CXFormula Customer Experience Formula

Nailing the customer experience to improve product value – with Jason Friedman

How product managers can design their customer experience journey

We all want to create products that customers find valuable and even delightful. But accomplishing that is complicated, and some teams lose focus on the real objective or start without a clear vision for what they need to accomplish. How can using the customer experience journey help you make better products?

We are about to find out with Jason Friedman. Jason has started successful businesses in several industries including medical diagnostics, automotive, spirits, and digital media. He has taken his experience and knowledge and focused it to help companies gain an unfair advantage over their competition through the art and science of designing their “customer experience journey.” He is founder and CEO of CXFormula™, which works with entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies including Nike, Universal Studios, Burger King, Bank of America, and others.

Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers

[2:26] What is the customer experience journey?
The customer experience journey is the perception that a customer has after interacting with your product, service, brand, and team. The most important piece is how people feel.

Today the customer experience journey is more important than it ever has been. Today, AI has dominated everything, so people can create a new product or idea in minutes. Where we shine as product managers is in the experience people have with our product. We can make it amazing, and that’s what differentiates us in the crowded market.

[5:38] I’d like to provide two scenarios. First, sometimes startup founders develop a product to solve their own problem and assume others experience the problem the same as they do. Second, established companies can believe they are the experts in their domain and tell customers what they need. In both scenarios, the customer experience is not considered. How would you avoid these problems?
The customer experience journey is all the touch points a customer has with your product, including brand, service, support, usability, and instructions.

There’s that famous quote from Henry Ford, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have told me faster horses,” and Steve Jobs has been quoted as having a similar perspective. Often, customers don’t have the vision for creating a paradigm-shifting solution. Those companies might be right that their customers don’t know, but they miss the deep understanding of their customers. When we don’t truly understand our customers and what they really need and want, we can create a product that may be awesome but that customers are not going to adopt.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from thinking outside the box. If you only rely on what your customers tell you, you might miss out on coming up with some amazing innovation. But finding out how to really understand our customers and their true wants and desires is problematic for many of us. We don’t really know, so we rely on superficial information.

My background is in theatre working behind-the-scenes. In theatre productions, the focus is almost exclusively on the audience—the customer. Everything we do on stage is about the customers’ reaction.

In our businesses, we often lost sight of the customer. A business owner who built a product for themselves might have been the customer at one point, but often they have the curse of knowledge. They know too much and lost sight of where their customers are. They might overdevelop or create something that’s not aligned with the customers’ true needs.

One of the tricks is to get inside the customer’s head. Pretend like you’re going to play your customer on stage as a character. Get into character. Many famous actors use method acting. They go deep in understanding that character so much so that they know what they had for breakfast or who their imaginary friend was when they were a kid. Sometimes they make this up, but they make it up in real context and try to walk in their character’s shoes. All their research is to understand all the things that make them tick. They’re able to articulate what’s going on inside that character’s mind that the character might not have been able to say themselves.

As you think of developing a product, if you can get into the head of your customers and really understand them, you can start to solve their problems and show them a solution that they couldn’t have told you they wanted, but when they see it, they say, “That’s it. That’s what I need.”

[11:30] What’s another action we can take to better understand customers’ pain points?
Amazon is a great opportunity. Look at products on Amazon that solve similar pain points and read through the reviews of all the frustrations. It’s a gold mine of information on how to make a better experience for people and maybe even how to invent a better product. Once we know who that market is and what their frustrations are, we can put something together from there.

[13:40] What do we do once we’ve identified pain points?
When you’ve identified all the pain points, all the moments where it gets even a little bit more hard, frustrating, or annoying, think about how to reduce or remove that. As you start thinking about getting into character, once you’ve designed your product, now become your customer and use it from opening the box. Was opening the box impossible or a pleasure?

We try to decrease time to first value, the shortest amount of time for someone to perceive a “wow” or moment of value. The shorter time period until they experience that moment, the better. If the moment you receive the package is a “wow,” everything’s going to be better. You’ve just shined sunshine on a cloudy day, and all the other steps are going to be great. If you actually think through the other steps and they are also positive, now you’ve really got an amazing journey that people are going to be excited to go on with you.

