Customer Experience Design

The Pre-Mortem As Antidote To Murphy’s Law

murphy__s_law_by_cutty_sark
Things go wrong.  Murphy of Murphy’s law fame says so. In fact Murphy goes further by stating that whatever can go wrong will. It’s my experience that Murphy is usually right. So I am not taking a faith leap to tell you that right now things are going wrong with your customer experience.

And some of those things are costing you, costing you dearly.

Some of those things are obvious, and you are likely trying to fix them. Other things, not so much. And that is where your biggest opportunities for improvement exist. As well as opportunities to plan against them in the future.

Let me introduce you to the pre-mortem, the antidote to Murphy’s Law.

Gary Klein of the Harvard Business Review writes

A premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem. A postmortem in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits except, of course, the patient. A premortem in a business setting comes at the beginning of a project rather than the end, so that the project can be improved rather than autopsied. Unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the “patient” has died, and so asks what did go wrong. The team members’ task is to generate plausible reasons for the project’s failure.

In our book, Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide, we describe the pre-mortem process as it relates to the Buyer Legends process.

  • Begin by having your Team imagine that the customer has completed her (or his) buying journey and either didn’t buy at all, didn’t buy what you sell (in favor of an alternative solution), or bought from a competitor. Now ask yourselves:

    • What went wrong that led to these outcomes?Your intuitions about the most likely bad outcomes and most likely causes will be more insightful than you may think.
    • This process will give your team permission to voice doubts or fears about your brand’s interaction with customers that they might not otherwise feel safe in doing.
  • For every wrong turn, missed opportunity, or bump that could derail the customer’s successful journey, take time to imagine how that process would most likely play out. For instance, how would this detail-oriented customer react if a major detail about your product is left out of their journey or if that detail was hard to find? What would that look and feel like, and at what point would that frustration or anxiety actually derail the sale?

  • Now think up fixes, resolutions, and workarounds for each failure point. The point to the pre-mortem exercise is to give you insight into problems that exist in your current buying paths, so that you can then use it to immunize your conversion funnel from common (and not so common) mistakes that will keep your customer from closing the deal. Understanding these will help you write a more realistic and helpful Buyer Legend when you move onto the next step of Reverse Chronology.

The reality is that most companies lose more sales every day than they make, and we have stated in the past that if you are converting less than 15% you need to evaluate what is broken in your customer experience, get to the bottom of what is going wrong, and plan to get it right.  That is why, hands down, the pre-mortem step is the most impactful step of the entire Buyer Legends process.  In fact, rarely does this exercise fail to produce at least one a-ha moment for our clients.  When you imagine the sale is already dead it frees up all the mental energy that you used to try and get the sale and points it at all the potential pitfalls and problems in your experience.  A pre-mortem is powerful optimization technique but also imagine how powerful it is when you are designing a new customer experience from scratch.

After you perform your pre-mortem you will likely end up with a long list of potential proof of Murphy’s law, but not everything on your list is equal.  Some thing are worth your effort some are not.  In my work with clients we often use Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization to separate the more pressing issues from the tinier ones.  First sort the list of problems into the follow categories.

Functional. Does this product/service do what the prospect needs? How easy is it for a prospect to determine this?

Accessible. Can she access it? What are the barriers to her ability to realize the need? Is it affordable, reasonable, and findable?

Usable. Is it user-friendly? Are there obstacles?

Intuitive. Does the sales process/Web site feel intuitive and natural based on her buying preferences? Is she forced to endure unnatural buying modalities to realize her need?

Persuasive. Does she want it? Does she truly understand if it fills her need or solves her problem? Is her expectation reasonable? Will she be delighted?

eisenberg-graphic-1

Once they are sorted simply work your way up the pyramid.  Again, remember not every problem is in search of a solution, and you should focus on the problems that are likely to impact the most customers, and problems that you can actually fix. Analytics can also confirm some of the problems you identified exist and give you an indication of which ones are causing you the most grief.

Performing a simple pre-mortem should be a common business practice, but the Buyer Legends process turns it up a notch.  A pre-mortem when used in conjunction with personas (I’ll cover these in more detail soon) will uncover more specific problems and allow you to address the unique problems that exist in more than one customer segment.

Be warned, the pre-mortem is not for those that like to play peek-a-boo. If you like to pretend that the only problems that exist are the ones that you can see then skip over the pre-mortem.  This is not an exercise for anyone that wants to hear the that their not so attractive baby is a supermodel.

