Key takeaways

  • Customer experience should be intuitive and simple at every point of the customer journey.
  • Bad design can lead to customers creating workarounds, going elsewhere or rejecting your business model entirely.
  • A great experience should make life easier, be delightful and take into account changes in technology and user preferences.

The path of least resistance. We see evidence of it everywhere. Ever cut the corner across a foot-worn dirt path in the grass to save a few metres taking the concrete one?

The preference for humans to seek out the easiest route, also known as the principle of least effort, is well studied in business. Indeed, there are multiple ways in which companies can use this theory to positively influence customer behaviour, and, conversely many ways in which ignoring it can lead to a bad customer experience.

Sometimes change is sparked by the unexpected. Here are four unique examples to get you thinking about your own products and services.

Silent
songs

In August last year a very peculiar track climbed up the iTunes charts. Called ‘A a a a a Very Good Song’, running ten minutes in length and costing US$0.99, it was a runaway hit. The tweet launching it garnered almost 17,000 likes and over 5000 retweets¹.

The ‘song’ is completely silent.

Yes, this piece of audio genius is ten minutes of nothing. Why then would it resonate so much that within days of release it had risen into the top fifty?

It turns out, as many of you probably are well aware, that when an iPhone connects to many car stereos they will automatically play the first song in your playlist. Depending on how many times you get in the car, very quickly Are you lonesome tonight?, American Pie or Bon Jovi anthem Always become a bit too much to bear.

By having a silent song at the top of a playlist there will be ten minutes of blessed silence in which to choose the song or playlist the driver actually wants to listen to.

Ingenious sure, but certainly annoying for your customers who must create their own workarounds to fix bad design.

Contactless
charity

As consumers, most of us can recite a story about how a particular brand, service or product has made our lives difficult. When these things are easy, of course, we’re less likely to notice their presence, but that in itself can have a huge impact.

The Natural History Museum in London found this out after installing tap-and-go contactless donation boxes from startup GoodBox. In a matter of months, donations to the museum rose 20%².

As society goes cashless, preferring the ease of carrying a debit or credit card to jangling pockets of loose change, businesses that rely on charity to keep them going are potentially losing out. UK Finance estimated that in the last year alone charities had lost out on UK£160 million in change.

In response to such trends many organisations are implementing digital donation boxes, including ways to ‘tap’ and pay on the jackets of the homeless³ and even dogs4. In Australia, Surf Life Saving Queensland used mobile pay facilities for automatic AU$2 donations in its 2017 SOS donation drive5.

Not only are people happy to pay via these methods, some trials have found that they’re more likely to give more than they would in coins6.

Latte
love

In 2016 Starbucks introduced its Mobile Order & Pay app7 allowing customers to order their coffee before getting to the store, eliminating the need to queue. Such was its success that 10% of total orders were made via the app in the last quarter of 2017, despite only being available to the rewards program members8.

In October, the company revealed its My Barista chatbot to further foster an easy customer experience. A coffee-deprived human can now message or simply ask, via Amazon’s Alexa, to reorder their morning caffeine hit as they head to the store.

A boon for those not wanting to skim through the app to find the ingredients for a double ristretto venti half-soy nonfat decaf organic chocolate brownie iced vanilla double-shot gingerbread frappuccino extra hot with foam whipped cream upside down double blended, one Sweet’N Low and one Nutrasweet, with ice. (Editor’s note: the internet says this is the longest drink one can order at Starbucks, so it must be true).

The popularity of the app (ie: fulfillment of what customers want) has actually been so convenient for customers that Starbucks is now experiencing a second problem – lines of people waiting in the shop to pick up their beverage9.

As problems go, there are worse ones to have.

Phone
phatigue

Mobile phone use provides another example of where users are tired of the experience providers are giving them.

According to a UK estimate by market research firm GfK, SIM-only contracts now make up 29% of the UK phone market10. Another report, this time by CCS Insight, believes that by 2021, SIM-only penetration will be up to 54%11.

Similar trends can be seen in countries around the world12 as consumers reject the business model mobile phone operators have relied on – financing handsets in return for years-long contracts that promise easy upgrades to ever-newer phones.

Turns out, it’s easier, and often cheaper, to keep your phone for more than two years.

Easy
customer experience

The above examples illustrate the importance of an easy customer experience as well as underlying an important point: ease is relative to time. What was easy yesterday is not necessarily easy today and keeping up will help keep your customers.

Consumers who have a positive and effortless experience are more likely to come back. Think about all the interaction points along your customer journey: initial contact, selecting items, buying products, delivery, giving feedback and your returns process. Are they frictionless? Could they be?

Make sure the path of least resistance leads customers straight to your door.