Stop Trying to Eliminate Customer Effort


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Deploying Customer Effort Score could be destructive under two conditions: using CES as a key metric for your critical touch-point experiences, and, your brand value is not about effortless. It would generate three negative consequences:

  1. Drive a disremembered experience.
  2. Damage your brand loyalty.
  3. Reduce customers’ pleasure.

The Original Application Boundary of CES – Service

In the Harvard Business Review article Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers, the Corporate Executive Board’s Dixon and colleagues stated:

When it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily. Armed with this understanding, we can fundamentally change the emphasis of customer service interactions.”

The CES creators suggested the following strategy to minimizing customers’ effort on service issues:

Reduce the need for repeat calls by anticipating and dealing with related downstream issues; arm reps to address the emotional side of customer interactions; minimize channel switching by increasing self-service channel “stickiness”; elicit and use feedback from disgruntled or struggling customers; and focus on problem solving, not speed.”

The original mission of the Customer Effort Score, as far as I understand, is to drive effortless service interactions.

The Extended Coverage to CX – A Serious Problem

Reducing or eliminating customer effort in the service environment, is a win-win to both customers and company. Customers save time and hassles; company reduces costs and becomes more efficient. It is no surprise that CES is fast becoming a popular performance measurement metric in numerous organizations since its launch in 2010.

Nowadays, the application of CES has been extended from service to CX – from driving effortless service interactions to driving effortless experiences; CES, along with NPS and C-SAT, are the three most important CX metrics.

However, the truth is, service is part of CX; service ain’t CX (see the Harvard Business Review Know the Difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute), and that’s the underlining cause, and the beginning, of a serious problem.

Voice of Customers: Just Hate to ‘Sweat’

Let me explain why driving effortless experience is a serious problem, with the empirical data derived from the Global IKEA In-store Experience Research (note 1).

Based on 3,384 valid responses from the research, the following are the three common pain points shared by the IKEA customers around the globe. I display just a few of the voice of customers here:

Pain Point #1 – Forced Round Tour

  • “Forced use of round tour, difficulty of getting directly to desired area.”
  • “You can’t really go in for one specific item, you have to make your way around the entire store…”
  • “Feeling like part of the herd grazing through the store.”
  • “The shop layout is designed to force you to maximize unnecessary browsing…”
  • “Even though IKEA has added short-cuts, it is still a navigation nightmare.”

Pain Point #2 – Availability of Staff for On-site Support

  • “Can be a pain trying to ask the service staff for assistance.”
  • “Never enough sales help, I waited almost 45 minutes for help.”
  • “Always need service but can’t always get someone who is available to help.”
  • “Trying to locate our items in huge warehouse with confusing signage, very few people around to ask for assistance.”
  • “Staff are usually too occupied to answer questions… probably staff-customer ratio is small…”

Pain Point #3 – Queuing Time at Check-out Counter

  • “Checkouts are an awful experience!”
  • “Way too crowded and line-ups are too long at check-out.”
  • “Very crowded and long check out queues, especially on Saturdays.”
  • “Check out lines are generally long compared to other stores.”
  • “Too complicated… long line-ups… not enough staff. Feels like you have to carve out a lot of time to buy from IKEA…”

The Emotion Curve Echoes: ‘Sweat’ is Painful

After listening to the voice of IKEA’s customers, let’s take a look at the Emotion Curve (note 2) of IKEA the Netherlands.

Based on 511 responses from the Dutch consumers through the Global IKEA In-store Experience Research, we generate their Emotion Curve.

For simplicity’s sake, only the relevant sub-processes are shown here.

Out of the total 34 sub-processes of the IKEA in-store experience, the three most severe pain peaks are ‘Forced round tour,’ ‘Availability of staff for on-site support,’ and ‘Queuing time at check-out counter,’ and we found similar results in other regions; it also echoes with the voice of customers – ‘Sweat’ is painful.

So, with reference to the voice of customers and Emotion Curve, it is crystal clear that IKEA’s customers just hate to ‘sweat’ which begs the question: Should IKEA eliminate the three common pain points and strike for an effortless experience?