We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help , please let us know.

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P.S. This is the first in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts, please sign up to our newsletter for updates.

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7 Tips To Boost Your About Us Page’s Performance

About_Us picDoes an About Us page really matter? You might think it matters more for B2C than B2B or vice versa. Carly insists that it does matter. We met Carly almost seven years ago when she was a Marketing Manager at a company we were consulting. We want to tell you the story she told us, after reaching out to thank us, about how a valuable relationship might never have started but for the content of a single page. Her company’s revised About Us page was launched despite concerns of the very private and exceedingly practical founder of her company.

Carly’s About Us story retold as a Buyer Legend

Carly is a wicked-smart, tenacious VP of Lead Generation for a mid-sized B2B SaaS provider.  Carly’s no-nonsense approach to lead-gen has increased leads by ~30% since she took over in October 2013. Apart from the About Us page, Carly has redesigned the lead form, rewritten the product description, and worked with her ad agency on optimizing traffic. Carly also pushed through significant changes to the Home page, with copy targeted to entrepreneurs like Will.

Will is a diligent and savvy entrepreneur, shopping for the exact solution that Carly’s company sells. There were several strong competitors and Will collected all the data he needs. He narrowed down his choices to Carly’s company and the larger, more-established market leader.

Will likes both options. The market leader’s pricing is comparable, but has a slightly more robust feature set. Yet, he knows from user reviews and his co-founder’s experience, that the workflow is hard to master. Carly’s company solution has what everyone agrees is a more intuitive user interface and a magically simple workflow. It is also easier to deploy. However, it has fewer features, some of which might be useful in the future. Will is more-or-less comfortable that those are features he doesn’t need. From a cost-benefit perspective, Will thinks it’s a wash.

Will’s technical co-founder agrees that for their needs both solutions will do the job. However, he is more comfortable with the more established competitor’s technology. He implemented that solution at his last two companies and even though it seems to be a lot more work, it’s the devil he knows.

Carly’s company has a radically different approach to everything. If what they claim is true, not only will there be less work setting it up, but his team will use it. Will knows that hard-to-use tool sets require more training and are hardly used.

Will visits the market leader’s About Us page. It looks like most About Us pages. There is a generic-sounding mission statement, some stiff head shots of the executive team, Board members, and investors, along with all their credentials. It has a timeline and a list of awards. It was, as About Us pages usually are, perfunctory.

When Carly instructed her copywriter to tell the company’s story, it was to tell it through the eyes of the founder. The founder bootstrapped the company, putting every penny he had at risk. He had no investors because he wanted to build a special kind of company that led with its values without interference. The founder is disturbingly passionate, almost possessed by details. In fact, Carly chose to join this company over a higher-paying offer because, after interviewing with him, she recognized how rabidly committed he was to customers and how that commitment permeated the company culture.

How Will made his decision

When Will visited Carly’s About Us page he found information about the entire customer-facing staff. There weren’t just lists of professional credentials, but fun bios reflecting their personalities and style. There were pictures and videos that captured the mood and feel of the company. It made this company, selling a highly-technical B2B solution, sound fun and likeable.

That page tipped the balance for Will. The market leader’s page was stiff and corporate, exactly what made him leave his previous job. Carly’s company was inviting and human, and seemed a lot like his own company. Will felt sure that the company’s values would insure that they delivered. All other things being equal, Will finally had enough confidence to make the decision. The only company he called was Carly’s.

Carly won another lead, and then a sale, and Will has become an outspoken advocate for them. Will was so impressed with the About Us page that he contacted the CEO and shared his experience and asked if Carly would offer him advice about how to build a better About US page. She asked us to update our most popular ClickZ column about how to best create one, and you’re reading the update.

Not everyone will care. But for those who do …

Of course, not every prospective customer will visit your About Us page, but if it was the only thing standing between you and a lead or a sale, would it keep them in your funnel? Could it even win you the sale?

The About Us page is the most undervalued page on most websites. While it rarely closes a sale, it can provide a valuable assist. It is the one place where you are allowed to talk about yourself. Every click on the About Us page is someone asking you to tell them about you.  Make the most of it.

Even if you sell something boring, maybe especially if you sell something boring, it doesn’t mean your About Us page should be boring. More than anything, your About Us page is the place to show customers who you are and what your company values.

