Have you ever been to a restaurant where the food was amazing but the service ruined the night? The end result is that the relationship that you established with the restaurant is damaged by the overall experience you encountered.
At the heart of every product is the way it solves a problem in the market place. It is not uncommon for Product Managers to focus their attention and resources creating or improving the ‘core’ product or service that solves these problems.
Yet it also is necessary for the Product Manager to consider the non-core product functions that expand the product from a focused solution into an overall experience that covers other non-core product functions including the sales and purchase process, the delivery process, the invoice or bill, the packaging, after sales support or customer service, the returns policy, the warranty, the website and so forth.
Thinking through all the touch points that interact with the product will ensure that you develop an exceptional product experience.
Any poor customer interaction with non-core product functions will deliver a mediocre product experience and ultimately reflect badly on the product and consequently the business. This in turn may lead to cancellation of the service, bad press, loss of revenue or increase operational costs.
What to consider during the product definition process?
Product Managers should consider the product touch points early on during the product definition process. When the core product features are being defined, ancillary services that support the core product should also be articulated by the Product Manager.
The Product Manager should communicate the customer requirements for the:
- Sales processes across the different sales channels
- Customer service standards, service channels and the types of support services offered
- Delivery process, order tracking and updates, the cost of delivery to customers
- Billing frequency, the key elements contained on the invoice
- Returns policy and any associated costs
Putting some rigour around the requirements for sales, fulfilment, billing and service before launching the product provides an opportunity for additional product differentiation especially in heavily contested markets. Good service or sales processes may be the product’s core value proposition.
Everyone knows the Zappos story. But its important to reiterate that even though the Zappos online store offers a very large selection of shoes (core product) to its customers, it also provides superb service and a very generous returns policy. Zappos’ customer service is the key differentiator in a market where brick and mortar retail giants can easily pop up websites and sell shoes online. What can’t easily be replicated is exceptional service.
In competitive, commoditised markets what was the core product, may be changing too. While Zappos make its money selling shoes and other products online, customers buy from Zappos because they solve core problems that relate to the process of buying products online well. They take the guess work out of “Will it fit?” “Can I return it if I don’t like it?” “Does it cost more to buy with you?” If these problems are solved in a way that creates an exceptional experience, strong relationships can subsequently be established with customers. And, customer loyalty is a great way to fend off competitive threats.
What should you do to develop the full product experience?
Here are some tips:
- Not only should you define the core product features during the product development process but you should include requirements for ancillary services such as those listed above. Including these requirements early on in the product development process means that you’ll be able to engage with various stakeholders to ensure that the sales, fulfillment and service components and processes are being developed in conjunction with the core product. Treat the creation of ancillary services like you would the core product.
- Test processes and procedures just like you would the product’s functionality. Check for delays, hiccups, inefficiences and pain points.
- If its a physical product, don’t leave the packaging to the last minute. Packaging is NOT only about the messaging and brand but about usability. Create a prototype. Check to see if the packaging is easy to open, close, reuse.
- When creating the product’s value proposition ensure that ancillary services also meet the promises delivered to the market.
- Get staff trained! Nothing worse than having a great product but sales don’t know the product features and benefits and service can’t provide accurate support.
- Find ways to surprise and delight your customers. Appliances Online for example not only installs your new product but takes away the packaging so you don’t have to deal with big cumbersome boxes. Apple stores swipe credit cards quickly (not part of the visa paywave service) without verification for low value purchases to speed up the sales process. Styletread, Australia’s answer to Zappos delivers shoes almost immediately to customers that live close to their warehouse.
So what other tips can you provide to create a better, more enriching product experience?