Experience engineering: a brilliant discovery, but how can you start it right now?

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Matthew Dixon’s book, The Effortless Experience is all about Experience engineering. How can you ensure you positively influence customers’ emotions in your personal contact – store, chat, call, without manipulating them or telling untruths. You simply use Experience engineering. Being my usual down-to-earth Dutch self I thought: oh yeah, just another typical American giving everything a positive twist. Until it dawned on me that this is exactly what happened to me at Leapp last week. And yes indeed, I too headed out of the building feeling good.

Dixon’s research into the degree of convenience or effort experienced by customers, also looked at the discrepancy between the actual effort and the perceived effort. The actual effort was found in issues such as long waits, having to return to the store more than once, or calling and being continually put on hold. The perceived effort lay in the question of how much effort the customer experiences (the customer effort score). On comparing the scores, they discovered that the actual, process-based issues only influenced one third of the perceived effort. The other two thirds were therefore influenced by the customer’s emotion during the contact moment.


Their next experiment concerned an issue which always had the same outcome (what the customer requires is not possible), but with totally different ways of communicating this. Disney does this too. An example put by Disney to its employees, in order to practice positive answering, was: what’s the answer to the question of what time the park closes? Not “we close at eight o’clock” but rather “we’re open until eight o’clock today and you’re welcome to join us again tomorrow from nine o’clock.” The facts are exactly the same but the manner of communication is totally different. And hey presto, it did indeed make a great difference to the customers’ experience of convenience. I believe that this also largely works by giving the customer the feeling that you are ‘taking care’ of him or her.

My experience at Leapp

After involuntarily switching to a MacBook Pro six months ago, the MacBook died on me, two weeks ago. I therefore had a niggling feeling that this was a corrupted Mac. On arrival at the Leapp store (requiring an hour’s drive from Arnhem to Zwolle), the technician who had promised to send me back on my way with a working laptop was off sick, and a very young and insecure employee informed me that I needed to send the laptop to Amsterdam. Excuse me?
To cut a long story short, one of his colleagues heads downstairs half an hour later, and says: ” I can replace the hard disk for you, that’s only a 10-minute job and there’s a 90% chance that it will solve the problem. But I can’t guarantee that there’s nothing else wrong with it. So to avoid you having to come all the way back here again in a few months time, I’d advise you to send the laptop to Amsterdam. I’ll make sure it’s delivered home to you afterwards, so you don’t need to come back to us again.” The same outcome, but a great difference in my experience! Now I’d like to think that he wasn’t consciously engineering my experience, but that really is the core of my story.

Focus on empathy is not enough

Empathy is an extremely central feature when training personnel who have customer contact. Friendliness, listening, thinking along. We certainly mustn’t throw that overboard, as it has indeed been shown to have great impact on customer satisfaction. However, all of my research so far has shown employees to already be well appreciated for that. The time has come to go the extra mile. It’s all about the full-service care, the way in which you communicate something, allowing the customer to feel that you, as a company, are in control and are providing options which will work.

The tip for any organization

Anyone can implement this right now, without any need to develop fancy skills. Simply generate a top 10 of commonly occurring ‘negative’ dialogs and then formulate a positive variant for them. Based on the 20/80 notion, this will give you control of the bulk. And by posting this top 10 in clear view of the agents, for example, you’re providing them with a fantastic prompt. This is in fact a great way of training awareness, by translating these sentences together with your store personnel or agents.

Read the other articles in the Customer Experience miniseries here

  1. What purpose does customer experience management really serve?
  2. CRM versus CEM versus CCM
  3. Experience Engineering: a brilliant discovery, but how can you start it right now?
  4. Customer Experience versus Patient Experience: surprisingly similar.
  5. What is the shelf life of customer inspiration? 3 x 7 tips!

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