Seven tips to create an About Us page that makes a difference

You might not use all of the seven tips but don’t skip the seventh tip. We encourage you to start with a Buyer Legend.

  1. Let customers see a more human side of your company.  Become more likable by including individual information and personal interest. Include fun blurbs and pictures of life around the office. Dropbox created a montage of its employees. While hovering over the pics, you are presented with fun personal facts about the employees.
    1. Choose the voice of your About Us page. Here are some ideas that can help:
      1. What is the overall emotional stance that your company has towards its industry/market?
      2. If your company were an actual person, who would it be?
      3. Is there a favorite quote you or the people in your company have?
      4. Is there one particular moment in the life of your company that would capture its essence in a nutshell?
      5. Do certain words or phrases keep popping up in your daily conversations, your salespeople’s sales calls, your blog posts, etc.
      6. Use the verbiage your customers use. Mine your live chat logs, emails, customer service calls, in-site search, and especially customer product reviews, if you have them.
      7. As an exercise, do a “25 Random Things About Our Company”. Then, pull out the nuggets and insert them into your About Us page. Or leave the whole list as a link or tab from your About Us page.
      8. Make sure your voice on the About Us page is consistent with the rest of the site. Yes, you can afford to be a little more conversational and personal/passionate, but the overall writing style should be consistent.
  2. Tell your company’s story. The story of why it exists and about the people behind it. Include links to the social profiles of team members.
    1. One way to do this is to use a company history timeline. It is a great way to highlight achievements without braggadocio. Check out how Moz and Canva do this.
  3. Connect people to your leadership.
    1. Humans are attracted to humans, so why do so few sites include photos of company employees? Mail Chimp does an exceptional job at this.
    2. Reflect your company’s passion. Cranberry shares their passion for News and PR Marketing.
    3. Take it easy on the sales pitch and instead give your, and your company’s, story. Miles & Co, a SMB marketing agency, uses their About Us page to highlight their values and demonstrate how those values will benefit their clients.
  4. Reflect your company’s personality. If you’re a fun company, your “About Us” page should be fun. Please don’t try to be fun if you’re not. Just be yourselves. Reiterate your company’s competence and desire to serve customers. Notice how New Relic embraces their inner geek.
  5. Many About Us pages seem like a copy-and-paste job from AboutUs.com. Thinking any old creative will do, will not do. The vast majority of About Us pages are simply boring, stiff, and tightly-clenched pages. Put some thought into how yours is uniquely yours. Marketo’s About Us page is professional but not full of corporate drivel. Instead, Marketo makes a powerful statement about who they are and what they do.
  6. Let the customer inside your company.
    1. I highly recommend the use of video to show off your human side. Of course, it’s important to tell us what you do, but put that content on another page. When visitors click on About Us, they want to know about you.
    2. Reiterate your company’s competence to serve the customers by using all the above tools. Zappos does a masterful job of explaining their company values and their dedication to customers. Google’s About Us page is just plain inspirational.
  7. How to start: Writing a great About Us page is an exercise in empathy, and a Buyer Legend is a great place to start. You’ll need to put yourself in your customers’ place, take their perspective, and reflect back to them what matters most to them about you. Here is a recipe for creating a Buyer Legend.

When you write a Buyer Legend, remember that it is not the story you tell your customers; that’s just promotion. Buyer Legends are stories told from the point of view of your customers; because your brand isn’t what you say it is, but what your customers say it is. A Buyer Legend is designed to create and improve the interactions your customers have with every touch point of your brand, from the boardroom to the stockroom.

Buyer Legends are stories about your customers and their buying journey, and your About Us page gives you a chance to tell your story to the customer more powerfully from their perspective.

Would you like your customers to tell better stories about you than you do about yourself?  Start planning your About us page with this Buyer Legends recipe. Buyer Legends a simple business process that helps you create a customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.

We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know. .

 

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Accountability Means You Win Big or Try Again

accountability1Marie, the VP of Marketing, predicts that she can increase conversions to sales by at least 40 percent. She wants to conduct a series of disruptive experiments that make everyone nervous. Scott, the VP of Sales, is especially on edge. The lead-to-contract rate is already a respectable 7.1 percent for this not-so-new marketing technology B2B SaaS. If Marie is right, it’s a homerun. But if she’s wrong, Scott is predicting a debacle on an epic scale.