Branded Pleasure and Good Pain

The mission of IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, is to make quality furniture that everyone can afford (note 3). Their brand values are reflected at the pleasure peaks: price, product, product display and trial, cafeteria and ice cream. Even the cafeteria and ice cream communicate the consistent message “good value for money” and align with IKEA’s brand values. As these pleasures are reflecting their brand vales, we call them Branded Pleasures.

IKEA never says Service is a brand value. They hang up big posters inside the store, telling customers that, to further reduce prices, customers will be performing even more DIY (do-it-yourself) services. As expected, customer service is very limited, and once you have selected items from the huge storage area and managed to put them in or on your cart, you still have to wait in the long queue to check out and arrange delivery and installation – we call these ‘sweats’ as Good Pains.

Why they are Good Pains? Because by allowing those pains which don’t reflect IKEA’s brand values – more DIY services and fewer staffs for on-site support – a substantial amount of resources could be saved to further enhance their Branded Pleasures.

The existence of Good Pain is to support Branded Pleasure.

Good Pain may Help Driving Business Result

I might have convinced you that the inadequate on-site staff support is a Good Pain, as it could save significant resources for the Branded Pleasure – price. But how about the other two common pain points – it doesn’t seem IKEA could save much by forcing customers to tour around the entire store or by creating a long queue at checkout.

In another IKEA research (note 4), we asked 518 customers on the spot at the exit of IKEA’s store, to compare their ‘planned purchase’ (before the visit) versus the ‘actual purchase.’

We then correlated the satisfaction rating of each sub-process during the IKEA in-store experience to the difference between the planned and actual purchase given by the on-site respondents, to derive the X-VOC Data (note 5). (For more about the X-VOC Data, see my article Starbucks: Operationalize Customer Journey Mapping.)

The results may surprise you: the number three instant purchase driver is ‘Forced round tour,’ while the number one is ‘Queuing time at check-out counter.’ Both are negatively correlated; which means that the more suffering on the forced round tour and the longer it takes to queue up, the more items customers purchased on the spot.

A Wise Leader Makes Customers ‘Sweat’ with a Reason

Well, the above unexpected results can be explained.

Some customers from the research mentioned that they had bought some items they didn’t prepare to buy, but when they were going through the round tour they found these items interesting or irresistible. In alignment with the theories of “sunk costs” and “social proof,” the customers feel it justified to buy more when in a long queue as they were already there; it must be something really good to have so many people willing to spend time waiting for payment at check-out.

While I suspect Ingvar Kamprad ever conducted the same research as ours to derive instant purchase drivers, his judgments to tolerate those pains, grounded with over half a century learning-by-doing experiences and first-hand observations on on-floor operations, could be made more accurate and reliable than the quantitative data rendered by any correlation analyses.

A wise business leader would never let customers suffer for nothing – these are Unnecessary Pains. Ingvar makes customers ‘sweat’ with a reason: allowing Good Pains to generate significant Branded Pleasures.

“Zero-Defect” Drives a Forgettable Experience

Mark Stanley, senior principal business consultant of Genesys, once said:

For years companies do not take time to focus on identifying their own Branded Pleasures and Good Pains. Only a handful of leaders at the top of the company understand this.”

Kamprad is a minority. The majority of business leaders, in the modern era, have been brainwashed by the sacred beliefs of Pursuing Excellence, Customer Centricity and Continuous Improvement. They are determined to eliminate any pains, efforts, frictions, imperfections and defects out of an experience. The uprising of CES in CX is not a coincidence.


Their companies try to make every single detail good and eliminate any effort on the customers’ part, from the beginning to the end of an experience, in order to satisfy their customers. The red Emotion Curve represents the conventional approach. They are working hard to raise the entire red curve higher and higher still.

It is, however, an ineffective experience.

Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman suggested that human beings only remember two moments of any experience – the peak and the end (note 6). The problem of the red curve – a zero-defect or an effortless experience – is that you dilute your limited resources on too many things. As a result, insignificant peaks and ends are generated. You are simply wasting your company’s resources as the experience is not remembered by your customers. Would you regard a forgotten experience be effective? No, you wouldn’t.

An effective experience has to be remembered.

Why Pleasure – Not Pain – Peaks are Recalled


Now, allow me to take you through a paradigm shift – allowing pain or imperfection – to deliver a dynamic blue Emotion Curve. It focuses on the critical few moments – peak and end. This approach creates a memorable experience with significant pleasure peaks, while spending fewer resources.

