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How to Successfully Develop a Simple Customer Experience

Contributed article by: Thad Eby | Founder and CEO of Ombud

 

Innovative technologies mean simplification. The rush to make consumers’ lives easier has involved some spectacular failures. Nonetheless, the ideologies behind many failures of their time are often seen in today’s modern web-based technologies and mobile devices.

What can be considered Skype’s predecessor, Bell’s Picturephone, was put into public service in Pittsburgh, PA in 1970. Had they actually listened to their testers at Disneyland and the New York World Fair, AT&T and Bell probably would have seen the device’s flop coming. Testers did not like the device’s bulkiness, lack of user-friendly controls or expense.  Instead, Bell boldly predicted 100,000 Picturephones would be in use in a national network by 1975. On the contrary, only hundreds – primarily located in Chicago – were in use by July 1974.

Incorporating the ideology of the Picturephone into modern computers and mobile devices has seen much greater success – and convenience. For instance, this year Skype announced a milestone of users spending more than 2 billion minutes communicating in a single day.

Taking the time to ask for – and listen to – consumer input ensures you actually are making things easier for your customers.

 

Simplification is Simply the First Step

Sure, the attitude that the ‘customer doesn’t always know what he wants’ might win you some fluke successes. But when wagering limited financial resources, wouldn’t it be better to just get it right the first time? Even Apple’s Newton didn’t last long enough for developers to have a second go at handwriting recognition.

 

Let’s take a look at a more recent example of failed simplification in the retail industry.

 

A simple, whole-number pricing structure without sales discounts failed at J.C. Penny.

Why? JCP’s cost-conscious customers shop around weekly sales discounts and large clearance sections. Instead of adjusting JCP’s approach for its customers’ needs and interests, former CEO Ron Johnson envisioned a JCP for the high-end consumer with a Tiffany’s pricing model – one price, not subject to discounts. He would have done better to continue with Zales-style sales discounts.

 

The transformation from Zales to Tiffany’s doesn’t happen overnight and doesn’t align with JCP customers’ discount-oriented mindset.

 

Johnson’s approach may have been successful at a high-end department store such as Neiman Marcus. At JCP, however, he watched J.C. Penny’s revenue sink 25 percent in 2012.

Today’s empowered customers choose how and when to interact with organizations. At the low switching cost of a Google search, your unsatisfied customers will happily do business with your agile competitor. Johnson’s failed reinvention of a century-old retailer will likely be taught to emphasize this lesson for years.

 

Vendor + Customer = Innovation Partners

Whether selling mobile devices, relaxed-fit jeans, auto insurance or eSignature platforms, organizations need to view their customers as partners for success. Innovation and agility to adapt based on customer needs is crucial for customer happiness. If customers don’t love your product, it doesn’t have a place in the market. That was true back in 1970, and it’s even truer today.

 

An innovation partnership brings simplicity full circle and keeps vendor and customer aligned. DocuSign has proven itself as a partner in demonstrated customer experience success, aligning with customer adoption of modern technologies.

 

The ESIGN Act ensured the legality of eSignatures back in 2000. At that time, however, enterprise adoption of eSignature platforms was similar to that of the 1970 Picturephone. Thirteen years later, eSignature momentum is finally building in organizations, and success more along the lines of video conferencing is proving to be inevitable.

At DocuSign’s Signature City Tour 2013 in Chicago on September 24, I’ll be presenting about how organizations are successfully installing the “easy button” and bringing simplification full force:

  1. Successfully simplifying.

  2. Understanding that simplification is only one step. 

  3. Looking to customers as partners in innovation.

 Join me in Chicago to talk about how you can simplify your customer interactions to create a better experience for everyone involved.

Click here to request to attend. 

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