You’re in charge. Would you give her the green light?  Please continue reading this post on the Salesforce blog

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Real Brand Storytelling: Mitch Joel Interviews Bryan Eisenberg for the Twist Image Podcast

spos_lowres_rgbWelcome to episode #446 of Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast. I have known Bryan Eisenberg forever. Back when I first started publishing music  magazines on the Internet (in the mid-nineties), there were few people writing about the power of the Internet from a business and marketing perspective. There were message boards and email lists… and that’s where I first started reading the work of Bryan. Now, Bryan Eisenberg is the co-author (along with his brother, Jeffrey Eisenberg) of the bestselling books, Call to Action, Waiting For Your Cat to Bark? and Always Be Testing. We have also shared the stage on numerous occasions, because Bryan is a professional marketing keynote speaker as well. He’s done much than that. He is also the co-founder of the Web Analytics Association (now the Digital Analytics Association), serves as an advisory board member of Search Engine Strategies, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summitand several venture capital backed startup companies (like Bazaarvoice, Monetate,Nomi, TagMan, and more). Most recently, he launched a new startup called,IdealSpot, and a fascinating new book called, Buyer Legends – The Executive Storyteller’s Guide. Enjoy the conversation…

Here it is: Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast – Episode #446 – Host: Mitch Joel.

  • Running time: 46:59.
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What A Used Car Salesman Can Teach You About Empathy

car-salesmanHe pushy pushed his way up towards the stage. I had just finished presenting the keynote at Driving Sales, an automotive dealers conference. He thrust out his hand and eagerly shook mine; saying “thanks … blah blah blah…. “ And then I heard him clearly “…too often I am obsessed with pushing customers through sales and I’m not helping them buy!” Really!?! That forced me to pay attention. I hope that he didn’t notice me picking my jaw up from the floor. It isn’t everyday that a car salesman genuinely expresses deep concern for a customer. Most of us would rather have a no anesthesia root canal than be escorted to the manager’s office in a car dealership.  … Please read the rest of this post at BryanEisenberg.com

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How a Social Media Agency Increases Conversions

Dennis YuIt’s 10 o’clock on a Friday night and you are at the bar. George Clooney strolls in and sits down at the bar.  After a long while George retreats, leaving the bar head down and alone.  You look over and see Scarlett Johansson alone despite greeting every man that passes her way.  She leaves the bar looking rejected and pathetic.  And then “the most interesting man in the world’ walks in, takes a seat, orders, and he is unceremoniously delivered a 48 oz can of Bud Light.

Now imagine how you would feel watching that scene.  That is exactly how we felt when our friend Dennis Yu told us he was struggling to convert leads in his new business venture.

Dennis Yu is a social media marketing rock star.  Dennis is a sought after speaker, works with impressive brands, is wicked smart, and is one of the nicest guys we know. Dennis is also a customer data ninja, and is one of the world’s most formidable Facebook marketers.

Dennis offers high end services to his big name clients, but he also co-founded and serves as CMO/CTO for a company called BlitzMetrics making his expertise more affordable and accessible to SMBs.  BlitzMetrics provides a simple solution for smaller scale businesses to manage the complexities of their social media marketing.  In the spirit of full disclosure,we are a BlitzMetrics. client so we have experienced first hand how easy it is to get started. And, of course, we have been thrilled with the results of our campaigns.

BlitzMetrics’s Conversion Challenge

After talking to Dennis we were surprised to learn how many well qualified leads never got started. We knew that the price couldn’t be the issue, their credibility is high and we found the process of onboarding painless and simple. There was absolutely some conversion challenge none of us understood.

We offered to take Dennis and his team through the Buyer Legend process.  Dennis had read our book and was starting to do some preliminary work. Anybody can do this process alone but we wanted to make sure it happened quickly and correctly. When we got Dennis and his team on a conference call and began by polishing up his ad-hoc persona. The persona of a potential client was unlike us, and that’s the point. The persona was the CMO of a click and mortar SMB with less digital experience who pressed for resources and time. That perspective was truly unlike Dennis’ or our own.

We performed a pre-mortem for the Persona, a step many are tempted to skip but is mission critical. In a pre-mortem we list all the things that can go wrong during the customer’s buyers journey.  We think of it as inoculation against Murphy’s law, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” It is essential to figure out what could go wrong. How else can plan for everything to go right?

