Thinking about your customers/users in everything you do

By November 4, 2011 February 27th, 2016 General

Whether it’s a user manual for your new product, or the layout of your new brick and mortar store, you need to be thinking about the customer/user experience in everything you do. When done right you will seldom receive feedback but when done incorrectly, customers will be sure to let you know and you may lose out on repeat business. Consider my recent experience at a gas station.

There’s this chain of gas stations I usually avoid because their product branding is confusing. However the other day the price per litre was right and the station was on a convenient corner, so I filled up there.

The main reason I don’t usually go there is because I don’t like how they brand their fuels – it requires me to think too much. The standard is to label gas by its octane value – 87, 89 etc. However this brand labels their grades as bronze, silver and gold (presumably there is a platinum grade as well). What this chain has failed to realize is that most users don’t want to translate creative names into octane values, as simple as this may seem.

After accepting this hurdle I was then confronted with further confusion. You see, most gas pumps can be operated in two to three steps: insert and remove your credit card, (optionally) insert and remove your rewards card and finally, select your grade and start filling up.

However this station’s pump made things complicated by introducing an additional step. After removing my rewards card, the pump then asked me if I wanted to fill up. In my vegetative state I did not stop to think about the consequences of selecting yes versus no, so I selected no even though I really was there to fill up. The pump then forced me to specify the exact amount of gas I wanted to purchase. After realizing I should have put more thought into answering this critical question, I decided that the “fill up” option was what I should have chosen, so I proceeded to press cancel in hopes that I would be forgiven and allowed another try. I was then left in limbo with a message saying that the transaction had been cancelled, which remained on the screen for an eternity. Whilst waiting for something to happen, I sat there wondering if I had crashed the system or if my credit card would be used by the next user if I decided to leave at this point. Just before I jumped back in my vehicle, the system came alive again and seemed to return to its initial, pre-transaction state. I had been forgiven and was allowed a second try.

There are lessons for this gas station chain to learn. First, their pump should have followed the standard “expected” user experience and the branding of their products should have followed the industry standard of specifying octane grades. Second, they should have realized that people enter a vegetative state when filling up, and—if anything—are thinking more about their wallets being emptied than the consequences of making a wrong selection. Third, they should have allowed the user to step backwards in the workflow without having to redo the whole process. And finally, their system should have provided responsive and informative feedback at every step.

So that is why I don’t buy this brand of gas. Petty? Maybe. But the real lesson here is that had they thought more about the end user’s experience, they would have had a repeat customer. So hopefully this short story (err… rant) will get you thinking more about your customers in everything you do.

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