Kahneman does explain how an experience is remembered – the peak and the end; he, however, does not explain which peaks – pleasure or pain – are recalled by customers. The decisive factor is: Do you keep your promise, i.e. are you delivering a branded experience?

When you deliver your brand promise, customers remember the pleasure peaks. On the other hand, when you fail to deliver on promise, they recall the pain peaks.

Personally, I share my sympathy with the research respondents. I hate the forced round tour, the never enough on-site manpower, and the forever long waiting time at cashier. Whenever I shopped at IKEA, I swore I wouldn’t be back. But for the past three decades, I buy from IKEA again and again. Why? Because IKEA is delivering a highly memorable and branded experience. What I recall from my memories are the significant pleasure peaks, which reflect their brand promise: Good value for money.

“Frictionless” Harms Your Brand Loyalty

The essence of brand loyalty is, customers have to remember you and what you stand for. To achieve that, you have to deliver the dynamic blue curve experience consistently and repeatedly, with your brand values reflected at the pleasure peaks, i.e. your Branded Pleasures.

Think of how you make your buying decisions. For example, if you want to enjoy a relaxing afternoon, away from your home and office, for a decent cup of coffee. Starbucks is probably the first thing that comes to mind – because you recall their significant pleasure peaks from your memories the ‘new coffee experience’ and the Third Place.

Bob Thompson, CEO of CustomerThink Corp., commented on Do you really want to create a frictionless customer experience? written by Adrian Swinscoe:

I’m seeing Starbucks and other premium coffee shops offer mobile orders. In the short term, could be nice for those in a hurry. Longer term, will it result in consumers saying to themselves “Why am I paying $4 for a cup of coffee when I’m not spending any time in the store to enjoy it?” Next step: drive thru?”

What if Starbucks focused their resources driving full-force to deliver a frictionless experience? Their significant Branded Pleasures would turn insignificant, and their brand values would become blurry in customers’ memories. Ultimately, their brand might not be recalled.

When you are delivering the flat red Emotion Curve – an effortless or a frictionless experience – there will be no brand loyalty at all. Brand loyalty is, literally, determined by our memories. No memories, no brand loyalty.

“Painless” Eliminates Pleasure Peaks

Similar as Starbucks, if IKEA listened to the voice of customers, and followed the conventional approach, to adopt CES to eliminate the pain points and strike for an effortless experience, what would happen?

Pains and efforts will be minimized or eliminated, and so too the pleasure peaks. Because no company has unlimited resources, the dynamic blue Emotion Curve would turn into a flattened red one.

As a result, customer’s pleasures are reduced, resources are wasted, and the brand is homogenized. The branded experience turns into a no-branded experience.

Both the customers’ pains and pleasure peaks are gone.

Great Brands Always Make Customers ‘Sweat’

Great brands have one thing in common: they make customers sweat.

IKEA makes customers sweat with DIY services to generate unmatched pleasure on good value for money. Starbucks makes customers sweat with premium pricing and waiting time to create extraordinary pleasure with their “new coffee experience” and the Third Place. Louis Vuitton makes customers sweat with the different service levels to deliver unprecedented pleasure with exclusivity. Southwest Airlines makes customers sweat with no meals, entertainment, upgrades or reserved seats to offer knockout pleasure with cheap airfares. Jiro’s sushi restaurant makes customers sweat on most aspects of the dining experience to render the utmost pleasure with the best sushi in the world (see my article Sukiyabashi Jiro: Make the World’s Best Sushi by Creative Aggravation).

By making customers ‘sweat’ – allowing Good Pains – resources can be channeled to their Branded Pleasures. That is why IKEA, Starbucks, Louis Vuitton, Southwest Airlines, Sukiyabashi Jiro and other great brands are able to deliver a highly memorable and branded experience.

Don’t Get Me Wrong! CES could be a Good Metric

Despite my emphasis on the potential damages caused by CES in driving an effortless experience, I do totally agree with the CES creators that Customer Effort Score is a good metric when using in a service environment driving effortless service interactions.

At the beginning of this article, I said “Deploying Customer Effort Score could be destructive: use CES as a key metric for your critical touch-point experiences.” But it could be equally constructive if you apply CES in non-critical touch-point experiences.

