My friend Vigh introduced to me the term “Customer Experience Design”. This is very different from the terms User Experience which IT folks are generally aware of and probably not enthused about it. CED is the totality of the experience of the customer and it involves all parts of the process, the purchase, payment, logistics, services and take-away.
What is there to design? One may well ask this question. After all the shop sells, the customer walks into the shop, purchases, pays and goes away. If it were so, then the chances are the customer may not come in again unless there are no other shops in the neighbourhood. The truth is as customers we are prone to our moods and often decide on reasons which are very personal.
I personally like a rough floor in the supermarket. Places with very smooth floors, I believe, give me a back ache. So some malls are off for me. Certain malls have a hair-raising bends to their underground parking and I know many who dislike the mall especially when they are on wheels.
What makes a good CED? Some of you have perhaps read the short story titled “Steal” by Jeffrey Archer. It captures the essence of CED.
The key to a good CED are in my opinion are made up of three elements.
- Element of Purpose
- Element of Ease
- Element of Faith
The element of purpose is catered to by most customer points. This essentially says that the basic objective of what the customer wants to achieve is met. Thus in a shopping mall I should be able to buy what I would generally want. In a barber shop you should be able to get your hair cut in the acceptable manner as deemed by the market. This element does not require rocket science to implement. Any seller who has a keen mind and can do the Features, Advantage and Benefits matrix will probably score a 10 on this.
The second element is one of ease. If I perceive that I spend more time to check out at Waitrose then chances are that I would gravitate to Sainsbury’s more often, even though there may be something better at Waitrose. Actually Waitrose has wider aisles than Sainsbury’s. This element is a more difficult one to understand and engineer. Each one of us has a different perception of ease. I was quite surprised to see the variety of option relating to picking up your goods. One could simply pick-up b hand for one or two items. Then there is a basket for may be 5-10 items. Then we have a trolley – a deep trolley or a shallow trolley. The trolleys are further available with or without the baby basket. Then there are trolleys which can be attached to a wheelchair in front so that physically challenged can also shop! Now all this is combined with a concept of a Fast Track where you can take a handheld bar code reader and bill the goods as you purchase. Finally you can self check-out, or use a basket only check out or a trolley check out with and without Fast Track.
The most important for me was the third element. This is what I call the element of faith. The process believes that people are good and they will behave properly. Hence there is no security check. No place to keep your bags. I can buy something from a neighbouring store, put it on the trolley, make my purchase and check out the goods I have purchased without being questioned on the additional bags I am carrying. This does not mean you will not be questioned. If there is a reason to disbelieve you a check will be made. The point is normal process is driven by faith.
The local library has a process that is perhaps the best experience I have ever had in a local library. I made my card in about five minutes. I had to show my passport and my proof of local address – period. I had my library card. I could pick nine books for three weeks. I can borrow and return by self-service. All the books are bar code enabled. At the end of a transaction I can print a receipt that showed my transaction details. I can reserve or extend through Internet. I could use my card across all the libraries in the county. One can choose to simply sit there and read with no card. You have books in large print for those with visual aberration. Copying facility, children’s section and second-hand book sale too was a feature here. The people operating the library were two in number. All this was possible because of the element of faith. They believed people would come to read and not steal, vandalise, create disruption, ogle or plainly create nuisance.
Quite some time ago I was asked to vacate from the Children Book Trust while reading some Asterix. A person of authority came to me and asked whether I was below 18 when I was obviously closer to 35. On giving the answer in negative I was asked to step out. Rules may be, but the fact was that I felt cheated as I did not see how a Library could even function like that. The one place where I did see some element of faith was Vikram Sarabhai Community Science Centre in Ahemadabad. A beautiful place where anyone could walk in and they could learn, teach, explore or simply observe. I saw children in droves.
In Sydney if the ticket window at a local station is closed, you are expected to board the train and alight at your station, buy the ticket and step out. That is another example of an element of faith. Vigh I am sure has some dozen examples of CED more innovative and imaginative than the ones I have detailed. Here is hoping he does share some of them.