People buy experiences

October 19, 2009

I started my first post with a quote from A. G. Lafley, former CEO of P&G: “People remember experiences. They don’t remember features and benefits.” Well I have decided to make a bolder assertion:

  Businesses sell products & services but people buy experiences!

Customers might tell you they are buying your product or service when they fork over cash but what they are really purchasing is the bundle of experiences that your product or service (and more broadly your whole company) provides. Ask yourself what you were buying when you purchased your first i-pod. Wasn’t it all about instant access to thousands of songs on the go, the unmatched ease-of-use experience that all Apple products provide and the “cool” feeling you had walking down the street with that iconic white device in your hand? Or ask yourself what you were buying when you purchased a new piece of office management software for your staff. Wasn’t it all about a more efficiently functioning office, an improvement in staff morale and an improvement in your ability to monitor and track what was happening in your office?

Now if our focus is on designing a market-winning customer experience – not on the functional performance of our products or services – how do we “actionalize” that concept? The first thing is to start using customer experience language when we describe what we are trying to deliver, in particular on how we articulate the “customer requirements” (vs. product requirements or specifications) that are the foundation for the charter we give to a product or service development team.

From our original voice-of-the-customer work we came up with a simple but powerful structure for customer requirement statements that meets the need: “subject (customer) – verb/action (customer action or experience) – modifier (how we measure the performance of that action or experience)” . To demonstrate what I mean we can go back to the comments from pediatric nurses we shared in our first post and ask what are some customer requirements these folks might like satisfied to make their work life easier and less frantic. I did some brainstorming and came up with several possible customer requirements that I expressed in the subject – verb/action – modifier form:

  • Pediatric nurses (subject) can keep track of the immunization shots they have prepared (action/experience) with a minimum of errors (modifier).
  • Pediatric nurses (subject) can prepare and deliver immunization shots (action/experience) in a minimum amount of time (modifier)
  • Pediatric nurses (subject) can educate and inform patients about vaccinations (action/experience) in a minimum amount of time (modifier)

Try writing some customer requirement statements in this format yourself. It often takes a couple of attempts before you get the hang of it but once you do you’ll be surprised at how it gives you a different perspective on how to think about guiding your product development team.

One final comment before I end. Just because you brainstorm a list of customer requirements after listening to a particular customer’s comments (like the pediatric nurses above) doesn’t mean that they are the right one’s to give to a product development team. It would take a quantitative survey to do confirm their importance to a broader market space but at least now we are in a position to explore the experiences that customers are looking for. I’ll talk more about this in later posts.


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