Success can be a two-sided coin.
In business, we should always celebrate our successes. We should all find happiness and take comfort in classic, somewhat irrefutable, business metrics, like returning a healthy net profit, growing sales and customer loyalty, to name a few. But there are anecdotal success measures most people repeat that, while they directionally point to good things, should also have you start asking whether they actually are signs of a problem. Let’s look at three of the most common.
There’s a line out the door!
We have all seen it. We have all said it. “That place is so great; there’s always a line out the door!” Is that a sign of success? Sure. For the most part. But it’s also a sign that there are potential improvements to be made in operations, service design or customer experience. I should add here that this is not meant to solely reference restaurants or retail. The idea can easily be seen as an analog to a situation like a general manager of a manufacturing business bragging, “Things are going so great, we can’t fill the orders fast enough.”
In either of these scenarios, despite the feeling of success, it’s likely that the business is, at best, leaving money on the table and, at worst, potentially creating a bad customer experience along the way. So, what should you look at if you experience this kind of success?
First, look at your asset turnover ratio. In other words, are you earning more revenue per dollar invested in the business today than you were before there was the proverbial line out the door? If so, success! If not, move on to step two—look for where you might have scale-related bottlenecks emerging. Does the additional throughput (people in line or orders entering the system) make each individual transaction less time- or resource-efficient? Can you simply not fit the resources you need to process those transactions into your current physical plant? Do your servers bog down due to too many simultaneous requests? Is your fulfillment staff simply overwhelmed? Of course, there may be traditional fixes like expanding the number or size of your locations/physical plant, hiring more staff or building up your technology infrastructure.
But it may be time to start asking a more foundational question, “Does my business have to work this way?” Can you change the layout of your physical location to improve flow? Can you imagine a service model that could increase your asset turnover ratio without any further investment in space or technology?
No one is complaining.
As noted Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde famously said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Another way to phrase that might be, “The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference.” Whether you’re running a retail operation, managing employees in a professional services firm or anything in between, if you find yourself in an environment where there are no complaints, it’s not usually because everything is perfect as it is. So, why the silence?
First, customers or employees may not be complaining because you might not be offering a safe, convenient or simple way to provide feedback. If the process feels too onerous, or if they feel like their complaints will be met with derision or indifference, there is little incentive to speak up. Second, and worse yet, it may simply be that your audience has become indifferent to your offering. So how do you know and what can you do about it?
In our experience, this is why every business should invest in ongoing customer-focused research. Understanding how customers (or employees) feel about their interactions with the company creates a better understanding of what’s happening today as well as a foundation of understanding upon which to innovate.
For example, you could develop a customer journey map that documents the touchpoints of your customer (or employee) experience as it currently stands. Done right, it shows how well, and how easily, your customers (or employees) are currently achieving their desired goals. And if they’re not, why not.
Outline (based on research, analytics, experience and expertise) what the customer is thinking, feeling and doing at each moment of interaction. Try to define how the level of satisfaction and happiness, or friction and frustration, fluctuate within the journey. Basically, identify low points, high points, joyful moments and trouble spots throughout the experience.
Only then can you truly know where and how to apply resources and innovate around your experience to transform indifference into engagement. Ironically, you’ll likely see complaints increase—along with accolades—as people become increasingly passionate about the experience you offer.
People spend a lot of time on your site.
If engagement with your web experience is good, more engagement is better, right? Well, maybe. Looking back to the “line out the door” section of this post, if increased time on your site correlates with increased transaction value, then, once again, success! But if the correlation is neutral or negative, it may be time to reevaluate the experience design. How would you start?
First, scour your analytics. Find out if (or where) the experience may be stifling visitors or impeding conversions. You’ll want to look for signs that people are stalled, confused or overwhelmed by choices. Do a significant amount of visitors spend time filling a cart, then abandon without transacting? Do they go through a process of gathering information but fail to download?
For a more literal understanding of those behaviors, you can also use tools like CrazyEgg and Lucky Orange. CrazyEgg provides heat maps that let you visually assess where visitors are engaging and for how long. Lucky Orange lets you actually watch recordings of visitor behaviors. For example, if you received a form fill, and you wanted to better understand that visitor’s journey from initial landing on the site to filling out the form, Lucky Orange will actually let you go back, DVR style, and watch their session. These tools can build a story about your visitors and what they’re really accomplishing, or not. Once you know that story, it should be easier, if not obvious, what interactions need to be redesigned or re-concepted altogether.
The best of times is the best time to innovate.
Everything we talked about in this article falls into the category of good problems to have. But as any innovator can tell you, the most fruitful place to start on any transformative innovation project is by looking at the best-in-class solution and asking, “Could this work better?”