Stop offering everything (and why this is far from customer-centricity)

Dominique
3ap — as agile as possible
6 min readAug 18, 2021

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Have you ever noticed how many ways a customer can contact a company these days? Phone, email, contact form, live-chat, Whats-app, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the list goes on and on. The world was somehow simpler when the only way to contact a company was to call or email them, huh?

Nowadays, it is commonly known that customer-centricity makes companies more successful. From this, the demand for round-the-clock reachability for companies grew. Since the variety of media has exploded, it stands to reason that businesses want to be available on all these channels, right?

Wrong! Let me explain why.

You are letting your customers down

Every channel you offer raises customer expectations. Expectations they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Raising expectations and then not fulfilling them is a bad idea.

Socrates had figured this out centuries ago when he said: “Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly.”

Let me give you an example to explain this:

Recently, I was on a website looking for a birthday gift for a friend. Unfortunately, the desired product was out of stock. The date when the product will be available again was a date six months in the past! In addition, I had one or two questions regarding the combinability of accessories. It was not a large web store, but rather a smaller, specialized store. On the website, I was offered a chat function. I was positively surprised. Cool, I thought, then I can have my questions answered quickly without having to write an email first. But the disappointment was not long in coming.

When I formulated my request, I got the feedback that unfortunately no employee was available and I should leave my mail address, so that someone can contact me by e-mail. My Customer Experience curiosity was aroused. I made several attempts within the office opening hours. Each time with the same result. I am therefore relatively sure that this company sends this feedback on every chat contact.

So what happened? I do not expect per se a possibility to have my questions answered instantly. If it was that urgent, I would just pick up the phone and call. But the possibility was offered. It was only this that created the expectation that I could get a quick and straightforward answer. So an expectation that would never have been there in the first place — if it had not been aroused by the company beforehand — was not fulfilled. It turned out to be a type of customer experience that every customer-centric would like to prevent.

Manage their expectations!

A better alternative would be to think carefully about who the target groups actually are and what their expectations are. And then, based on that, decide what to offer — and also what not to offer. But not all expectations are equally important. I like to use the Kano model to help us here.

The Kano model distinguishes between Threshold Attributes, Performance Attributes and Excitement Attributes.

Make sure you know and meet the hygiene factors

Threshold Attributes are like hygiene factors. These are so self-evident that you wouldn’t even express them. You won’t win any prizes with them. At best, they lead to massive dissatisfaction if they are not met. The simplest example is that the coffee you order is hot. This is so self-evident, you would never think of mentioning it explicitly. But it better not be cold!

Compare yourself with others but know and emphasize your strengths

Performance Attributes are requirements for a product that a customer can consciously formulate. They can be fulfilled poorly to very well. Using the example of the coffee ordered, this is comparable to the quality of the coffee, the taste. A customer usually expects to get a tasty coffee.

The problem with Performance Attributes is that they have to constantly measure themselves against the competition and even completely foreign offers. The quote from IBM’s GBS leader Bridget van Kranlingen speaks volumes here: “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.”

But don’t worry, it doesn’t come down to being the best at everything. Only where you differentiate yourself. Your customers don’t expect the same from all companies. They are able to differentiate. So be clear about what your USP is and what experience you want to offer your customers throughout the entire journey. And then decide what is the minimum you need to achieve that.

Don’t ask your customers what you could excite them with

Last but not least, there are the Excitement Attributes. They are the ones with which you truly excite your customers. It is what is not expected, but totally positively surprises when it is there. If the store had really offered the chat function, it would have definitely been an Excitement Attribute at that moment. Or again, using the example of coffee: the extremely delicious sweet that is also on the tablet, or the lovingly decorated foam on the coffee has the potential to excite the customer.

While we constantly tout asking customers what they like instead of just making assumptions, we deviate from that statement for Excitement Attributes. Customers will rarely be able to tell you what to excite them with. From the moment they can, the expectation becomes the Performance Attribute. So here it’s all about anticipating, recognizing trends, and creating moments of surprise.

Here comes another but: Be aware that something that triggers excitement today will become a Performance Attribute tomorrow and a Threshold Attribute the day after. So no time to rest on your laurels.

Go for less and be really good at what you offer

To make a long story short: Rather than just offering everything, choose wisely what you really want to offer your customers. Go for less and be really good at what you do. Customers will thank you with the most priceless gift: a recommendation.

Sometimes an external view helps a ton to question one’s status quo. An external view can be neutral and direct, which is not always easy to get internally.

We are happy to support you here: In just one day together we can achieve a lot for you and your product! Just SayHi@3ap.ch and we will be thrilled to get in touch with you :)

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