Don’t forget the product in the customer journey

Author - Nicholas Vinther Skov. Head of CX Advisory

You don’t need to study the lesson on Customer Experience for too long to be told, over and over, about the importance of a good end-to-end customer journey. The lesson says – in different ways – that a customer journey without unpleasant bumps on the road is key for satisfied and loyal customers.

For instance, there is a lot of focus on the importance of social media communication, brand identity, positioning, competent advice, customer service and customer clubs. This is all correct and important. Nothing new there – at least not from me. However, sometimes I ask myself:

“What happened to the product in the customer journey?”

I am not trying to preach that we should suddenly turn 180 degrees and return to the “old fashioned” product focus. However, my issue is that those of us who work with Customer Experience may sometimes forget that the actual product is and becomes a key part of the customer experience and the customer journey.

The importance of the product is not just a claim. In all our customer surveys here at Ennova, the product was on average responsible for 30% of the overall customer experience. The number is derived from statistical analyses of data from many thousands of questionnaires on customer experience for both B2B and B2C.

I think that 30% makes sense. For some companies in our database, it is actually close to 50%. For many customer journeys, the product itself is actually the most central – and almost only – contact point. Let me give you an example from my own life.

Our apartment is a glass cage on the 8th floor. And there is no air conditioning in this modernistic 60s building. It can get quite warm when the summer sun finally reaches Aarhus C. We therefore have a particularly good fan from Dyson. I am happy with it and surprised at the capabilities of their technological and innovative product. However, I have no contact with Dyson in my day-to-day life other than the fan.

Sure, I know that the inventor and business person behind Dyson is well-know, loved and hated in England since he is a man with strong opinions. But here in Denmark, his public profile is of no significance to the general public. We own no other Dyson products. So, my perception of Dyson as a brand stands and falls by my level of satisfaction with the fan:

  • Perceived value. Dyson’s fan is expensive, in my opinion. If I don’t feel that the product’s quality matches the price, then I will be unhappy because I paid too much. I am from Jutland after all. It costs twice as much as competing products, but is it twice as good? I am not going to buy a cheap fan for comparison, so it is important that the product works so well in all its functions and features that I never start asking myself if I actually paid too much.

  • Satisfaction versus loyalty. Let’s say that the Dyson works exactly as expected. I am pleased. But it was expensive, so I expect it to last for many years. I also don’t need more than one. So Dyson cannot sell me more fans even though I am completely satisfied. They can hope that I recommend it to others (OK, this is what I am doing here...) but they have 100% of my share-of-wallet for fans. If Dyson should make more business from me, they have to hope that – as a satisfied fan customer – I look to them when our old vacuum cleaner stops working.

  • Low interest + loose connection. I don’t think that a fan is an exciting product. Not in the least, actually. I don’t follow the newest fan technologies out of pure interest. So the probability that I will later upgrade to a more advanced model is pretty low. Therefore, the fan market is not the natural place to where Dyson should draw my attention to their other products. Nor do they have my contact info – they are not even aware of my existence. So, they need to hope that I will spot their logo as I live my life, both physically and online. And that is hard. Actually we are at the point where they are advertising in a public toilet – they made nice, discrete anagrams of their other products on the hand driers in public toilets. But honestly, I don’t think I would have spotted it if I was not already thinking about it due to this blog.

  • Little control of the customer journey. My actual customer journey with the fan is of course longer than just the use phase. For example, there was an initial searching and purchase phase. Important phases, but again phases over which Dyson has little control. For instance, I never visited their site before the purchase – I relied on (good) reviews. It was easy for me to be convinced that Dyson was the right choice solely from reading other people’s experience with the product. The purchase phase was annoying. I got the wrong information from the supplier and spent several hours driving to the wrong place. And so we return to the situation where Dyson very much depends on the actual use experience to be a success in order for me to be a satisfied customer.

I just walked around the apartment with a cup of coffee. There are many products with a similar customer journey, where the product and its use is my most important “contact” with the manufacturer. A brown summer coat. A pair of white shoes. The coffee in my cup.

The product’s significance in the customer journey and the customer experience cannot be underestimated.

This afternoon, the weather forecast promises 31 degrees Celsius. So the little fan will have to seriously prove its worth.

Nicholas Vinther Skov. Head of CX Advisory

Nicholas Vinther Skov. Head of CX Advisory

Nicholas provides fact-based consulting to his customers on improving the customer experience. With his never-ending drive, Nicholas seeks out, discovers and picks up on the latest trends within his field – and shares this knowledge with the world in this blog.