We followed the pre-mortem with a reverse chronological outline. That is where we detail every step of the Persona’s ideal customer experience by starting at the conversion point and working our way backwards.  Part of the exercise is to both think of the actual action steps the customer must complete as well as outline their thought process as they approach each step. It’s a bit like programming, miss a step and your result will vary.

We then wrote a Buyer Legend together, you’ll be able to read it below. We’ll also point out what innovations and process optimizations came out of it.

Dennis Yu’s A-Ha Moment

It wasn’t that long into our two-hour call Dennis had a powerful a-ha moment.  There was an awkwardly long silence and Dennis blurted out “Oh I see!”

He shared what he saw with us after the call:

“We’ve been so focused on mining data, generating reports galore and micro campaign optimizations, that we’ve lost sight of the fundamentals.

We neglected why people come to us and what the experience looks like wearing their shoes. Our inward myopia created barriers to customers who want to buy from us.”

This simple business process is designed to help the marketer get inside a customer’s head triggered a paradigm shift for one of the smartest marketers we know.  Dennis is a naturally intuitive and empathetic marketer.  He only needed a few simple exercises to realign his conversion efforts.  He began to see the gaps and the roadblocks in his current customer experience to understand how he can patch them up.

Dennis had found his conversion mojo.

How The Process Delivered Insight

To give you a little more insight into the process let us share just a few of the bullets from the pre-mortem.

  • She gets confused and walks away because it is too much of a hassle to figure it out
  • She doesn’t understand exactly what BlitzMetrics does.
  • She is unclear about her package options
  • She has sticker shock

It was during the reverse chronology when Dennis began to reconcile “What could go wrong” with “What is going wrong” that he had his a-ha moment.  The fog cleared, the scales fell away and he was able to see and think through how to prevent these things from occurring.  The final Buyer Legend reflects, in narrative form, exactly how BlitzMetrics is building an optimized customer experience for Diana and other potential customers with similar buying styles.

A BlitzMetrics Buyer Legend

Here is an abridged version of the Buyer Legend that we wrote together. It tells part of the story of the persona named Diana, a 43 year old CMO for a small Gourmet Pie chain. Diana comes from traditional marketing and is trying to get a handle on the digital aspects of her job.

Diana is hoping that when she contacts BlitzMetrics they will be part of her solution, not just another problem. She was impressed with Dennis’ presentation and knows he is really smart guy, but she isn’t sure what BlitzMetrics does. For that matter, she’s not really sure what Facebook marketing is either. It helps that Dennis took her card he told her “we’ll take care of you.” He wouldn’t be the first vendor who disappointed her, but she is hopeful.

BlitzMetrics follows up within 24 hours of Diana meeting Dennis and invites her to find out how they can help her.  They offer either a quick call to answer her questions or to do some due diligence with her so that they can produce a proposal. She doesn’t want a call, she’s too busy, and asks for some more information. She gets it immediately.

She is thrilled to see it contains not just the clearest explanation of what BlitzMetrics does but it includes some thumbnail pictures of what the deliverables look like and a wide range of pricing. The wide range of prices lets her feel at ease that pricing is not being hidden and hopeful that there is Goldilocks service for her situation. At the end of the presentation, it has a prominent call to action that tells her to request a detailed checklist of what needs to be prepared for her to receive a customized proposal from BlitzMetrics.

Diana loves how helpful the checklist is, so she shares it with the team that needs to implement it and requests another call to go through it. BlitzMetrics organizes that and doesn’t assume anybody has seen the original presentation so they go over it briefly. She appreciates how easy BlitzMetrics is making her life and how they’re making her look good.

Once Diana receives the proposal, amazed at how quickly it came and how thoroughly clear it is, she has a final meeting with Steve and Rob, the CFO, to explain that the service costs are fixed but the media costs will be variable. She shows them how BlitzMetrics helps contain costs and can demonstrate accountability. They’re impressed with the professionalism, understand what they are buying and are ready to proceed. Steve sends the contract for legal review but is prepared to proceed.

Did you notice that the idea of sending her information (as opposed to pushing her into a call), detailed checklist, and transparent pricing are a direct result of what we did in the pre-mortem and reverse chronological outline?

What Came First, the Process or the Rock Star?

The Buyer Legends process while simple, is also powerful in it’s ability to force the marketer into the minds and hearts of the customer. It’s only in their minds and hearts that he can resolve their conversion challenges and then communicate what needs to be done to the execution team.

