Joe Pine’s The Experience Economy changed my life. Pine’s take on what the future of experience would be back in the 90s put me on the path I am on today. We recently had Pine as a guest on the podcast and he blew my mind again. But, this time, it wasn’t about customer experiences but customer attention.
In a recent article, Pine also describes customer time as a valuable resource for which organizations compete. Then, once you have earned it, customers evaluate how they spend time with you. Pine breaks down customer’s evaluations of time surrendered in an experience into three categories:
- Time well saved: This evaluation is likely if a customer has a frictionless, easy experience.
- Time well spent: This evaluation happens when the experience meets or exceeds customer expectations.
- Time well invested: This evaluation results from providing pertinent and valuable information during the experience that the customer can use moving forward.
Pine’s categories sparked an “aha!” moment for me. In particular, the nuances between the varieties for customers’ time struck me as critical for experience design today.
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Saving Customers’ Time is an Area of Opportunity for Many Organizations
There is a focus on customers’ time in many organizations, but it often isn’t saving them any. I often find that organizations are trying to manage how much time they spend with customers, not how much time they save customers. This area of opportunity is significant for many of the companies I work with regularly.
For example, I recently called my health insurance company and got a message that they were swamped. I thought, “what a surprise! You have been busy for the last seven years that I have had this insurance!”
Anyway, the process is to leave a message, and then someone will return your call. That way, ostensibly, the customers don’t have to wait on the line or give up their spot in the queue.
A day later, I still hadn’t heard from anybody at the company. So, that doesn’t exactly feel like I didn’t need to stay on the line and that I wouldn’t lose my spot in line. It was the opposite in reality. Plus, it belies an attitude that doesn’t put customers’ time first.
I will eventually find a new health insurance company and leave this one. When I do, the organization will likely never know it was because they didn’t value my time. The question is, would they care if they knew?
My cynicism about the motivations and concerns of organizations is developed from experience. For example, there is often a time-based metric for call center employees for how quickly they process customer calls. However, that metric doesn’t focus on customers’ time; it measures the cost per call spent on that employee’s labor expense. A far better metric that measures time well saved would be how often the time spent with a customer resulted in customers feeling happy and pleased.
Time Well Spent is All About Experience Details
The second area Pine identifies for customer evaluations is near and dear to his heart. Many of the experiences Pine studies are like going to a theme park or shopping at a mall. (By contrast, one of my clients was a water utility in the UK; a different kettle of fish as far as experiences go.)
Time well spent is a measure of experiential details. Many organizations that deliver experiences are outstanding at these details. For example, The Geek Squad, a computer repair and tech service did an excellent job of making the experience time well spent for customers. How the “geeks” dressed and what they drove all played into the idea that they were computer geeks and were part of a first-responder force for tech problems, like a police force. This idea manifested in dressing the employees in specific geek costumes and having them drive old-fashioned black and white police cars to the gig. The geeks even had badges.
My point is that the geek squad not only handled your tech problems for you (as advertised), but they did so with the flair of theater to it. Pine’s point is that adding this layer of the theatrical elevates the basic service and delivers an experience that customers consider time well spent. In addition, the entertainment factor increased the benefits of the experience for customers.
Time Well Invested Means it Will Pay Off in the Future.
There are many things we do that have long-term effects that require an investment in time in the short term. For example, education is one area where you invest time in the present to leverage that knowledge for some return in the future.
Therefore, if you provide an experience that requires a lot of customer time, you should consider whether this will pay off for them in the future. If it doesn’t, you are probably wasting their time, which doesn’t get a good evaluation for time well-invested.
In many ways, asking for people’s time is a much bigger deal than most organizations consider. People don’t get any more time. Therefore, when they give it to you, it’s incumbent upon you to make it worth their while.
So, What Should You Do With This Information?
Organizations are in a battle for customer attention. First, they create their offerings and then wrap them in these experiences to provide something to customers. Customers, for their part, then evaluate these experiences and decide whether it satisfies them in these three categories. Therefore, organizations should always ask themselves if they are saving customers’ time, providing an experience that is well spent, and if they require an investment of customers’ time and attention, can customers leverage that for a gain in the future?
For my part, organizations aren’t thinking about the battle for customer attention enough and are certainly not measuring it by these metrics. However, customers are measuring by those metrics, and the evaluation will be negative if they don’t feel good about how their time was used, spent, or invested.
If you have a business problem that you would like some help with, contact me on LinkedIn or submit your pickle here. We would be glad to hear from you and help you with your challenges.