The ten principles behind great customer experiences (Matt Wilkinson)

Book review: A few good ideas on an important topic, which falls short in part because of the very hubris it criticizes. An honest and more useful title would be: “Some ideas for better customer experiences”. It’s mercifully a light read, the introduction chapters make some interesting points (for instance that companies depend on appeasing the financial god’s short term requirements which is putting their long term viability in jeopardy) although clearly on shaky ground when talking about economic history.

The ideas ranked by usefulness:

“Great customer experiences satisfy our higher objectives.” A more useful way of putting it: we need to keep an eye on what our customers are actually looking for (which they may not be expressing correctly as they’re not product experts) and what they actually value and are prepared to pay for; so we’re talking about core, not necessarily higher, objectives. Marketing has long known this (at least anyone who read Theodore Levitt’s Marketing Myopia) but companies have drifted farther and farther away.

“Great customer experiences set and meet expectations”. Indeed.

“Great customer experiences are effortless / stress free”. This can be understood as the equivalent of good industrial design: if it’s good the customer won’t notice it; which doesn’t mean it will be effortless and stress free for those designing the better experience.

“Great customer experiences strongly reflect the customer’s identity / are socially engaging / consider the emotions”. Our customer’s reasons for buying our product have social and psychological components which we need to take into account; particularly when our customers are interacting among themselves on the web; old style advertising knows this but the noise it generates is widely ignored by consumers, we now have the opportunity to respond, attract, seduce, cut through the noise, instead of throwing mud at our customers.

“Great customer experiences put the customer in control”. A more useful idea is that great customer experiences take into account that the customer already has more control.

So that’s four nice ideas for the price of seven. Now to the not so useful “principles”:

“Great customer experiences leave nothing to chance”. The problem is the customer experience then becomes a huge, never ending inward looking project; companies need to choose where to invest to improve their customer’s experience the most.

“Great customer experiences indulge the senses”. This sounds like smell-o-vision and design frippery: good design makes the experience more productive, easier, gets out of the way; we want to help, not to wow with clever design.


Francis Urquhart vs Frank Underwood

Or the emperor vs one angry ewok with a drawl.

Francis Urquihart

The real Francis. Via

On the one hand power, certainty, control, fear, tradition, deep cynicism sprinkled with lovely croutons of irony. How he enjoys power. He will flay you with his eyes.

On the other hand a tired sludge plumber, busy rewriting bills, a tourist in his own life. How he suffers power. You can’t but feel sorry for his banality.

Frank Underwood

The sludge plumber. Could we swing by the ribs place? Via

The US / sanitized version misses the point entirely, as expected. Opportunities missed:

  • Looking at Joe Viewer in the eye and showing him how he created this Washington monster: yes, they all fake the accent, yes they all sport a toupée, yes they’re all for sale, and it’s all thanks to you. The ivy league WASP with a fake texas accent; as opposed to the tired cliché of the poor upstart with a grudge.
  • Showing the might of US power, its antagonism with the gosh shucks version.



Les jours noirs d’un quotidien (Libération)

Libération employees vs stockholders (via management). Beyond the usual problems for newspapers there seems to be another issue: stockholders are “the enemy” as they represent “capitalism” (the bogeyman in France, as “socialism” is the bogeyman in the US)… Which loses sight of who the actual audience is: readers willing to pay vs journalists’ circle of friends and family (Paris centric? Artistic left?)…

Stockholders’ proposal sounds decidedly new age and vacuous, but would anything appease the staff, beyond entirely subsidized artistic lifestyles?

And this is with state subsidies for French press, so all taxpayers pay whether they actually read any of these titles or not.