And it doesn’t matter if you are the George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson of marketing the Buyer Legends process can up your game, or get you unstuck.  If you are still looking to become a rock star, try writing your first Buyer Legend and see what it does for you.

Go ahead read the book, or let us know and we will be happy to help you.  

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Designing The Perfect Funnel

TomFishburnefunnelYou’ve planned the campaign or the test.

You’ve designed the checkout or registration.

You’ve invested time and energy.

Now your customers come along and enter your funnel.

Let’s get real, your customer isn’t truly in a funnel. There’s no gravity compelling them through your experience like there is in a real funnel. There is only the customer’s motivation and your understanding of that motivation to create persuasive momentum.

Your customers’ journeys are their stories, NOT funnels. They could tell you the stories, just try asking them. And those stories don’t always have happy endings.

Your customers’ stories end happily when they are delighted. And for them that may mean buying from you or from a competitor. It’s simply a matter of perspective.

Now you come along and interrogate your analytics to find out what your customers did.

Is this process so very different from what you do?

The most successful companies start with the story from the customer’s perspective. Their business people make that story accountable through analytics. They anticipate what needs to be measured in order for the analysts to understand the actual customers’ experience – did their stories end happily? These stories are then shared with the business people and they learn what needs to be optimized.

Here’s what we know for certain: if analysts cannot tell the stories and business people cannot measure the stories then the strategy isn’t truly aligned with customers’ needs.

It’s time to perfect your concept of a funnel.

Buyer Legends can help you create customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.

 

H/T to Tom Fishburne for inspiring this post with his marketing funnel

 

 

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Great UI Still Risks Poor Customer Experience

It is encouraging when brilliant people develop processes to improve customer interactions. UI designer Luca Leone recently wrote an excellent article about how he develops user interfaces. It’s a must read and what we have to add shouldn’t detract from it.
The Buyer Legends process uses customer data and storytelling so that business can empathize with their customers’ experience at every step of the buying journey. We’re fans of any interaction design that starts with a story. However, we’re not sure that an improved UI addresses all customer experiences issues that come before, during, and after the interaction. Unfortunately, in the real world, hardly anyone is handing a UI designer a well-crafted Buyer Legend to place the UI properly in the context of the customer experience.

Luca Leone on Starting UI Design with Story

Leone writes in Smashing Magazine about the process he uses, specifically how before he even begins to sketch an interface he writes out a conversation between human and computer to get a feel for the interaction.

I realized that imagining the conversation was much easier than drawing on a white canvas. I’m not sure, but I suppose that is true for most people. Conversation is an intrinsic part of human nature. We have evolved as a talking species.

Also, when I imagine a conversation, I draw from my real life experience, which is good for design — less abstraction. If a user’s interaction with a computer resembled a real life experience, then the interface would probably be considered easy to use, wouldn’t it?

It would, or rather, it could. Any UI designer who follows this process is bound to create better interactions.

Starting with a written conversation to help plan UI is simply another form of storytelling. And storytelling is the most powerful way  to transfer an experience to someone who hasn’t had that experience. Leone has taken this bull by the horns. However, the utilization of a storytelling process alone does not guarantee success or even prevent possible failure in the overall customer experience. Here is why, and what you can do about it.

Great UI Does Not Equal Great Customer Experience

First, the UI designer runs the risk of having a conversation only with themselves and basing the interaction on their own preferences and ideas of what is easy and pleasurable to use. What about the needs of different types of users? It is likely that the UI designer is representative of one type of user, his or herself.  Using well-researched and properly empathetic personas in conjunction with storytelling allows the designer to account for different types of people with different needs, context, and expectations.

Second, storytelling alone doesn’t guarantee the interaction being designed is itself valuable to the overall customer experience or that it even serves the business goals of the company.  This is an especially touchy point when providing requirement documentation to UI designers.  When stories incorporate the company’s goals in terms of how the customer wants to take the action to achieves those goals, you move from company-centric to customer-centric. Planning with stories that present the customer experience more holistically ensures that each interaction designed serves both the customer and company. Customers are volunteers and as long as they feel that they are achieving their goals they will happily help the company achieve its goals.

