Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Using "The Customer Experience to Define Product Development

In a recent article by Karl Long “Features don’t Matter Anymore” that appears at “Experience Curve” he offered the following list as the “10 fundamental rules for the age of user experience technology”, or what might be called the “10 truisms of customer experience:”

This list was obtained from an article entitled by the same name that was offered by the “Association of Computing Machinery” Now of course I don’t totally agree with the list because it fails to recognize the customer and second it was developed by IT people and we all know they have no clue as to the real world of business and its relationship to customers.

So I will break down each of the ten in attempt to correct the misperceptions that would come from allowing this to exist without challenge.

1. More features isn’t better, it’s worse.

In the terms of IT people who get bothered if a client ask for more than two options this is a true statement, but in the terms of real world customer diplomacy and customer use variations it is rather simplistic and narrow minded. Now, I agree that a load of features that do nothing to fulfill my need as a user are quite useless. However, what would happen if in the product development cycle someone actually involved the particular user market in developing and designing functionality and features they want? Probably sell a hell of a lot more units wouldn’t you think?

2. You can’t make things easier by adding to them.

There goes the controlling ego of technology again. What they are really saying is that it isn’t easy for them to go back and do it right the second time and those customers really are second class citizens without a clue so we will decide for them. Well maybe they should clue into the 21st century concept of customer experience reality. Developers and solution designers hate to have non industry customers involved in their work. No wonder 80% of their deliverables are miserable flops.

3. Confusion is the ultimate deal-breaker.

Well in this case I agree. If you aren’t sending a clear message and you are communicating on a level not in tune with your client the deal is off. In an IT context this is a real truism because they can’t lower their standard and drop out of their industry based clichés and buzz words to really explain to their potential client what is going on. Ever read a user manual written by a techy and one written by a market or customer centered writer? There is a BIG difference. One makes sense and the other doesn’t

4. Style matters

Style does matter, but it has to have potential customer input or more often than not it will be rejected by the majority of the designated target market. I don't no if they added this because it was a self afirmation or they saw as piece of new enlightenment.

Customer developed design and functionality are now a perquisite for new products that are delivered to the market. If not then there is a substantial amount of redevelop cost that are associated to the design and manufacturing development of the product. Ops, there goes the ROI.

5. Only features that provide a good user experience will be used.

Now this really does make sense if the user experience is defined by the user and not by the designer. Most industries ignore the user in the design and functionality concept phase of product and service development. Remember what the user wants as an experience outcomes and what the IT technocrats want are no different. Just the roads they take. Then end result usually ends up in an end user nightmare.

6. Any feature that requires learning will only be adopted by a small fraction of users.

If the customer wants the feature or product they will have the desire to go through a learning curve and that includes the majority of users. How you design the learning curve (customer experience) and the associated materials will determine their acceptance. If again you include the customer or target market in this process the buy in is much greater than if you ignore them.

7. Unused features are not only useless, but they can slow you down and diminish ease of use.

Well yes, another truism out of the annals of technology development. This would not be the case if they created user interactive development and feedback in a proactive environment. Not only would all the uses be relevant to the potential user they wouldn’t have unused elements developed by a design team that thought they would show off by installing something tricky or in other words “garbage” to the end user.

8. Users do not want to think about technology: what really counts is what it does for them.

Actually users do think about technology and dream great things that involve it. They think about it in terms that relate to them in their perspective. SO, when designing look at it through your customer’s eyes, the view in which your target market would view it. IT development companies never starts with the client view and rarely ends there. Maybe they should think about a change in their approach.

9. Forget about the “Killer Feature”. Welcome to the age of the killer user-experience.

“Killer features” = “Killer Customer (User) Experiences”. Only if the killer features was designed to solve a particular issue or need of the client not as some techy star war show off piece. Of course if you were a Star War follower that would be pretty cool. There is nothing wrong with developing a master feature especially if it differentiates you from the competition. Leave out the customer or potential customer in the design and development process and you can kiss your “Killer Feature” goodbye. Of course if you accidentally discover a masterful relationship between your killer feature and your target market no matter how it happened all will be forgiven and you will be called genius.

10. Less is difficult, that’s why less is more

I assume a non responsible moron made this non-sense statement. If they mean simplicity is defining value ok, I can work with that. If they are trying to justify their down sizing customer options because they can’t cope with the customers complex need and intelligence then it is no more than another industry copout, which is more true than not.

Micro technology is difficult, but sensible and customer centered technology isn’t difficult if you make the customer a part of the process. If in doubt read customer 101.

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If you want to learn more please visit The Customer Development Center and explore the many articles that are written on the diferent aspects of customer service and customer experience management.

1 comment:

GeorgeS said...

I agree, its all about benefits, not features. My product could have the coolest, greatest, cheapest, newest, etc. features in the world, and if I can't relate them to my customers needs and benefits, that I am not going to make the sale.