Use Outside-In Thinking to Enhance Your Digital Customer Experience

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of sticking to the customer experience fundamentals in a digital world.

In this article, I build on that message from another angle:

Make sure that the technology experience does not annoy and disengage your customers.

Let me explain.

Outside-in decision making for success: start with your customer

We are here for one purpose: to create happy, loyal customers who want to rave to others about us.

The way to achieve this is through outside-in thinking i.e. start with an understanding of your customers and work your way back to the experience that you will create for them.

Technology puts enormous power in the hands of service providers. There are lots of examples where technology is used superbly to enhance the customer experience.  My last article demonstrated how the e-hailing company, Grab, does this.

And, there are examples of where it is not applied in the best interests of the customer.

This most often is a result of inside-out thinking, where corporate decisions on the digital customer experience have focused on the needs of the service provider rather than those of the customer.

Let me give you two examples of Inside-Out Thinking.

Inside-Out Thinking Example #1: Technology Becomes a Stalking Tool

Being a person who is concerned about dental hygiene, I floss my teeth every night. (Hey, we are getting on close terms now – I am sharing some personal stuff with you!). 

I heard about hand-held water flosser machines to replace my evening thread of floss. So, I checked a popular on-line shopping website. After spending about 15 minutes on the site checking different models, I decided not to buy one – at least for now.

And then, all of a sudden, when I was surfing the net, I found that these water flosser machines were hunting me down! They seemed to pop up my screen when I was on social media and reviewing news sites.

I felt that the company that had not sold me the water flosser was now stalking me on the internet. It was pushing water flossing machines in my face via my screen! I do not appreciate this. I feel that my privacy was being invaded.

This use of sophisticated technology like this – which enables predictive marketing – is not focused on me, and my expectations. If anything, it has put my off the offending website.

In the bricks and mortar world, pressure selling is frowned upon. Otherwise known as “hard-selling”, it involves persistently putting pressure on the customer.

My water-flossing machine experience is a form of hard-selling, enabled by technology.

I believe that this is an abuse of technology which seems to be accepted at present.

This strategy may win the company sales in the short term, but only time will tell if the tide of customer sentiment will turn against the brand on privacy grounds.  

How can companies like this use outside-in thinking to keep customers like me happy?

So, in a world of sophisticated technology like predictive marketing, how can companies think outside-in?

Customers like deals. And they like feeling that they are in control.

With this understanding, a simple strategy is to ask consumers to give permission to be contacted e.g. when there are genuine special deals.

The psychological impact on the customer of giving permission is enormous. It gives them a perception of control.

Ah, the joys of being a happy customer who has a sense of control in a digital world!

Inside-Out Thinking Example #2: Technology Becomes a Coercion Tool

I was doing some research on the internet.

I found a few interesting sites. I clicked on one site and up popped a request for me to become a subscriber.  I tried to click on the little “X” box which is internet lingo for saying, “not now”.  Nothing happened.

I clicked in the “X” again. Nothing happened.

I clicked on it again and again.

I found myself clicking harder on the poor return key on my keyboard. I started to feel mildly impatient, even annoyed.

I could not view what was on the site until I had, against my will, become a subscriber.

So, I exercised my democratic rights and left this site.

The fundamental aim of a business is to create a customer. This company tried to force me to give them my details. And, by doing so, it ended any chance of forming a relationship with me.

How can companies like this use outside-in thinking?

It starts with understanding of customers like me. They like free stuff.

Give them the opportunity to try your product or service for free. This will help you form a relationship with the customer.

Then only ask them for their commitment to subscribe or sign up once they experience the value from our product.

The New York Times uses this strategy. You can read 10 articles a month – and if you want more, you have to subscribe. Zoom, the highly successful video conferencing technology, does this. You can use the free service which comes with limitations, and then you can upgrade with a paid subscription. There are lots of great examples of outside-in thinking in thinking in the digital space.

So, here is the message.

Amid all of the shiny bells and whistles that technology provides, remember to design it to deliver a digital customer experience that has the impact of putting a smile on customers’ faces, rather than annoying them.

In a digital world, it’s more important than ever to focus on delivering an experience that empathises with the needs, wants and behaviours of your customers.

Using outside-in thinking will help you do this.

Until next time.

George Aveling is the Australian-born CEO of the Malaysian office of TMI, a global customer-experience transformation consultancy. He is CEO of two sister companies, TACK International Malaysia, a global leadership and sales training company, and Elementrix, a digital learning consultancy. TMI and TACK have offices in 45 countries of the world. Between these companies, there is an unparalleled range of intellectual property to improve individual, team and company performance. If you would like to contact George direct, feel free to email him at george@tmimalaysia.com 

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