Have you ever considered when your customer’s experience with your product actually starts and ends?

Does it start when the customer takes your product out of the box and end when they turn it off? Perhaps, it starts when they enter your website and ends when they leave?

In reality, the experience between the customer and your product starts much earlier and continues much longer than most people expect. Understanding this can have a large impact on how you market and design your products, and ultimately, it plays a key role in the success of your product.

Our Cary office recently ordered pizza delivery, and the fine print on the pizza box label said, “Your Pizza Experience Managed by Jeremy”. We weren’t sure if this was just a marketing phrase to suggest they care about us more than other pizza companies or if they actually have considered the entire experience a customer has with their company. It brings up an interesting question that has implications to all companies of any type: “Where does the customer experience with a company start and end?”

The clock starts ticking —

Using our pizza order as an example, does our pizza experience start when we open the box and start eating? What does our experience at this stage involve? The smell, the appearance, the temperature, the taste, and the free extras we received (garlic sauce, breadsticks, plates)? Comparing this to any product or service, this is the aspect of customer ‘experience’ that most of us are knowledgeable of and what we focus most of our energies toward understanding and reacting to.

These are all important, but our experience with ordering pizza starts earlier. Were we put on hold? Was it easy to communicate the order to the person on the phone? Were the selection and specials to our liking? Were they friendly? Was the cost and wait time clearly communicated to us? However, the pizza experience actually starts before that. We had a coupon for one store, but that coupon had expired. We weren’t sure if any of our local “mom and pop” stores delivered or not, so we went with a big chain. We were buying pizza for others and ourselves so we asked around for recommendations and favorites. This early experience, while not tied directly to pizza consuming, was a part of our overall experience. The question is whether or not the pizza company has considered this and took it into account.

What about after we finish our meal? Does our pizza experience end there? We still had 6 pizza boxes to get rid of. Did the boxes stack easily or collapse easily to facilitate disposals or recycling. Also, once the boxes were gone, was there a record of which company we had ordered from.

Remember the entire experience

Whether your “product” is a product, service, or both, it is clear that your customer’s experience can be improved by taking a look at the entire experience surrounding your product. This applies to all technologies. Here’s another example — purchasing a television set. Was deciding which features you wanted straightforward? How did you know which one was right for you? Was getting the box home an easy task? How about removing a 27 inch TV out of the packaging box? Were handles integrated into the sides to facilitate lifting? Were the feet protected to eliminate scratching the surface of the stand? Was information given about what to do with your old TV if you don’t want it anymore? Have you ever experienced the challenge of disposing of a large television?

We believe in the idea that “Your Pizza Experience Managed by Jeremy” is supposed to convey an intentional strategy to enhance our overall pizza experience. To apply this idea to the marketing, design and development of other products, consider these tips:

  • Expand your thinking about when a customer’s experience starts and ends. For some products, it’s when they are in the store, comparing your product to others in the package. For others, it’s when they are asking someone for a recommendation. Ask yourself how you can play in this experience and shape people’s choices.
  • Figure out what experience your customers want to have with your product. Remember, this goes much deeper than “it works.” People have emotional needs that play a strong factor in which products they purchase and use.
  • Frequently, walk through “Jeremy’s” experience with your product and see if improvements can be made, again considering “is that where your customer’s experience really starts or ends?” There are often limitations to how much a manufacturer can impact the earliest portion of the experience. You’ve got to ask is there anything you can do to improve the customer experience. If not, you can proceed with peace of mind, but it’s rare that there are no ways to in some way impact all phases of the experience. Chance are, there are product improvements that can be made that are cost effective, that will enhance your product’s marketability and that will further differentiate your company from your competitors.

Innovative product design fuels business strategies that drive market viability, revenues and profit margins. Focus groups are great, but there are richer, stronger methodologies that can be deployed to really understand your customer’s experience with your product. Don’t miss-out on ensuring “experience” becoming an integral part of your design process.

David Clarke (dclarke@humancentrictech.com) — Program Director and Ross Teague (rteague@humancentrictech.com) — Sr. Human Factors Psychologist and pizza-holic, HumanCentric Technologies, Inc.

Headquartered in Cary, NC; HumanCentric Technologies partners with clients to develop products and improve complex systems that result in positive, safe user experiences. Services include research, design and testing in the areas of human factors, industrial design, ergonomics, usability, ethnography, information design and documentation. For more information, visit: