I’d like to talk about eggs and the mobile user experience.
Have you ever noticed how supermarket checkout staff open your box of eggs as they put it through the till? It is a simple check which costs the store almost nothing and takes just a few seconds of staff time, but if they find any of your eggs are broken they can replace them before you leave the store.
This is an ‘egg moment’ – a small investment made by a service provider to pre-empt a more serious customer experience failing. It is almost invisible to the consumer when performed correctly but is an essential component of the overall process by which the user experience becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Even though eggs only account for about 0.7% to 1% of supermarket revenues, ‘egg training’ is actually a specific procedure drilled into each employee during their induction.
In the supermarket example, it prevents the customer from returning home to find the broken eggs have leaked and ruined other products in their shopping bag. They may also find they can’t make the recipe they wanted because the eggs were a key ingredient. In addition, there would be a sense of frustration that they paid for a faulty product and can only fix the problem by wasting more time going all the way back to the store just to get new eggs. Not a great experience.
Lessons learnt by supermarkets are increasingly relevant to the mobile telecoms industry. Just like mobile network operators, supermarkets have a business model based on encouraging long-term customer loyalty around the basics of price, convenience, ease of use and quality. However, the supermarkets have already taken the next step which continues to allude the mobile industry: the mass market ability to sell additional premium products on top of their basic service.
‘Egg moments’ are one of the key reasons why supermarkets continue to increase their wallet share with the average consumer. They are constantly investing in subtle customer experience enhancements which convince consumers to buy more things from them. They tweak the layout of the store, they add cafes so you can drink good coffee while you’re shopping, they provide on-site banking, post boxes and even a variety of trolley designs to suit all tastes.
These little improvements are a major reason why supermarkets are capturing more and more of consumer spending in most developed countries around the world. During the holiday season last year it is estimated that £1 in every £8 spent in the UK passed through the tills of Tesco, the British retailer.
In contrast, mobile operators continue to record declining average revenue per user (ARPU). Most carriers are finding that growth in data services is being more than offset by falling voice revenues. As a result, consumers are spending a smaller percentage of their disposal income with the mobile industry than ever before.
So what kind of ‘egg moments’ could help enhance the mobile user experience and prompt increased mobile spending?
Let’s start with the basics, like having a member of staff demonstrate the key features of the handset at the point of retail. Five minutes of staff time invested in highlighting how to download music, upload photographs to an online album or access web-sites could translate to significant additional revenues. There are still many mobile customers, even in developed markets, who use their mobile device for voice and text without ever being aware it is capable of more.
Another possiblity would be for operators to provide network-based synchronisation and backup as a standard feature. In this context, the ‘egg moment’ might be the invisible backup of address book contacts to a remote server. The consumer may not even know it is taking place, but the day their local operator store is able to ‘magic’ their missing contacts back from a broken handset, this investment will prove its worth.
What about installing a contextual help system on every handset? Any time the user is ensure of how to use a certain feature, they can hit a dedicated help key and pull-up a series of step-by-step instructions.
These are just a few ideas. The possibilities for ‘egg moments’ a limitless, but the basic concept remains the same: simple, inexpensive investments in the customer experience can pay big dividends in the future. It doesn’t have to be about installing new technology – it could be changing a customer service procedure or re-evaluating a marketing strategy. However, it should always be focused on solving the little problems which cause big headaches for customers.