Do choices enhance or decimate customer experience?

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Oracle wrapped up a report titled: ‘Eight steps to great customer experience for government agencies.’ In this paper, offering multichannel choice was the fourth element- as they end up tagging customers that utilize a multiple of channels- online, telephone and retail as ‘Channel bouncing customers.’ The advice from Oracle to businesses is that, to keep customers happy, choices have to be presented, in the form of multichannel platforms, as some could prefer one to the other. They further added that, presenting the choices alone would not make for a positive customer experience but doing certain things right will be the game changer. These things that need to be incorporated in a choice culture or multichannel platform are:

 Applying a common knowledge foundation across all channels: Having a similar knowledge across all channels helps the business provide the same information to customers, irrespective of the channel, thereby preventing confusion or misinformation.

 Managing all channels in a common and similar manner: All channels have to be in-tune or correlate with the rest- as a good example could be a call agent seeing the records of a customer that has had a web chat on a particular issue. Having all channels on the same page makes the experience easy to understand.

 Simplifying appropriate escalations: There should be an ease at which a customer could raise a request or escalate a challenge if they are yet to find an answer through a self-service portal.

 Utilizing right-channelling: Right-channelling in this context, refers to directing customers to the appropriate channel that will be most effective to meet their current need, request or query.

American Psychologist, Barry Schwartz wrote a book titled. ‘The paragon of Choice: Why more is less.’ In it, he argued that minimizing the customer choices does enhance their experience through reducing their shopping anxieties. Some people are a bit overwhelmed when presented with a plethora of choices- there is a lot to take in, a bit more questions asked on differences between products A,B,C….. Z. It is also to be noted that, shoppers get more indecisive in the face of too many choices and defer a purchase to a later date.

Hal Licino of Benchmarkemail delved into this further as he highlighted the arguments of Barry Schwartz, on the role diminished choices plays in enhancing customer experience. He summed up Schwartz’s argument with these critical reasoning:

 Massive choices decimate and diffuse the customer experience: Schwartz looked at what is called voluntary simplicity movement. In this, it portrays the fact that today’s customer is flooded with too many choices- requiring too many decisions and little time to take it all in.

 Humans tend to seek social fabric consensus and not individual choice: Schwartz’s important finding was that choice does not equate happiness. The plethora of choices does not equate to a feeling of empowerment but leads to depression and possibly isolation. This was summed up by Licino that currently, individuals are more likely to go with the bandwagon or consensus effect of peers than stick to one’s individual instincts and choice.

 Too much choice leads to the suspicion of missed opportunity: It couldn’t have been said any much better as Licino opined: “When customers are faced with having to select a single option out of too many, they begin to consider the trade-offs that they are making.”

 The fewer bonbons to choose from the tastier they are: Schwartz had an experiment where he had two groups of consumers, who were given a host of chocolate bonbons to choose from. They were now asked how satisfied they were with the bonbon they had tasted surprisingly; the group presented with few choices appeared to be a lot more satisfied with their pick than those given loads to choose from. This went a long way to establishing that when customers are restricted in choices, they end up picking a more satisfactory product or service, which ends up enhancing their customer experience.
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Couple of days ago I ordered a bowtie from an online store called: Mrs Bowtie. I was impressed with the updates regarding order conformation, dispatch and delivery timescale. What impressed me the most was receiving a text that goes thus: Your threadstar order will be delivered 9 Sep by DPD. For options go to: www.dpd.co.uk/b…. or text 1= deliver to neighbour, 2= Wed, 3=Thursday. What made my experience were the few options I was given- ranging from texting or going online to change the delivery day. I obviously used text to change the delivery day but having options showed the company cared for my satisfaction and having fewer options made my decision a lot more satisfactory.

Choices are very important to enhancing the customer experience but limiting these choices is the important take-way today. Apple realised the power of choices by releasing an IPhone 5c and 5S last year and now IPhone 6 and 6 plus. Samsung are also aware of this by releasing mini versions of every Samsung galaxy S3 and above series. There is power in limiting the choice to about two to three at a given time. I will end by stating that, leaving your customers with no choice, makes them view you as a dictator, providing them with too many choices make you look unorganised but presenting them with a good few choices renders you thoughtful and considerate. The less choices the merrier the experience but no choice could make the customer depart in a ferry for the competition. Choose to present fewer choices today!

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