Customer experience: Ubers, burgers and the peril of turning into your dad

Awesome CX. Average experience.

Everyone’s talking CX right now. It’s the latest next big thing in marketing and it’s all about making it easier for people to buy stuff. Done well, it really works. But my challenge to customer experience (that’s the long version of CX if you don’t mind long words) is that sometimes the people get swallowed in the process and the net result is ‘meh’.

Here’s three examples from yesterday – a cab ride, a burger and an accounting kerfuffle.

Grabbing an Uber.

Due to extraordinary user-error in the choosing of relevant buses, I yesterday found myself 20 minutes from a meeting with 10 minutes to go. Usually, I’d order a cab. But given my location, I knew that any cab would be at least 15 minutes away. So I used Uber.

I’ve never used Uber. There’s a bunch of reasons why, not least of all my dinosaur status. But I’ve heard they’re pretty efficient. So I opened the app, dropped in some details and a fairly ripe Prius with a fairly dishevelled driver was at the curb in less than two minutes.

Awesome. He took me where I wanted to go. Awesome. I didn’t need to tell him where to go, I didn’t need to pay him, I didn’t need to talk to the human at all. Less awesome.

In design they talk of function and form. And the function of the service over-delivered my expectations by a margin. But it’s the fluffy stuff that gives you the feels and I got out feeling processed. Most likely my preconceived misgivings about Uber in general. Chalk it up to being a dinosaur.

Buying a burger.

In the evening I bought burgers for the family. Two cheese, one chicken and a vege burger. There’s a new joint in town and apparently, it’s all the rage. So I dialled up their website and got set to place an order. Awesome website. Clean, simple, intuitive, easy. Win.

What I couldn’t find was a button to say “no salad thanks”. The kids won’t eat anything but meat, cheese and bread. Couldn’t work it out. Not to worry, I thought, I’ll pop down and order with a human. That’ll be easy, right? Wrong.

This fancy new burger joint has iPads on entry for people to place their order. Bugger. I looked up to try and catch the eye of one of the six people cooking and bagging people’s dinners. No dice. What now?

I placed the order, got my fancy order-token and wandered over to the woman putting burgers in bags. “Excuse me,” I said. “Order number 29, there’s two cheeseburgers in there, please can you leave out the salad?”

“No,” she said. Pause. “It’s our policy,” she said. “No custom burgers”. “But, it’s just the salad,” I said, somewhat confused, “the kids won’t eat it so I’d rather not have it.”

“Just take it out,” she said. And so we did.

And that was the Uber of burger joints. Great, simple system, uber-efficient process and no humanity at all. Processed.

Fixing a stuff up.

I had one other notable customer moment yesterday. Our IT guys had stuffed up their accounting system and underbilled us for six months. They sent a charming email, outlining their “screw up” (their language) and what we needed to do next. No worries. Sorted.

I didn’t talk to a human anywhere in that process, but I felt like I had. Just like burgers and Ubers it was a simple problem/solution journey – but somehow it felt more human.

Thinking CX before doing CX.

In my old-fashioned view of the world, customer experience should be all about the expert delivery of experiences to customers. The most important part of that puzzle is people. I’m not a customer, I’m Michael. My kids don’t like lettuce and I love a good yarn with a cabbie.

I get that technology drives efficiency and efficiency drives profit. But it’s people who pay the bills. Maybe the next big thing after CX with be HX. That’s Human Experience if you like longer words. Or maybe I’m just getting old and turning into my dad.

That’s what I reckon, what do you think?

  • Michael Goldthorpe is the founder and managing partner at Hunch.

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