The Design Of Little Things

Large companies regularly spend 10s of millions of dollars to improve their interactions with customers on projects like revamping their websites, deploying new CRM applications, replacing IVR systems, and can spend even more on redesigning their stores.

Do companies get the full benefit from those efforts? Absolutely not.

Companies obsess on major milestones like deployments, but don’t aggressively fine-tune those efforts once they go live. As a result, they don’t add the finishing touches that make things much easier or more memorable for customers. An example of this is the Marriott Marquis elevators; a $12 million system that completely confuses many guests. The hotel could use simple techniques, like signage, to significantly reduce the confusion.

What companies are missing is what I call the Design Of Little Things (DoLT); the small changes that can dramatically improve the customer experience of much larger investments. These are the ongoing adjustments that can have a huge impact. I’ve evaluated hundreds of interactions for companies and just about always find these types of opportunities.

Companies can use the Temkin Group SLICE-B methodology to uncover opportunities for DoLT; paying special attention to the “Start” and “End” categories. Here are some rich veins of DoLT to explore:

  • Provide a clear path for users to start in IVR main menus and Website homepages
  • Confirm next steps and reinforce value on confirmation Web pages for purchases and applications
  • Teach front line employees to keep from using negative words
  • Develop clear signage to help route customers to the right place
  • Eliminate jargon that customers won’t understand — from everything

The bottom line: Sometimes little things can make a really big difference

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

4 thoughts on “The Design Of Little Things”

  1. Bruce, I wonder if the reason for this is that companies make these investment for their own benefit of operational efficiency and cost savings rather then with the customer in mind. Many of the investments you reference provide internal benefits even more then customer experience improvements. Perhaps what companies need to do is evaluate every investment with the customer in mind and when improving efficiency understand how this impacts the experience and accomplish both.

    If companies did this for the IVR systems alone the world would be a better place!

  2. I absolutely loved this blog post, and liberally spread it around to the rest of the crew here. Why? Because the apparent insignificance of these simple actions is incredibly misleading! Think about it. What was your favorite thing about going to the bank when you were a kid? Was it the excellent interest rates? The diversity of their stock portfolio? No, it was the little red lollipop you always got when your mom was done.

    Banks are still handing out these little lollipops (the bank near my home stocks dog treats for drive thru customers as well) because they work. They’re a complete part of the customer experience that customers have come to expect.

  3. Great post, and how sad! Most businesses seem to have adopted the attitude “this would be a great business if it weren’t for the customers.” (Next time you are on an airplane, listen to the boarding announcements: “We can get going as soon as you get in your seat.” “If we want an on-time departure, please step out of the aisle and then stow your belongings.” Completely operationally focused.)

    But the pendulum swings back and forth on concern about our customers, so… that leaves some great opportunities open for the right company!

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