The CX-Files: Avoid own hype; put yourself in customers’ shoes

By September 21, 2018 No Comments

As one who lives and breathes industry disruption, it’s no surprise that I watch ‘TV’ on Netflix or the local version, Showmax. Why only wait for scheduled programmes or rent DVDs when so much great content is available online? One such show that I really enjoy makes a particularly poignant point for the business world: Be careful of buying into your own hype.

If you’ve watched Silicon Valley, you’ll recognise this cringeworthy scene. For those who haven’t, you’ll relate anyway.

After many days and nights developing its tech product, Pied Piper — a sophisticated compression application built by protagonist Richard Hendricks (who is loosely based on Mark Zuckerberg) and his cobbled-together team — it thinks it’s ready to take its product to market, leaving Hooli, the incumbent industry giant, in its wake. The product would blow people’s minds, it says. Investors will wait in line to fund them, it says.

And so, when Pied Piper goes live, the signups are, well, dead. Unexpectedly flat-lining except for a few glimmers of hope that are short-lived. Despite the significant anticipation of a runaway success, Pied Piper doesn’t enjoy the consumer attention that the team anticipated.

What we can learn from Richard

As a customer experience (CX) practitioner, I advise both the Hoolis and the Pied Pipers of the world to always remember the customer, and build products or services around their needs, not the company’s own. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, across sectors, being too confident can come back and bite. Why? Because customers don’t care how hard you worked to create your product, or what profit it yields for shareholders. They just want a value proposition that meets their needs, a seamless experience, support if something goes wrong, or all three of these things.

Now, let’s retell the Pied Piper story with the customer at the centre. Firstly, Richard wouldn’t have only asked his techy buddies to hack, test and feedback on the product. He’d have gotten a room full of actual people together to see what they understood or didn’t. (Disclosure: Richard did do this later on in the show). The layperson’s take on the product may have revealed insights that the team hadn’t been aware of or was too narcissistic to see.

Leave the ego at home and put yourself in your customers’ shoes

While it makes for a funny premise for a comedy show, a failed launch is far from amusing in reality. Too many businesses, as well as their marketing managers and agencies, fall into the trap of designing customer experiences with their blinders on. When creating a product, service or campaign to appeal to a market entirely different from themselves, creatives and developers need to leave their likes and dislikes at home and make an effort to truly understand the end-user of their products. At the end of the day, the customer will make or break a business, so they should be the first point of contact to research and engage.

Fortunately, things can turn around, but only if businesses are brave enough to ‘do’ a Richard and face up to what’s broken. Otherwise, they’ll continue barking up the wrong tree, blaming their marketing agencies and wondering why the numbers just aren’t there. The truth, however, is that their would-be customers might just not care.

This article was originally posted on in July 2018, as part of my regular column, The CX Files. For more information about my business advisory services, including customer experience strategy click here.

Julia Ahlfeldt

Author Julia Ahlfeldt

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