherwise, it would take a while and need multiple steps. Either way, the user needs to feel like he is making progress along the way.
You can make progress feel faster and easier, especially for items that may take longer. But again, remember to include tools, checkpoints and guidelines to allow a customer or prospect feel that he is making progress in his own way. Encourage him to take breaks if needed. This is where research can be useful to inform where customers and prospects need a break - where they need to go find additional information or make a decision vs where they can pause and keep going.
What are some examples of experiencing progress in the customer relationship lifecycle?
The goal: customer acknowledges that there is a problem, but is able to define and understand the problem and possible solutions
- A customer can define what his problem is and what he would like to see happen with a solution
- A customer knows what you do, what you offer for a solution
- Customer stories provide insight into how others used and liked the products
- Provide comparative research - compare your products to other vendors to help understand what your product does vs others
- Help define the purchase process for the customers - checklists and guides
The goal: customer wants to definitely solve his problem - find a vendor and get a solution in place
- Customer understands all solutions available - fee and free
- Customer knows the vendors who offer a solution
- Customer has or found budget for a solution
- Customer has completed due diligence with the vendor and solution he is choosing
- Customer feels confident making a decision about the solution and/or vendor
The goal: customer use the product to solve his problem
- Customer feels confident using the product and features - they are easy to find and familiar to use (hint: there was probably some usability testing completed if the customer feels confident using a product)
- Customer sees multiple uses for the product beyond what he signed up for
Goal: Customer has a challenge with the product and needs help to resolve it
- Easy to reach company to resolve issues
- Easy to find the resources needed to resolve issues (videos, text, etc.)
- Customer can resolve billing questions without too many problems
- Company is easy to work with - flexible options for returns, warranties, payments, shipping. Always an option that appeals to a customer and how he operates.
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