The Danger of High Expectations

Everywhere you turn, marketers talk about the importance of engaging with customers. Whether it’s social networking or customer forums, or interactive websites, customers are increasingly seen as partners to engage with rather than passive consumers. But when it comes to increasing engagement with customers, sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for….

Last week I was at the annual Dreamforce conference. Now, when it comes to marketing, Salesforce does a lot of things right. But right is boring, and the best lessons are often learned when someone does something wrong. Here’s an example:

In the developer zone Salesforce had a booth on user experience design – the idea was to demonstrate innovative ways to create a great user experience. In this case booth visitors had a chance to design a custom T-Shirt. You would pick your color, your size, and your design, tagging in with your NFC enabled badge to register the design to you. It was really very clever – you just tag in, design your shirt, then tag out. Then you can go across the aisle to where you can pick up your shirt, bring it to a design station, and silk-screen it yourself.

That’s where things began to go terribly wrong.

When I reached the front of the T-Shirt line, I held out my name tag, fully expecting them to tag it in so I can pick up my shirt. Instead, I faced a terminal where they asked me to reenter my information. This made no sense to me – I held out my name tag, asking “you already know who I am. Why should I have to retype it?” I was told it was for a survey, and that’s different. Seriously?

Next I went to get my shirt. They were out of my size in every color. This just minutes after I had “designed” my shirt at the user experience booth and successfully selected that size.

Now here’s the deal. If they had not had a user experience booth, and I had stood in line for a T-Shirt, I wouldn’t have thought twice about entering my information in a survey, and while I would be disappointed if they did not have my size, I would certainly understand it. But I had visited their user experience booth, and they had set certain expectations – that I would be able to tag in for my design, and that they wouldn’t let me design something they could not deliver. So I was no longer disappointed – I was angry. Instead of a perfectly understandable lack of inventory creating a minor annoyance, they had created a user experience that was a total failure.

How bad a failure? Enough for me to dedicate an entire blog post to it.

I brought this up with the person at the user experience booth after, and she explained that they had wanted to integrate the T-Shirt line with the user experience software, but couldn’t find a way to do so in the time available that wouldn’t have caused even longer T-Shirt lines, resulting in an even worse user experience. I can understand that, but it doesn’t change the fact that I ultimately walked away disappointed and annoyed.

So when you consider adopting technology that promises to help you engage with customers, remember that your investment can’t stop with implementing the technology. If you use technology to raise customer expectations, you had better deliver on them, or you may end up with customer relations that are worse than if you had done nothing at all.

Dan Appleman

About Dan Appleman

As Full Circle Insights’ CTO, Dan Appleman brings a broad technology experience to our customers. In addition to having supported over 30 Salesforce.com implementations with technology solutions, Dan is also the author of the book "Advanced Apex Programming for Salesforce.com and Force.com" and has been a speaker at Dreamforce since 2012. Previously, he was the founder of Desaware, Inc. a developer of add-on products for Microsoft Visual Studio, a co-founder of Apress publishing, and the author of numerous books and articles.