Take, for example, a banking experience. When withdrawing cash from an ATM machine, doing a simple online transaction, or calling hotline to report loss of the credit card, customers simply need a frictionless or an effortless experience. No more, no less.

The majority, say 90% (just a ballpark figure, it varies from industry to industry, and company to company) of the interactions with a brand fall in that category: customers don’t need any significant pleasure peaks, they merely want to ‘get things done.’

Don’t get me wrong! CES could be useful: CES is the right metric for a pure service environment and the non-critical 90% touch-point experiences.

Adopt CES Blindly is a Wrong Strategy

For the remaining 10% interactions are the true differentiators of a brand – touch-point experiences that deliver their promises and drive customers to buy from them in the first place – e.g. the IKEA in-store. Unless your brand values are about effortless, faster and easier, like, McDonald’s or Seven Eleven; otherwise, CES is definitely not the right metric to use.

I understand that the customers’ bar of unacceptable levels is ever rising; customers tolerate less and less in terms of inconvenience and slow speed. Even IKEA has added shortcuts and fast lanes for checkout at some of their stores. However, slightly raising the pain points in order not to drive customers away, is entirely different from driving full force for an effortless experience. Don’t mix them up.

Strategy is about resource allocation. The effectiveness of a strategy is judged largely by the effectiveness in resource allocation. Adopting CES is not only a bad strategy – put your resource in poor use – it’s a wrong strategy. It is wrong because it delivers the opposite of what you desired: drives a disremembered experience, damages your brand loyalty, and reduces customers’ pleasures. Instead of a win-win, it becomes a lose-lose outcome for both customers and your company.

Perhaps you should ask yourself this: Why spend monies and resources to strike for an effortless experience – at the expense of a memorable experience, your brand loyalty and customers’ pleasures – just for the sake of enhancing Customer Effort Score?

My Two Cents Advice

Here is my two cents for different scenarios that you may encounter:

  • Let’s say effortless is your brand promise, then CES is a perfect metric for all your touch-point experiences, no matter critical or non-critical.
  • Given that your brand values have nothing to do with faster or easier, if you are already deploying CES, you should seriously consider narrowing down the scope to cover only the non-critical 90% interactions.
  • If your company is thinking of adopting CES as a key performance metric for the critical 10% touch-point experiences, you should pause and spare a thought for: “What are my brand promises?” before a final decision is made.
  • When your major rivals have applied full-scale CES in their CX, and their brand values are unrelated to effortless, you should do two things: open a champagne to celebrate and pray that they never get their hands on this article.

I do believe, that it’s simply a matter of time, before the sensible leaders are able to rectify their mistakes with the aid of common sense and critical thinking: to stop pursuing the flat red line and start creating a dynamic blue curve.


1. Global IKEA In-store Customer Experience Research, Global CEM, CustomerThink (U.S.) and TOTE-M (Netherlands), December 2008-February 2009.

2. An Emotion Curve is mapped by linking all the satisfaction levels of the sub-processes (touch-point experiences) and attributes that are encountered or perceived by customers and affect their emotions in a natural time sequence during a touch-point experience (total customer experience). I created the Emotion Curve in 2006. See Sampson Lee, One Cup of Coffee, 20 Experiences: Take a Tip From Starbucks (, 4 June 2006).

3. “To create a better everyday life for many people by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.” See Ingvar Kamprad, The Testament of a Furniture Dealer (Inter IKEA Systems B.V., 1976).

4. Mainland China IKEA In-store Customer Experience Research (On-site), Global CEM, December 2008-February 2009.

5. X-VOC (Voice-of-Customer @ Experience) Data are generated by customer research to obtain the satisfaction ratings and derive the importance levels of each of the sub-processes (touch-point experiences) and attributes during a touch-point experience (total customer experience).

6. Daniel Kahneman (born 1934) is an Israeli-American psychologist. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in prospect theory. The Peak-End Rule is a psychological heuristic by which people judge experiences largely based on how they felt at their peak and at their end. This heuristic was first suggested by Daniel Kahneman and others. Originally, the Peak-End Rule was applied to the evaluation of pain, see Donald A. Redelmeier and Daniel Kahneman, Patient’s Memories of Painful Medical Treatments: Real and Retrospective Evaluations of Two Minimally Invasive Procedures (Pain 66, 1996), 3-8. Later studies supported the idea that the effects found in retrospective evaluations of pain are applicable to evaluating pleasure, see, for example, Amy M. Do, Alexander V. Rupert, and George Wolford, Evaluations of Pleasurable Experiences: The Peak-End Rule (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2008, 15 (1)), 96-98.