[16:48] What tools do you use to understand the customer experience journey?
We have a proprietary tool we use. We map out the existing customer journey and then identify friction points and places where we can increase the joy. We map the customer journey to what we call a kinetic pathway. Think of it like a water slide. If there’s not enough water, it’s really hard to go down, but if there’s plenty of water, even if you start to go uphill a little bit, you’re still able to get to the end of the slide.

We map out every single step from pre learning about your product all the way through to post using your product or service. The key is to do this from the vantage point of your customer. If you send them an email, write down, “receive an email,” because you’re being the customer.

Then we break down each step of the journey into five different dimensions:

What are they doing?
What are they thinking and expecting?
What are they using to do this step?
Who or what are the interacting with?
How are they feeling?
If you map out the whole journey, you’re going to see a crazy roller coaster ride of the customer’s feelings. You’re going to find the friction points almost immediately. When you identify those friction points, ask, “Why is this hard?” It may not be that the step it hard. It may be that an expectation needs to be set a few steps earlier. Look at whether a friction point was affected by something before and whether each step is creating friction in the future. When you see this diagram, you get clarity on what needs to change to create an amazing experience.

[21:21] Could you talk through an example of a company that has improved their customer experience journey?
I’ll give the example of a restaurant, which I’ll call Tom’s Place. It was a local neighborhood restaurant that called us because they were about to go out of business. They had very few people come back a second time, and for most meals they had only three or four tables in use.

I asked the owner why he started his restaurant, and he said he wanted to create a restaurant like Cheers from the TV show. He wanted it to be “your dinner table away from home,” but it never turned into that. I asked a couple of people who were eating there how the food was, and they said, “eh,” and I asked them how the service was, and they said, “eh.” You can’t win in a restaurant with “eh” food and “eh” service.

I asked the owner, “What was the cool thing about Cheers?” He said, “Everybody knows your name.” We needed to up the level of service.

We transformed the restaurant by looking at every single moment. How does the first moment set up the next moment and the next and the next?

After our changes, when a customer came in the host would ask if it was their first time dining at Tom’s Place. If they said yes, the host would give them white napkins, and if they said no, they would get red napkins. When the waiters and waitresses saw the red napkins, they would say, “Welcome back. It’s so great to see you again,” even if they didn’t know their names. If it was white napkins, they would say, “Welcome to Tom’s. It’s so great to see you. Make sure you ask our waiter for our favorite meals. We have some awesome specials,” to build the excitement.

The waiters would introduce themselves, ask for the customers’ names, and write them down. The waiters would ask first-time customers if they have any allergies and ask if they would like a special appetizer on the house from the chef. The waiters would ask some questions and tell the customers the best things they could order. The whole experience was personalized, custom-tailored, and interactive.

At the end, the waiter would give their name and say, “It was such a pleasure to serve you. We want you to think of this as your dinner table away from home. So on any of those nights you don’t feel like doing the dishes or you want to hang out with some friends, come on back. I’d love to have you in my section. You can always ask for me or any of my colleagues. We just want you to come back and have a great time.”

All of a sudden, people were raving about Tom’s Place on Facebook and bringing their friends to show them how cool it was. The cost of this transformation was zero dollars. They had napkins coming from a linen service no matter what. We switched them from all white to half red and half white. It was about thinking through the journey. What was that first step? We needed to make a good first impression. We told the customers we wanted them to think of this as their dinner table away from home. We planted a seed so they’re thinking and expecting that now. Suddenly they said those same words, “Tom’s is like my dinner table away from home.”

It’s the thinking about the customer experience journey that is super powerful. The execution to create an amazing experience doesn’t have to expensive. It has to be thoughtful.

ACTION GUIDE: Put the information Jason shared into action now.

FREE GIFT: Grab the special gift Jason offered PMN Listeners.

“Whatever the mind can believe and conceive it can achieve.”



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