Friday, January 23, 2015

A Confused Customer Buys Nothing

Image courtesy of CollegeDegrees360
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem on September 25, 2014.


Are your customers confused? Do you even know what that means? And do you know what the implications of customer confusion are?

There's a marketing maxim that states:

A confused customer buys nothing.

This isn't a good thing, from a variety of angles. Think about that for a minute. And while you're doing that, let's start with defining what a "confused customer" looks like.

The following outlines how you can identify confused customers; they...
  • Can't find their way around your store or your website
  • Can't find what they are looking for
  • Find what they're looking for but don't understand product details, pricing, or discounts
  • Have an issue with your product or service and can't understand why you can't resolve it
  • Don't understand your jargon
  • Think your products can do something they can't
  • Have too many choices
  • View your brand, products, or services no differently from your competitors
  • Don't understand the difference between your product offerings
  • Have too much information, none of which is or may be relevant to the task at hand
  • Have too much or the wrong information to make a decision
  • Don't have enough information
  • See inconsistencies in the brand, brand purpose, product, services, etc. 
  • Find brand messages inconsistent with brand experiences
  • Don't understand what your brand stands for - what your purpose is
Would you add anything else to the list? Does this describe what your customers experience?

What does that mean for you? Well, just as the maxim states, confused customers won't buy anything. They won't return - at least not without a lot of effort from you and, perhaps, from their friends - and they won't recommend you either. On top of that, they develop this dissatisfaction that leaves a general bad taste in their mouths about your brand.

But wait. Why are customers confused? Yea, there are two parties to this equation! What are companies doing to create that confusion? They are...
  • Sending brand messages that are no different from their competitors'
  • Creating websites that are not clear and not easy to use
  • Making store layouts and displays convoluted
  • Developing pricing and discount strategies that require an MBA in Finance to understand
  • Imitating rather than innovating
  • Offering too many products
  • Creating line extensions that don't jive with the brand
  • Not training staff adequately to be able to answer customer questions or to address their issues
  • Speaking in jargon rather than in customer-friendly terms
  • Trying to be all things to all people; as a result, they aren't meaningful to anyone
What else are companies doing to create confusion for their customers?

What should companies be doing to eliminate any confusion to begin with? There are some basic strategies and practices that ought to be in place to avoid customer confusion. Some of them begin with their employees and their own internal messaging: clarity is required for employees to know what is expected of them, both in their roles within the company and how what they do contributes and relates to the customer experience. That means that communication is probably the most important tool in order to provide clarity of:
  • Purpose
  • Vision
  • Values
  • Brand promise
  • Goals
  • Expectations
When employees have clarity, it translates to clarity for customers, as well. Why? Because employee know-how and the employee experience drive the customer experience. They take their knowledge and clarity into everything they do, including developing brand strategies and communications, pricing and discounts, marketing messages, products, product information, websites, customer support experience, and more.

Another way that companies can reduce customer confusion is to eliminate operational and process inefficiencies. The best way to do this is to inventory touchpoints, and map the journeys that  customers take for the various tasks that they are trying to achieve, products they are trying to buy, etc., and identify where the journey breaks down. From there, fix the operational and process issues that lead to confusion and pain. Think simplicity. Think effortless. Think ease of doing business. Think process improvement.

Are your customers confused? You want them to buy, right? So, how and where can you eliminate confusion for them?

There’s nothing worse than a sharp picture of a fuzzy concept. -Ansel Adams


6 comments:

  1. There is a great book about web site design called "please don't make me think".

    It makes exactly your point. A good read for anybody involved in internet commerce.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll have to check that out. Thanks for suggesting it.

      Delete
  2. Hi Annette,
    I like the way that you have tied simplicity (from a business process perspective) into confusion (from a customers perspective). A useful way to reframe the issue.

    Adrian

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really important issue and tools like User Tester and Toluna go a long way to support the book that James refers to by Steve Krug http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Make-Me-Think-Usability/dp/0321344758

    ReplyDelete
  4. Another huge contributor to confusion is the "curse of knowledge" when we assume the customer knows what we know. Organizations and their employees often assume and even expect the customer to know as much or more about the domain or inner workings of the organization. The "curse" creates a customer experience that is not only confusing, but often leaves the customer feeling ignorant or even stupid.

    ReplyDelete