Third, and most importantly, Leone’s process doesn’t account for opportunities that might be missed because the UI designer may be unaware of the overall context of the customer experience and why the customer is using this interface in the first place. By telling a story of the entire customer journey to your UI designer, they can look for additional opportunities to move a user towards their goal faster, or find opportunities to up-sell, cross-sell, or encourage other profitable actions the user can take, like social media sharing.

Lastly, it doesn’t seem to account for existing customer data, assuming customer data is available. Just writing out a story (or an interaction) doesn’t mean that story reflects actions that are already happening in the real world. By combining data and storytelling, you eliminate the possibility that your story contains only someone’s best guess (which may be fiction) and instead grounds your stories in reality. In addition, a proper Buyer Legend establishes data points for the story’s hypothesis that you can measure and optimize against.

Add Two Steps Forward and a Look Backwards

There are two other techniques we use in Buyer Legends that would make Leone’s process even more effective.

The first is writing a pre-mortem.  In our book, Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide, we write about the customer completing the sale, but if you are a UI designer, you might want to read what we write below by simply replacing ‘sale’  with ‘completed task’.

…begin making a pre-mortem list, detailing the most likely things that could derail this customer’s successful journey to your desired destination:

A. Begin by having your Team imagine that the customer has completed her (or his) buying journey and either didn’t buy at all, didn’t buy what you sell (in favor of an alternative solution), or bought from a competitor. Now ask yourselves, “What went wrong that led to these outcomes?”

i. Your intuitions about the most likely bad outcomes and most likely causes will be more insightful than you may think.

ii. This process will give your team permission to voice doubts or fears about your brand’s interaction with customers that they might not otherwise feel safe in doing.

B. For every wrong turn, missed opportunity, or bump that could derail the customer’s successful journey, take time to imagine how that process would most likely play out. For instance, how would this detail-oriented customer react if a major detail about your product is left out of their journey or if that detail was hard to find? What would that look and feel like, and at what point would that frustration or anxiety actually derail the sale?

Next we would recommend creating a reverse chronological outline.

Outline the story using reverse chronology; start from the end of the story and work backwards. This reverse chronology process will:

A. Ensure your legend ends in success.

B. Emphasize cause-and-effect more effectively than forward chronology, as it will be harder to “fake” or rely upon momentum. Simply by thinking backwards you will naturally be more thorough in defining the actions and reasoning why your customer has taken each step on their journey.

Buyer Legends Are What to do Before UI Design

When we need a UI Designer, Leone would be among to be the first people we would reach out to. Nevertheless, before we send him off to write out a conversation and design for us a brilliant interaction, we would equip him with a Buyer Legend. In the Buyer Legend, he would read the story (or stories) of the persona(s) and why they are interacting with us in the first place, and why it matters to both the customer and the company. The Buyer Legend would tell about their goals, motivations, needs, preferences, tech savviness, and previous experience.  And all of it would be based on real-world customer data. After reading it, Leone would understand how his UI design fits into the bigger picture of the customer experience. He would be empowered to find new and better ways to enhance or improve it, instead of just following rigid product requirements or straightforward use cases. In other words, it would unleash and focus Leone’s creativity in the most profitable context.

If you have a business that needs UI Design, you need Buyer Legends to better communicate with and leverage the skills of your talented designer. If you are a talented designer, you can ask customers for Buyer Legends to bring added value to your clients and garner stronger buy-in for your design work.

The use of storytelling in UI design and in business is powerful, but so is nitroglycerin. You must know how to contain it, control it, and ensure its power does exactly what you need it to do.

Oh, and please do read Leone’s article in total. Wicked good stuff.

 

 

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Mom Wants You To Improve Your Customer Experience

The holidays are here, and so is the holiday advertising.  In light of all the data about online purchasing and mobile usage, offline retailers are using their ads to relentlessly promote their online and mobile channels this year.  It is obvious that these retailers are struggling to optimize their online customer experience to compete with the likes of Amazon, but offline these retailers are doing very little to evolve the in-store customer experience. An in-store experience should be a lot more than product placement, store design, and lighting.  The in-store experience should more deeply consider the needs of the customer as she shops.
Are a large number of your customers moms?  Then, watch this video:
This ad ranked #10 in AdWeeks Best Ads of 2014 because it tells such a powerful story about how our moms are such under-appreciated superheroes. A mom’s job never ends. They are cooks, maids, babysitters, nurses, drivers, and usually the chief purchasing agents for their families. Yet, can you imagine a corporate sales rep  treating a corporate purchasing agent with such indifference? Talk to any mom about the challenges she faces when she simply bundles up her three-year-old and heads to the store.
Now imagine how much harder all that is during Christmas season. Instead of thinking of new ways to hock your wares at full blast whenever she is nearby, what can you do to take care of her and her needs as she shops? What about your customer experience is unnecessarily difficult for her?

