5 steps to prevent frustrating your customers in 2015

Having seen the digital possibilities, customers will expect and demand more says author Prof. Steven Van Belleghem. Here's how to keep them happy

2014 was a big year for digital. Everyday consumers experienced first-hand the opportunities created by the ‘Internet of Things’, ‘drones’ and ‘mobile’. We are even starting to grasp that the boundless possibilities of Artificial Intelligence aren’t just science fiction.

Unfortunately, as a result of this success there is a good chance that 2015 will be remembered the year of digital frustration. Once you have had a glimpse of the possibilities, digital failure becomes unacceptable. I am a big fan of Disney, but since experiencing the possibilities of the new MyMagic+ system in Disneyworld USA, Disneyland Paris feels like being stuck in the Middle Ages.

However, disappointment doesn’t have to be inevitable, so here are five guidelines to help you avoid digital frustration:

1. Make it intuitive

Consumers understand the possibilities of intuitive technology. Last year I bought a drone and a vacuum cleaning robot, and both just worked as soon as I opened the packaging and plugged them in, no need to refer to the manual. The iPhone introduced us to the power of intuitive technology, and you will have never used the ‘help’ function of your iPhone or iPad because they simply don’t have one. We all grew up with manuals in 20 languages, but today people want easy-to-use, self-guiding applications, so if your company has to choose between investing in another feature or in user experience, the decision will really be a no-brainer: always go for the design and the user interface.

2. Make it fast

Customers not only want simplicity, they want speed as well. People would rather have several niche applications that are fast and that are constantly being modified and improved than one that tries to do everything. The perfect digital solution does not exist. The perfect digital solution is in constant evolution.

Consumers expect a digital solution that thinks ahead, and with more businesses harnessing digital technology, faster-than-real-time solutions are becoming the norm as we all look for solutions that will make our life easier.

3. Be an active listener AND implement feedback quickly

Digital technology has made it easier than ever to listen to consumers. Most companies have installed social listening platforms by now, but using this knowledge to improve products and solutions on an ongoing basis is the key. Getting the software is easy, implementing the feedback is the hard part.

This is a challenge you should really keep in mind this year. Every time someone has a new idea about a digital application, feature or solution, skip the meeting where you would normally guess what consumers will like and just execute the idea with limited resources. Conduct live A/B tests to see how people respond to the new approach and use that real-time feedback to make better decisions about future applications and solutions. Don’t waste time debating what consumers might want, ‘DO’ it and be ready to implement the feedback.

4. Make it FUN

Ok, so we know consumers want technology that is intuitive and fast, but the technologies that really engage customers are also fun. We all want to have fun while we go about our day-to-day lives, and in the context of the technologies we use this can mean many things – making it beautiful, making it funny, make it new and surprising. Google is the perfect example: it is easy to use, its quick and continually optimised every day, but they also have an eye for fun that lead them to change their logo every day and add the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button. Even though Google is a very clean and functional site, they still manage to surprise customers. Don’t overlook the fun aspect in the digital world.

5. Be transparent

Of course, not everything can be perfect, but by communicating transparently about your plans, progress and mistakes, people will buy into the human element and go with the flow. In contrast, if you claim something is perfect and reality bursts that bubble, the result will be a huge burst of digital frustration. Transparent, open and forward-looking communication about your digital plans is crucial, and your approach to customer experience has now become a key component of your total marketing plan.

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is author of The Conversation Company and The Conversation Manager. His new book, When Digital Becomes Human, will be published in April 2015. Follow him on twitter @StevenVBe or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com

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