links for 10 June 2006

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I just updated my blog with the WordPress Feedburner Plugin so that everyone should be directed to the Feedburner feed now, and not one a multitude of possible feeds. I think it’s working ok, but if you have any trouble with it, can you leave me a note and let me know pls? thanks!

The ingredients of Good Experience

New York Hairdresser

I’ve been fortunate enough, in the past week, to be the recipient of excellent user experience in the ‘real world’. It’s got me to thinking – are there some key ingredients that constitute a good experience and how might they translate into work we do online?

It all started last Thursday night when I braved the cold, wet weather (no, I’m not in London yet… Sydney is just doing a good job of preparing me for it!) and headed out to visit my hairdresser for the last time. (*sob*)

A client/hairdresser relationship is an exercise in extreme user experience. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who is ambivalent about her hairdresser. She has either found one she *loves* or she’s on the hunt for one to love. It’s a trust thing.

Of course, the number one criteria that a hairdresser must meet is that they must be able to do hair in a way that pleases the client. (It’s important to note that this does not necessarily mean that they do hair well, or tastefully… that’s all too subjective, and people want to do some crazy stuff with their hair).

I like how my hairdresser does my hair. He knows that I don’t spend much time maintaining it, so makes sure it pretty much does itself in the morning. I know he’s good at his job, so I don’t tell him what I want, I ask him what he thinks I should do.

He’s earned my trust by plying his trade well, but he does even more than that.

My hairdresser makes me feel like I’m a really valued customer. He does this in a couple of key ways. Firstly, when I’m there, he looks after me (and I should say, it’s not just him, it’s his entire team, they’re all great). He makes sure I’m comfortable, that I have a drink (wine? champagne? a coffee? what would you prefer?), he has good magazines, he checks in on me regularly when I’m waiting for my colour to do whatever it does in that 20 minutes.

The thing that really astounds me though is that he remembers me. He remembers little details of our conversation from six weeks before, and what’s going on in my life. If I was going on holidays between appointments, how my work was going last time. He remembers my husband’s name and where I live. (does this sound creepy? I can imagine how it might sound creepy, but as part of the ‘user experience’ it’s great!).

This is what I’ve learned this week. The essential ingredients of good experience: do what you do do well, boy (I can’t resist a country music reference), and show me that you care about me (and a musical theatre reference… these ingredients are now officially unforgettable, by me, at least!)

Do what you do do well, boy.

To get real customer love, you need to do whatever you do brilliantly. You can’t just do the job. Good enough is not good enough. You need to sparkle. You need to impress. And you need to make it look easy (for you, and for the customer/user).

Show me (that you care about me)

What makes the different between people who are really good at their work and people who create amazing user experiences is caring (or, at least, being very good at creating the perception of caring). Things like the glass of wine, the regular checking in to see that I’m ok, remembering conversations… (or whatever equivalents work in the situation you’re thinking of now) all of these things combine to make a customer feel really valued. Customers like that. They keep coming back and they tell their friends. All of this is very good for business.

When I went shopping for a camera the other week, I went to a few different shops.

  1. Big name store. The guy who served me really seemed to want to look after me. He offered me a $30 discount on an external hard drive I was going to buy with out me even asking. Unfortunately, he didn’t know much about cameras… except the one he’d bought 4yrs ago and had at home.
  2. Specialist camera store. Knew lots about cameras. Really didn’t want to spend time with me.
  3. Music discount store that I didn’t even know sold cameras. Knew *lots* about cameras. Really looked after me – both pricewise, and also answering all my annoying questions, asking lots of questions of me so that he really understood what I needed (and compared that to what I thought I wanted).

Guess where I bought my camera.

What does this mean for a ‘digital’ user experience?

Good enough isn’t good enough. You need to make the user experience ‘sparkle’. Spend time on the details, really think it through. Talk to your users and understand them. Test your work and refine it. Make it purr.


Find ways that you can ‘look after’ your customers. How can you do the equivalent to the glass of wine, the checking to see that your user is doing ok, the remembering of past conversations. But, don’t take this too literally! Every project will have very different opportunities to better look after users. We need to remember though that every ‘statistic’ that interacts with our interface is like a customer on a chair in a salon. We have the opportunity to make their experience with us amazing, or we can give them the Price Cuts equivalent. I know what I aspire to.

So, and if you’re in Sydney and looking for my favourite hairdresser, get yourself to Phillip Gallo on Crown St. His website is a bit dodgy, but his customer experience (and his hair cuts) are fabulous.

Anyone got a good recommendation for a haircut in London?

And I got my camera(s) from JB HiFi. (Who knew they sold cameras?!)
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