  • Does she feel like a criminal when she returns something because she has to jump through half-a-dozen hoops?
  • How long does she have to wait as she wrestles with a hungry, screaming child?
  • Is there a safe space where she can take a break from shopping for a few moments to tend to herself or her child?
  • Is there anything more you can do to help her entertain her child as she waits in line?

Can you see how powerful it can be to just understand the story of a modern-day mom when you place her in the context of your customer experience? That is exactly what Buyer Legends is all about.

Do you think you can use this story as the basis for creating a different story/legend that improves your own customer experience for moms?

We would love for you to share your legends, thoughts, and ideas.

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Customers Don’t Care Where You Sit

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Customers arrive at your business with a bigger picture than view we have from the seat at our desk.

They don’t always want us to “solve” their problem or save them money; although these may be their stated goals. Truly, not every problem is in search of a solution and cheap certainly doesn’t guarantee success.

From where we sit, inside a business,  it looks different. Yet, when we are customers we know that the intrinsic value of a brand interaction is the delight we feel from the interaction, and not merely satisfaction. Delight is defined as extreme satisfaction, it thrills us.

So the view from our desk or conference room isn’t the customer’s perspective! The customer doesn’t care what department we’re in, what channel we’re responsible for or even sadly how hard we try.

Customers simply don’t care where you sit! They only care about their experience with your brand.

Maybe your company’s perspective is different.

The Delivery Gap

Please consider the following:

When Bain & Company  surveyed 362 firms, they found that 80% believe they deliver a “superior experience” to customers. But when they asked customers, they say only 8% are really delivering.

This “delivery gap” doesn’t exist because businesses fail to recognize the importance of their customers. More than 95% of surveyed management teams say they’re customer focused.

Bain found two reasons for the gap.

  1. Paradoxically, many growth strategies damage customer loyalty. For example, efforts to pursue new customers can distract from serving the core.

  2. Building relationships with customers is difficult. Understanding what customers really want and keeping our promises while maintaining a dialogue to evolve with customers’ changing needs is challenging.

Bain says the 8% do something differently:

We call them the “Three D’s”: They design the right propositions for the right customers. They deliver those propositions at the lowest system cost. And they develop the institutional capabilities to do it again and again. Each of these Three D’s reinforces the others. Together, they ensure the company is continually led by the voices of its customers.

What We Have Here Is a Failure To Communicate

Buyer Legends Can Help Close The Delivery Gap

We’ve developed a simple-to-learn business process that can help you see your customer’s perspective from where you sit; we call it Buyer Legends.

Buyer Legends are not the stories you tell your customers; that’s just promotion. Buyer Legends are stories told from the point of view of your customers; because your brand isn’t what you say it is but what your customers say about it. Buyer Legends are designed to create and improve the interactions customers have with your brand; and that’s the rest of the marketing mix.

Buyer Legends combine the emotional power of storytelling with hard data to open new opportunities, spot gaps and optimize your sales and marketing.  You can use them to communicate your brand’s intent and describe the responsibility of each critical touchpoint within every level of an organization — from the boardroom to the stockroom.

Many have found (in the month since publication there over 60 reviews on Amazon and we’ve linked to many others from this blog)  and we hope that you too will find that Buyer Legends improve execution, communications, testing, and provide a big boost to the bottom line.

Please feel free to get “Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide”, it should take less than an hour to read, 90 minutes to implement and then you’ll be able start closing the delivery gap immediately.

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What we can offer you

Speak at Your Event

We can speak at your event. Our fees are $20,000 in North America, and that includes travel. International fees are $20,000 plus business class travel, from Austin, and lodging. Contact us to discuss your event  

Workshops

We kick-off the workshop with a two-day onsite visit. We help you create the Four Pillar foundation for your organization. The entire process takes between 4-8 weeks and the typical investment is $30,000 – $100,000.

Four Pillars Ongoing Support

After our workshops, we work with only a few select clients. Your business must be committed to the Four Pillars (as described in Be Like Amazon) on a long-term basis .