  1. Thanks for sharing your article, Sampson.
    I love using emotional measurement as a means to understanding the customer journey in depth.
    However, I wonder if we are forgetting an important point in your analysis, that of the impact of the pain points as you call them in lost business. You mention the example of IKEA but I for one hardly ever visit it exactly because of the three pain points you mention. In the analysis you mention were results compared to non-visitors or rather past visitors who already experienced the pain points and decided they were more than the pleasure of low prices?

  2. Sampson, thanks for a great article. You make a strong case that unless brand = easy, trying to eliminate customer effort makes no sense.

    However, I don’t think “pain” is a proper way to discuss negative feelings. Here is the definition from the dictionary:

    a : usually localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder (as a disease or an injury) the pain of a twisted ankle; also : a basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus, received by naked nerve endings, characterized by physical discomfort (as pricking, throbbing, or aching), and typically leading to evasive action the pain of bee stings
    b : acute mental or emotional distress or suffering : grief
    the pain she had felt at those humiliating words — Morley Callaghan

    Southwest doesn’t offer assigned seats, but has many loyal customers because it has created a signature experience that combines affordability with engaged employees and reliable service. But standing in A/B/C lines is not pain (acute physical or emotional distress) and neither is a “forced round tour” at IKEA.

    I do take your point that without valleys, there can be no peaks. But I think you need a different term than “pain” to express the low points on CX journeys.

  3. Hi Sampson: I think that in pursuing the holy grail of reducing or eliminating customer effort in transactions, executives miss the opportunity to discover the answer to a more consequential question: how do we create a habit? And the habit, of course, is buying from me, and not from any of my competitors. Ad infinitum.

    Habit is connected to customer memory, brand loyalty, and pleasure. But it’s not the same. So if a company’s strategy involves optimizing any of these three, there’s risk of not achieving the more valuable outcome of cementing a buying habit. Ultimately, that’s what a company wants. Anecdotally, I can attest to making repeat purchases of many things that I don’t remember much about. And I don’t care one bit about the company’s ‘brand reputation.’ I just have a habit of buying the product.

    I believe the same applies to IKEA. Many customers know where the stores are located. They don’t need to look up anything on a map. They know how long it takes to park, that their shopping venture will require circuitous paths through the store before landing at their intended bookshelf or coffee table. And they know that even with the long queues, and the need to attach odd-looking doo-hickeys along with some swearing, they will end up with the desired piece of furniture in place by the end of the day.

    The problem occurs when executives subscribe to the idea that consumers will tolerate – or even seek – ‘good pain.’ It’s a slippery slope, because whenever there are annoyances, there’s the risk of getting people to stop and think, “gee, maybe there’s an easier alternative . . .” And thinking, as many psychologists will share, is the enemy of habit maintenance.

  4. Denyse

    Thank you for your comments.

    The survey respondents are the customers who have visited and purchased from IKEA before. I could understand that customers like you, who had never shopped, or just once, because you wouldn’t stand the three pain points at IKEA.

    Obviously, these pain points are falling in the unacceptable levels of certain customer segments. We’ve a 3-step approach to derive the acceptable level of the unacceptable drivers, which is built around the X-VOC Data collected from the research.

    Also, this certain segment, including you, may not be the target customers of IKEA. To IKEA, it would be good to attract and keep their target customers – who treasure ‘good value for money’ more than ‘good services’, and equally good to drive the non-target customers away and to receive no more complaint from them. That’s the characteristic and beauty of a Branded Experience, with significant Branded Pleasures and Good Pains.

    What do you think, Denyse?

  5. Bob,

    Thank you for your nice words and suggestions.

    As English is my third language (1st is Cantonese, 2nd is Mandarin), I do admit that I may not always use the most appropriate words. But this shouldn’t be an excuse; I’ll review and see if there’s any other better option than ‘pain’ to describe the valleys in a CX journey.

    Just curious: when I travel around the world to present the PIG – Pain Is Good – concept, it’s always the Americans who found it most difficult to accept ‘pain’; where it’s pretty well received elsewhere across the globe. Besides the ‘language’ issue, any other reasons that you could think of?

  6. Andy,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Let’s talk psychology. I believe, there’s a psychological agreement between customers and a brand.

    Customers will allow some ‘pain’ or ‘sweat’ only if they could receive back some pleasure that they desired.

    Customers will tolerate severe ‘pain’ or ‘sweat’ only if they could receive back some significant pleasure.

    Customers will leave you if they could find a substitute who could provide the same level of or higher pleasure peaks to them. The best way to make customers stay loyal to you is to render an unprecedented level of pleasure that no rivals and imitators could match up with. To do so, you need to put your limited resources to their best use. That’s why customers need to suffer ‘Good Pains’ to enjoy the highest ‘Branded Pleasures.’

    Customers are not stupid. They won’t suffer for nothing. They’re clear deep in their minds why keep on the suffering for years; it’s definitely not merely because of ‘habit’.

    Agree, Andy?

  7. Sampson, I can’t speak to how others view your idea of “pain” in CX, in the US or elsewhere. I’m just sharing my reaction.

    In my opinion, “pain” or “suffer” are not effective ways to communicate the low points of CX journeys. It’s well known that people seek pleasure and avoid pain. Here’s an article on this subject.

    If I don’t take the word “pain” literally, the concept of peaks and valleys makes sense. I like the concept of “signature” experiences, which I wrote about in Are You Competing on Customer Experience to Keep Up, Get Ahead, or “Leave a Dent”?

  8. Sampson, I agree with Bob. Pain is not the best word. As I mentioned I prefer to look at the emotional journey of the customer and their highs and lows. Simple but highly effective without the need for inventing new terms.
    PS I do love the idea of you going around talking about PIG though!

  9. Bob,

    Thanks for the good references.

    I suspect I might have created way too many unnecessary resistances in the past 10 years when I’ve preached my ‘Pain Is Good’ ideas to my audience. It’s time to change that; thanks Bob.

  10. Denyse, highs and lows are good too.

    My concern is to find some new terms to replace pain and even pleasure, but to keep the PIG name, as it’s easy to remember and getting popular. Any more suggestions?

  11. Hi Sampson: in the absence of research, I can’t say whether I agree with your conjecture about the psychological agreement between customers and a brand. But I don’t believe in the certainty that customers will churn if they find a better substitute (will being the operative word). Lots of people stick to using certain products not because they’re superior to the competition, but because the consumer is in the habit of buying them (see HBR’s article, Customer Loyalty is Overrated by Lafley and Martin, January, 2017).

    If I understand your comment, “customers need to suffer ‘Good Pains’ to enjoy the highest ‘Branded Pleasures,” it means that vendors need to engineer problems or pain so that customers can feel loyal . . . I’m still not clear. A clarification would help.

    I think the idea of customer tolerance for suffering was taken to a farcical extreme in Seinfeld’s memorable episode called The Soup Nazi, (see in which a mean-spirited restauranteur abuses his customers, while unfazed patrons are lined up, ready to buy. A real restauranteur and a real restaurant were the inspiration for the comedy.

    The vignette provides a great discussion opportunity for CX, loyalty, and the difficulties (pain) customers are willing to accept.

  12. Hi Andy, I should probably use ‘might’ instead of ‘will’; thank you for pointing it out.

    Maybe I should take Bob’s suggestion. Let’s swap the word ‘pain’ with ‘effort’, ‘sweat’, or ‘valley’. Then I change my sentence from “customers need to suffer ‘Good Pains’ to enjoy the highest Branded Pleasures” to “customers need to accept ‘Good Efforts/Valleys/Sweats’ (pick one that you feel less uncomfortable) to enjoy the highest Branded Pleasures.”

    Let me further clarify with the IKEA case. By allowing the three ‘valleys’, i.e. the Good Efforts/Valleys/Sweats – round tour, on-site help, and check-out – IKEA could channel these extra resources (saved resources from the DIY services, and additional sales revenues generated from the forced round tour and a long queue at check-out) to further enhance their Branded Pleasure – product pricing. Would it help?

