User Experience Margin

How much is User Experience worth? Would you be willing to pay a bit more for a product if you also knew you’d get a better experience? I’ve had to answer these questions lately and based on personal experience, my answer is definitely yes.

A couple of weeks ago we had some new countertops and tile work installed in our kitchen. We worked with a local, family-owned remodeling company. Throughout the planning and selection phase, we had a great experience with them and were confident we chose the right company to do the job.

And then they started the work.

What was supposed to take one day lasted for a full week plus a couple of follow-up repair visits. There were several “snags” throughout the process – at one point the owner even paid us a visit to smooth things over. Most of these “snags” were made worse by a severe lack of communication.

The project is complete now and we are very pleased with the results. So, it started out really well and ended really well. But that time in between made for one of the worst, most stressful weeks we’ve had in a long time.

I had a long conversation with the project manager there yesterday about our experience. He apologized, but it was an excuse-ridden apology. His excuse for lack of communication was that he was the only one that did all of the planning, scheduling, calling, etc and that that was one way they were able to keep costs down.

To me, that excuse is bunk. I would have happily paid more – how much more, I’m not sure – for our kitchen remodeling project if I could have guaranteed the same great results plus an excellent customer experience. Offering low prices is not an excuse to neglect customer experience. If that’s part of your strategy, you better pray that your prices are super low – low enough to offset bad experience.

Convenience, flexibility, communication, service – those are all important aspects of good user/customer experience. How much more are those things worth?

I believe a positive user/customer experience should be assumed. It should come free as part of your overall package – not as a line-item on an invoice.

I welcome your thoughts.

5 Comments

  1. Tanner says:

    It seems that quite a few companies don’t see the point of adding that extra bit of “care” to their service.

    Fortunately there are companies that DO go that extra mile to make the customer experience part of their overall business plan, and the results are huge. Look at Zappos, for example. The entire Zappos business is modeled around customer service, and business is booming for them.

    Another part of the equation here is with the customer. Ask around, do your research before-hand, read reviews online, and get a grasp for customer service before you hire – when possible.

  2. Steve Brewer says:

    It costs a lot of money to provide better customer experience. You can’t make it go away by bundling it in, and most things are very price-sensitive.

    I buy a lot of stuff from Nordstroms these days; but I didn’t 10 years ago. In fact, 10 years ago, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would shop there, it was so expensive; I could get the same thing for $30 cheaper somewhere else. 10 years ago, the experience wasn’t worth it to me, today it is.

  3. Steve Brewer says:

    I should add – great service is a luxury. There is nothing wrong with making it a priority, and nothing wrong with focusing on price.

  4. chuck says:

    Steve, thanks for the comments. I agree that different people have a different threshold for how much they are willing to spend extra for a great experience. Sometimes its worth it, sometimes it isn’t.

    What I disagree with is the premise that it costs a lot of money to provide better customer experience. For example, in my kitchen remodeling scenario, our experience could have been definitively upgraded by a few phone calls. That wouldn’t have cost the company any more money.

    And to think of it another way – how much money are you losing because you’re not “investing” in providing a quality experience?

  5. Steve Brewer says:

    Customer Support is valuable and scarce skill set, just like web design, or web development, or brain surgery. Hiring employees that ‘get it’ is hard; and you have to pay them more.

    As an individual, you’re or absolutely right – learn to provide great service to your customers, you can do a lot without extra time and expense. This will set you apart from everyone else.

    As a business owner, it takes energy, expense, and effort to provide better support.