Optimal by design

Nov 02 2011

The baguette experience

You are a weary business traveler at an international train station. And you have one pressing problem: you are hungry. Luckily, you spot a baguette chain store and decide to take a closer look. Their baguettes look amazing, especially that one on the right; fresh tomatoes and mozzarella in a crusty French baguette. Yes, that is it. You want to buy it, but no one behind the counter seems to be paying attention to you. “Hello, excuse me?” But there is no response. The staff are ignoring you. “Hello”, you raise your voice, “can I have this baguette please?” The guy behind the counter looks at you, and without a word, grabs the baguette you pointed at. “Anything else – tea, coffee, juice?” replies the guy, evidently annoyed that you bothered him, and hands you your baguette wrapped in a paper bag. “No, thanks, here’s the money. Bye.”

One transaction complete.

You walk away with the precious paper bag in your hand, looking forward to devouring that wonder of a baguette, while trying to forget about the unpleasant guy behind the counter. After all, you got your baguette, so it is all good. You board the train, take a seat, and realise that the baguette looks significantly less mouth-watering than the one you saw just a while ago. It is all squashed and looks as tired as you are. You start unwrapping it…oh no, it is stuck to the paper bag. You wrestle with it for a few minutes. Pieces of the paper got torn away and glued to your baguette. And why is the bag so ill-shaped anyway? Has anyone actually considered how people will be eating the baguette on a train? No. It turns out that the fancy paper bag is completely inappropriate in this situation.

At this point you are rather disappointed with your baguette and all the hassle it has caused you. But it looked so good in the store! Anyway, you decide not to buy this baguette again. What is more, you actually also decide not to buy from this chain’s store again.

More transactions? Unlikely.

What we can learn from everyday interactions

You might be thinking this has nothing to do you and your online business. But it does. Regardless of whether you are selling baguettes or monthly subscriptions to a Software-as-a-Service online CRM platform, you need to consider the same things to create a positive customer experience and build a base of loyal customers that keep coming back.

There are a few lessons we can learn from this baguette fiasco:

  • Don’t focus just on your product, but also on how you are delivering it.
    Even the best product could be ruined by a poor purchase and post-purchase experience.
  • Don’t ignore customers, however subtle their interest in your product.
    Have customers phoned your call centre to get help because they failed to buy your product through the website the day before? Have they still not bought your product a week later? Then you should be following-up with them.
  • Don’t try to up-sell and cross-sell, at all costs, all the time.
    Pick your battles wisely and focus on the most susceptible moments. Customers might not be ready to buy another product right after buying the first one. They might want to learn more about the first product before buying another product from you.
  • Don’t assume everyone will use your product in the same way.
    Learn about your customers, their preferred ways of doing things, and their context of use. Then design your product so that it could be appropriated for multiple situations that are likely to occur.
  • Don’t design just for the product’s peak usage moments.
    Think also about the moments when the product is not being used, or when it is being shut down. Or thrown away. Let your products disappear from the scene gracefully.

Next time you experience a pleasant or unpleasant interaction with a service or product in the physical world, think how it would translate into the digital world. And vice versa. Both worlds are a great source of inspiration for each other when designing.

[This post was originally published on Flow Interactive’s blog]

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