We must measure customer time

The vast majority of organizations I have worked with over the years have no concept of customer time. It is simply not an issue from a management perspective.

I recently observed an online environment that was exceptionally slow for customers. Its pages took an average of 20 seconds to load. But that wasn’t the major time sink. Its information architecture was wholly unintuitive. Customers spent ages clicking around trying to find what they were looking for. Everybody failed the tasks we were measuring.

To make matters worse, we measured the exact same tasks for the organization several years ago and the experience was also terrible. In fact, the problems got worse because they bought a new content management system, and created new customer journeys that were even worse than the older ones. According to management, things had gotten better because they had bought new technology.

You’re either shaking your head in disbelief or nodding in resigned understanding. This is still the overwhelming digital reality out there. Yes, we have the digital leaders who are so far ahead they might as well be on another planet. But in many more organizations things are actually going backwards.

Traditional management models are wholly, woefully and utterly unable to professionally manage digital and the customer experience. In fact, the metrics and key performance indicators that drive traditional management behavior are often the root cause for poor customer experience.

We have to change the management model, not the technology. Most managers are simply not fit for purpose today. They either need to radically change how they manage or else face a very bleak future. The astounding levels of management incompetence when it comes to customer experience cannot be sustained. Management is broken; the customer broke it and they used digital to break it.

Customers care about their time. They truly, truly, truly care about their time.

“Ele.me is the biggest food ordering service in China,” Luke Wroblewski wrote in October 2017. Their Progressive Web App gets “skeleton screens up in 400 ms and fully interactive in 2 seconds.”

400 milliseconds. Digital leaders don’t think in seconds. Seconds are so analog. Digital leaders think in milliseconds, milliseconds, milliseconds. Google and Amazon know that customer experience is affected in increments of 100 milliseconds. That’s one tenth of a second. Yes, a second, with 90% knocked off.

Your time is how you measure your experience as a customer. Time is the customer experience. The worst possible thing you can do to a customer today is make them feel that you are wasting their time. They will relentlessly punish you if they see you as a time waster. If they make a decision to waste their own time doing stupid things, that’s their choice. But woe betide the organization that wastes their time by forcing them to do stupid things they don’t want to do, like clicking on stupid links, or having to go through stupid processes, or waiting for stupid pages to download.

Time is rocket science. When you’re measuring the customer experience in milliseconds and implementing strategy that is focused on cutting out every single millisecond of waste, you need a wholly different management model, technical architecture and organizational culture.

Wasting your customers’ time is the poorest of poor customer experience. The first step is to recognize that.

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