I get it. Nobody wants a hard experience. Picture this supermarket visit. Three times in five minutes the product you need is out of stock. Your cortisol levels rocket. You feel under attack. You’re no longer on autopilot. You’re forced to think. This is bad news because, thanks to Daniel Kahneman, the world knows thinking is something humans don’t like doing. It’s painful to have to rethink your tea plans or nip to another supermarket – and shit! The kids need collecting in 20 minutes! If a supermarket wants to stay in business, it cannot inflict these moments on shoppers.
Now picture another visit. Everything was in stock. You were out in ten minutes and arrived at school with time for a quick Instagram. Would you remember this experience? No! It was unremarkable. It’s gone. And if a store is always unremarkable it will become invisible and steadily fade from customers’ minds. Rivals will fill the vacuum.
So why do so many companies sign up (so easily) to the pursuit of easy? A big reason is that driver analysis often shows a hassle-free experience to be central to satisfaction. Alert 1! You need to be very careful about what customers actually mean by easy. It’s not just about practical things. They also mean ease in a higher-order sense i.e. ‘Get me! Solve my problems. Help me realise my dreams.’
Alert 2! But I think the real reason companies focus on ease is it lets them hit the ‘no brainer’ button. It doesn’t require them to step into the unknown, to create something new, to do something head turning.
The quest for ‘hassle-free’ ease results in directives to ‘find and remove pain points’. In the business plan this gets described as ‘Year One: get the basics in place’. Everyone agrees to it because, whilst it might require lots of work, there are always lots of people willing to do this. And it definitely feels right to get the house in order – especially in uncertain times.
Alert 3! This plan should really be labelled ‘let’s be unremarkable, drift from consciousness and let others (like Boohoo, Greggs, Next, Pretty Little Thing) steal the limelight’. Put like this it doesn’t feel so right does it?
Alert 4! So, what’s a better weapon than ease? It’s to disrupt – to build memorable, irresistible elements into your CX. Picture a trip to your local Aldi. Whilst the prices are predictably low the constantly changing ranges hold surprises: Halloween dancing skeletons, a giant Jo Malone lookalike candle or some new vegan products. These spark ‘how do they do it?’ moments which form lasting memories.
This kind of experience is what a psychologist would describe as a state of ‘flow’. You’re not on autopilot, you’re engaged. You’ve suddenly got exciting ideas for your kids. You laugh at the sheer cheek of their copycat tactics! All this demands enough attention to make you feel something, but it doesn’t become ‘hard work’. And because you’ve felt something, you’re much more likely to remember it (it’s how our brains are wired).
This is a fine balance. Every feeling at every point of the journey must be nailed if the magic is to happen. Entrepreneurs get this instinctively. Today’s business school graduates are taught it. Others can be left flatfooted.