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Why do we buy products and services: the Experience to Goal Map.
S02-E05 (5 March 2023)
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today I will explain two things very simply: 1) why people buy products and services; 2) how to make a customer experience map with a spreadsheet without wasting time on complex and useless infographics.
Why do we buy products and services?
Why do we buy stuff? Why do we choose to own some and use others? What makes us lean towards one solution over another? Researchers and practitioners have given various answers to these questions. If we want to make a summary, we can paraphrase Clayton Christensen and say that:
This definition has three elements: person, goal, and circumstances. An example will help us explore them. Let us imagine that Mario (person), a young graduate, has to go to an important job interview (goal) in an area that he cannot reach by car (circumstance). So Mario decides to go by taxi (that is the product to reach the goal in that circumstance).
The taxi experience
Let’s try to design the experience of a taxi ride in Rome, from the moment the user calls the radio taxi until the arrival at the destination. But without the use of a mobility app!
Mario cannot remember the number of the radio taxi because he does not take taxis frequently. So he opens the browser of his smartphone and searches for “Taxi Roma.” The first (sponsored) result is 3570. He calls the number, and the recorded voice invites him to wait. After two minutes, the operator takes the call, asks for the address, and puts him on hold again. After a few seconds, a computerized voice announces: “Panama 5 arrives in 7 minutes”. Mario is anxious: he absolutely must arrive on time, or he will make a wrong impression.
The taxi arrives after 9 minutes. It is an old Fiat Punto. He had hoped for a nicer car. Instead, he is forced to journey in a hatchback with too many kilometers on the clock and shabby upholstery.
While driving through Rome in the pouring rain, Mario tries to relax by playing with his mobile phone. The car is uncomfortable and noisy, the shock absorbers are worn out, and the streets are full of potholes. After 30 minutes, he arrives at his destination: the taximeter reads almost 50 euros. He asks the taxi driver if he can pay with an ATM, but he replies that today “the EPOS terminal is broken.”
Have you also had an experience like Mario’s? Definitely yes. Whenever we need to achieve a goal, we are faced with obstacles to overcome.
In our example, the radio taxi service and the taxi driver offered a broken experience. Mario:
has to wait for 2 minutes for someone to answer his call;
does not know the actual waiting time;
he does not know in advance which car will take him to his destination;
is forced to make the journey in an uncomfortable vehicle;
cannot pay with an ATM but is forced to use cash;
cannot evaluate the overall experience because there is no feedback system.
Rome is not the only city in the world where the taxi service leaves something to be desired. It is no coincidence that services like Uber, Lyft, or FreeNow have quickly become popular worldwide.
Let’s try to tell Mario’s experience again; this time, we imagine that a friend advised him to download the FreeNow app.
The new story starts like this: Mario opens the FreeNow app. The map shows his location and icons of nearby taxis with waiting times. Once the booking is confirmed, the app tells him who his driver will be, his reputation, and what kind of car he will be picked up in. Once at his destination, the taxi driver inputs the amount on the app, and Mario receives a notification to accept payment. A swipe is all it takes to pay with a card, and within seconds, the system sends Mario a receipt for the ride. Pleased with the service he received, he awards the driver five stars.
We can be sure that Mario will never use a radio taxi again and that, in whatever city in the world he finds himself, he will look for a service that offers the same reassuring user experience as FreeNow. Many successful products are born this way: by eliminating sources of frustration for consumers struggling with their goals.
This is why all investors obsessively ask founders: what problem does your service solve? In the case of FreeNow (and all other similar apps), the answer is obvious: request a taxi with confidence.
The Experience to Goal Map
To help students in my courses find the friction in user experiences, I developed a simplified version of a customer experience map, which can be created with a spreadsheet.
The Experience to Goal diagram summarises a person’s path to reaching a goal. This path includes interaction with people, the use of products and services, and friction that create frustration in people. The following diagram consists of three columns: actor, description, and experience. To illustrate how this works, let us look at Mario’s adventure with his taxi ride:
In the diagram, we have three Actors: the consumer (C), who is the protagonist of the story; the brands (B) he interacts with; and the other people (P) who have an impact on Mario’s experience and his ability to achieve the goal. We mark one of the three columns to emphasize which actor determines the experience. The Description column describes the situation with a concise sentence and highlights what is good or bad. Finally, the XP column allows us to classify the consumer’s state of mind with an emoji.
Drawing an Experience to Goal map allows us to identify the obstacles between consumers trying to achieve a goal. Whenever we recognize a specific friction, we face an opportunity to create a new product by redesigning the experience.
For example, we might decide to work on the first friction: identifying the number of the company to call. This is what many telephone companies have done by creating a single national number to call a taxi in any city.
Or, we could decide to work on the experience during the journey: this strategy is adopted by some taxi companies with higher car standards and prefers a business clientele.
Or, we could try to improve the overall experience. FreeNow does this: its mobile app-based service allows you to hail, pay for and rate a taxi.
FreeNow’s app uses the same transportation infrastructure (licensed cars, fares set by the municipality, shifts imposed by local regulations, and on and on). The pain point of cost remains. Still, it adopts several strategies to eliminate or reduce the friction that makes the experience of taking a cab painful.
Uber has gone further by creating an alternative service to official cabs. In markets where this approach is legal, the company can optimize its offerings and offer customers different price ranges: from the black car with a professional driver (Uber Black) to the private vehicle with a nonprofessional driver (Uber X) to the car shared with another passenger taking a similar route (Uber Pool). If Uber X or Uber Pool had been available in Rome, Mario would also have had access to a better price than official cabs.
Goals are better than problems
Much of the literature dealing with innovation talks about the fact that to create a new product, it is necessary to identify a problem to be solved. In my opinion, this is reductive. By focusing only on the problems, we lose sight of the context in which the problem occurs, and of the negative impact this problem can have on achieving the goal the person sets out to achieve.
In some circumstances, the product we have designed to solve the problem can be decisive. In others, it may become an undesirable or impossible alternative to use. Let us imagine that Mario got the job and had to travel to the office every day: he could not afford to spend 50 euros every day to take a cab. He would have to provide himself with an economically viable means of transportation. Or he could contract with the company to work from home a few days a week. Remote working and all collaboration technologies would then become a competitor to a means of transportation. Well, this is precisely what happened during the Pandemic.
So, you want to be a leader…
My friend Luca Sartoni was a longtime director of product engineering at Automattic and has unique experience managing remote teams.
In January, he left Automattic to embark on a new project, Remote Leadership Works, that “facilitates ambitious leaders to realize their potential, enabling them to explore and transform their vision.”
He just launched the first edition of his Leadership Dojo, a “cohort-based leadership development program.” If you plan to improve your leadership skills, Luca is probably the person for you (and he is not paying me to write this 😜).
Two books about product management for product leaders
Inspired (affiliate link). Marty Cagan provides readers with a master class on how to structure and staff a vibrant and successful product organization and how to discover and deliver technology products that your customers will love―and that will work for your business. A truly inspiring read for any product leader.
Product Roadmaps Relaunched (affiliate link) by di C. Todd Lombardo, Bruce Mccarthy, Evan Ryan, and Michael Connors. A good product roadmap is an essential document to operationalize a vision and a product strategy. This practical guide teaches you how to create an effective product roadmap and demonstrates how to use the roadmap to align stakeholders and prioritize ideas and requests.
Thanks for taking the time to read this episode of my newsletter: I hope I’ve been helpful. If you think my sketchbook might interest someone else, I’d be glad if you shared it on social media and forwarded it to your friends and colleagues.
See you in a couple of weeks 😊