    You said, “… I can attest to making repeat purchases of many things that I don’t remember much about. And I don’t care one bit about the company’s ‘brand reputation.’ I just have a habit of buying the product.” Would you mind to cite some examples before we continue our discussion on ‘habit’? Thanks Andy.

  13. Hi Sampson: I think making the word substitutions you have suggested is the right move, and strengthens your ideas. For better or for worse, my biz-dev experiences have made it necessary for me to think in terms of probability and likelihood. So for me, whenever I encounter concrete words such as will, definitely, guaranteed and always, they blink like neon signs. In the marketing blogosphere, these words crop up with regularity.

    In the context of human decision making, I rarely find apt use for expressions of certainty. Thanks for allowing me this semantic pickiness. You can probably guess that I’m not often invited to provide keynote addresses at annual sales meetings. “The economic outlook is promising. There’s a better than even chance that this sales organization will make its annual quota. Go team!” Honesty, I believe, still is the best policy.

    To answer your last question, I had to think hard. Fortuitously, our recurring shipment from Amazon showed up this morning, and in that box were products I regularly use, but don’t think about: Crown Prince (brand name) sardines – 48 tins; razor blades (Gillette); some sort of tuna fish in foil packets that my wife likes, but I eat occasionally if I run out of sardines. I checked the box now – the tuna is Bumble Bee brand. Good to know, I guess.

    Prior to opening the package, I could have told you its contents in generic terms (sardines, razors, tuna). But to save my life, I could not have offered the brand names, or given you meaningful information about the attributes of any of these products. They’re things I use, and getting them is drop-dead easy for me. Lots of things I use are that way. My running shoes are Saucony, but I only know this because I just bought them in January. The only thing I know about my next pair is that they will cost me less than $100, because it bugs me to pay more than that. And by the time I replace my current running shoes, I doubt I’ll remember the brand.

    Right now, I have dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent in the house. I have no idea what brand they are. When I need more, I’ll probably look at the packaging and get something that looks similar. Or the same. Whatever. With these, and other items, I could probably be considered the brand anti-junkie. I don’t spend much time thinking about them, nor am I constantly looking for something superior. The purchases have just become habit.

  14. Andy, you’re so nice to share with us your own experience, and I guess that you’re now less uncomfortable with my “Good Valley” theory.

    Let’s back to habit.

    I searched online, the common say is it takes 21 days to form a new habit: There’s no support for days = times; but by common sense, it shouldn’t be just doing something for a few times to form a habit though.

    I’m so amazed that you could think of Crown Prince sardines, Gillette razors, Bumble Bee tuna and Saucony running shoes. I could hardly identify one.

    But I’m not sure you could say buying Crown Prince sardines, Gillette razors and Bumble Bee tuna are your habits, as you didn’t mention how many times you bought them. I suspect that you couldn’t say buying Saucony running shoes one time is your habit, though buying running shoes under $100 would probably be.

    Are customers visiting IKEA again merely because of ‘habit’? It’s unlikely for a normal person. But there’re exceptions. For example: “Chinese seniors in Shanghai are picking each other up at their local Ikea”
    The elders in Shanghai just spend half or whole day at IKEA’s canteen for their social networking activities. But they are the extreme minorities in terms of ‘customer’.

    Before their habits are formed (may be not as many as 21 times, but at least more than a few), what really drives the normal mass to visit IKEA again, after they’ve experienced the three common valleys – forces round tour, inadequate on-site manpower, and the long queue at checkout?

    It won’t take much time and effort for you to buy Crown Prince sardines, Gillette razors, Bumble Bee tuna and Saucony running shoes, but it takes hours and the tolerance of valleys to finish one IKEA trip. A sensible person could feel the difference. He or she won’t re- visit IKEA again and again just like how randomly or casually you pick your razors or sardines.

    Therefore, I’d say the primary reason for customers to come back to IKEA (ignore the extreme minorities) is the pleasure peaks: price, product, product display and trial, cafeteria and ice cream – “good value for money” – the Branded Pleasures of IKEA.

    Habit is ‘definitely’ (sorry Andy, I use this word) not a decisive factor in this case.

  15. Thank you Sampson Lee. A seed has been planted in my head. Very curious to see what it will grow into.


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