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Three Strikes of a Customer Experience

The Little Things of Customer Experience Count

I gotta share my morning experience, in an effort to illustrate the importance of customer experience to anyone who might, someday, interact with a customer.

I wake up and get online, doing my usual surfing over coffee. That’s how I like to get my brain going in the morning. I recommend to everyone the combination of caffeine and internet thought provocation to warm-up the mental engine before trying to shift the brain into “drive.”

Anyway, I find an interesting website (which shall go unnamed, not because I’m ashamed of it, but because I’m about to shame it). It invites me to check out more, to go deeper, to see more details about what the creators think and what they know. It’s intriguing enough that I decide to go ahead and register myself on this new site.

As with most such online things, the registration process requires a username and password. The registration form is simple (and anyone who knows me knows that I like simple):

  • an empty box for a username,

  • an empty box for a password,

  • an empty box for password re-entry to make sure that the password you entered in the previous box is really, really the password that you want,

  • and a non-empty box that says “Submit Registration.”

So far, so good.

I enter a username.

I enter that easy-to-remember password that I always use for relatively unimportant things like this.

I re-enter that easy-to-remember password.

I click “Submit Registration.”

I get a bold red-letter error message.

Bad Customer Experience Strike 1

“Usernames must contain only letters and numbers, and may not contain spaces or special characters.” I had used my email address as a username, which, of course, contains an “@” symbol and a period.

Now, I don’t mind that I can’t just use my email address, which had been auto-filled for me the instant I typed the first letter. But darn it, if you are going to have such limitations on usernames, STATE THEM AT THE TIME OF REGISTRATION! ON THE REGISTRATION PAGE! Is that really so hard?

For one thing, it would have saved me the aggravation of submitting something once, and then having to do it again. And the bold red letters of the message? Those just cry out “How can you be such an idiot?” Is that how you want to talk to your customers? I’d suggest something in a nice, calming color, like a dark teal, that says “Oh, hey, we probably should have told you at the beginning, but for various reasons, we need your username to contain only letters and numbers. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Bad Customer Experience Strike 2

So I go back to enter a new username. The auto-fill happens again, so I try to make it easy on myself, and just delete the stuff that comes after the @ symbol of my email address. Again, I enter my easy-to-remember password, and re-enter it in the next box as well. I click the submit button.

And I get more bold red letters.

“Passwords must consist of at least one capital letter, one lower case letter, one number, and one of the following special characters: !, @, #, $, %, &, *” or something like that. I don’t remember the whole list of special characters that I had to use. The same ones I was not allowed to use in the username.

Before I had a chance to get the mild surge of cortisol out of my bloodstream from Customer Experience Strike One, I got a second surge from this. More of the bright red letters again telling me that I’m an idiot. Again, if you are going to have such requirements, state them on the [expletive deleted] registration page! That was bad enough.

But demanding the over-complicated password for something like this?!? Who do the creators of this website think they are? It’s not like they were storing my credit card information. It’s not like I was seeking entry into the NSA database to find out what dirt they have on me. This was for access to stuff like white papers, videos, and infographics that they were giving away for free!

C’mon, creators of this website, have some common sense. Your password isn’t protecting information that you want protected at Fort Knox levels. You want people to get this information. You advertised that this information is available. You invited people to come and get it! And you aren’t protecting my information in any way, because you don’t have much of anything from me. It’s questionable that you need the username and password at all. You might want to get some email addresses, so that you can contact your customers later, but…you won’t let them enter their email address as a username, remember?!?

Bad Customer Experience Strike 3

So, with my heart rate now elevated from my primordial fight-or-flight response being engaged by those red electronic letters, I enter that same pre-"@" - symbol username again. This time, I enter a new password, which is just the previous password plus an exclamation point at the end (as if that will let the creators of this website know that now, I am angry). And I re-enter the new password. And I click submit.

And I get more bold red letters.

You probably guessed it. “Your passwords don’t match.”


Apparently, when I chose the “fight” response, I should have opted for “flight.”

A recommendation for anyone who has a website requiring people to enter a password and then confirm it: if the passwords don’t match, then have that come up in real time on the registration page before they hit submit. I’ve seen it done. It can’t be that hard.

Another recommendation: show all the errors at once, rather than one at a time.

After some deep-breathing, I’m willing to accept accountability for mismatching my passwords. But I’m going to continue to blame the creators of the website for getting me riled up with strikes one and two. My agitation adversely impacted my typing skills. At least that’s what I’m going to tell people.

And guess what – my impression of their work, the stuff that I went on their site to get, was reduced before I even saw it. The product they wanted me to get was tainted, permanently, by my experience of trying to get it.

Experience what Your Customer Experiences with You

In the great scheme of life, this experience was a minor annoyance. An insignificant irritation. Kind of like an itchy tag in the back of my shirt collar. But guess what? Now that they are on the market, I only buy tagless shirts when I have the opportunity.

If you are making offerings to people, take the time and energy to understand what their experience with your offering is really like. Make every part of that experience – even the little things – as positive as possible. At the very least, make sure those experiences – even the little things -- are not negative. A little extra effort to pull the metaphorical itchy tags out of your metaphorical shirts will go a long way to winning and retaining customers. At the very least, it won’t drive them away.

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