Declutter Your Customer Experience


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I recently followed Mari Kondo’s method of decluttering my house. I got everyone in the family on board. Well almost everyone. Some were more reluctant than others.

This process of training oneself on what joy feels like was a foreign and new experience for me. Having believed for most of my life that I am a happy-go-lucky person, had me under the impression that I understood joy. As I moved from room to room in our house, the following things surprised me:

The fact that the people I shared the house with were not aligned with the state of the house.
I was surprised by the fact that 80% of what was in every room was not in use, did not make anyone happy and occupied space that could be much better utilised.
The 20% of things in each room that made the inhabitant happy, was overshadowed and hidden by the clutter.
There were emotions associated with items that were much harder for some family members to deal with.
Guilt about money spent on items that are not liked of have no use.
Fondness and loss associated with clothes that were too small.
General sense of waste and shock associated with the sheer volume of stuff.

The highlights of the exercise were:

The pride in having 100% joyful items in a space.
The achievement felt at making decisions around joy.
The growth experienced when it gets easier to decide if something sparks joy.
For my young daughter, going through her clothes was super quick ̶ she went “yes”, “no”, “yes” and to her it was very clear and very easy to decide what she loves.

So, this article is not really about my house decluttering or Mari Kondo, but rather my learnings from this experience that made me think long and deep about customer and employee experiences and why we find it so hard to design these to spark joy.

In recently engaging with end users of a healthcare insurance product in co-design sessions with them, I was again reminded of what people really want and need.

They want to feel worthy and cared for. They desperately need a bit of kindness in a world where kindness is becoming extinct.
They are under pressure and find life hard most of the time and they avoid anything that can add to this load.
Most people in these sessions commented on a shortage of time and the fact that they avoid activities that waste their time. They are resentful when they have to wait 15 minutes to speak to a consultant when calling a call centre.
So, if we look at the above needs and define what will make customers’ and employees’ lives easier and create space for joy, let’s try on the following:

Make things simple

Be kind

Conserve time, emotion and resources.

So, in going through every interaction in a journey we can ask the following questions:

Is what we are asking the customer to do absolutely necessary?
Is this the simplest way we could design it?
Is this the fastest most time-efficient way of doing this?
Is the way we are communicating with the customer either in spoken or written words, kind and caring?
How can we spark joy for the customer in this moment?
Is there any clutter in this moment? Anything unnecessary that can be removed?

This seems easy enough, doesn’t it?

So, what gets in the way?

Often, when starting a process of designing a journey from the customer perspective, we hear from teams that they have done it before and when we look at it, it is process mapping rather than looking at the world from the customer’s perspective.

Often, we are also told exactly what the previous project cost. What we are not told is that the organisation perceives it as a waste of money and the sponsor for that project now walks around with some damage to his reputation. And the organisation does not forget this failure and the fear of repeating it sometimes lingers for years. So, people stop trying and we leave the customer experience sub-optimal and cluttered just like the expensive jacket I never wore once but felt too guilty to get rid of.

IT systems follow a pattern similar to the one I described above. Even if it is not optimal, we need to sweat the asset for at least another five years. The technology cannot be developed further, since it is almost end of life, so the experience remains horrible for the client … while we keep that jacket that is just too tatty and wear it on cold days, knowing we don’t look good; so we take routes where we won’t meet people we know.

Most brands’ customer experience is an embarrassment to them. They stick their heads in the sand and hope the good will outweigh the bad. We did an experience review for a company in the hospitality industry and when we presented our findings to them, we were told by the Director of Marketing, “I never, ever want to see you people again!” I responded by saying that we respected that and that we would leave, but their problems would remain unless they listened to the end of the session and let us finish with the recommendations. I listened with compassion, because they were so disconnected from their actual experience that most of the feedback came as a great shock.

I have mentioned customer experience in the examples above, but the same is valid for employee experience. I’d like to share with you a story about an HR system at a company I worked for years ago that allowed you to apply for internal positions and then let you track the status. I was in a senior position at the time and a little restless, so I applied for a really interesting job, only to see a few days later that the status of my application was “REJECTED”. I contacted the business owner of the system and sent him a screenshot, requesting him to reconsider that status. The answer was that it was the default the software came with. Not one person on the analysis or testing team was really paying attention to that part of the experience. The last thing an internal employee wants to hear if he doesn’t get a position is that he has been ‘rejected’. My advice to brands out there is to be more mindful, demand more from your partners, suppliers and software providers!

Unless you guard your experience against clutter and unkindness, no one will, and your customers and employees will have experiences you might never know about, but on which they will base their decisions on whether to leave or stay, recommend you or not.

I want to leave you with a few pointers on starting this decluttering and setting it up for success:

Create a vivid image of the end goal ̶ what will the ideal experience look like when we have redesigned it?
Create clarity on the experience essence. What do we want customers to experience when they interact with our brand? What is our DNA and secret recipe that define us?
Get the right people on board. Consult widely and get the buy-in of the right stakeholders.
Ensure people understand their role in the redesign (and decluttering) of the journey.
Tell stories of the before and after. Reinforce the benefits of the change through showing the end result as well as the actual stories from clients.

Chantel Botha
I'm Chantel Botha, the author of "The Customer Journey Mapping Field Guide" and the founder of BrandLove. I help business leaders to empower their teams to live their brand proudly. I am passionate about closing the gap between what a brand promises and delivers in reality. Employees are often the moment of truth in customers' experiences with a brand. Over the last 15 years, I have perfected the recipe to turn ordinary employees into Brand Warriors.


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