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Eliminate Necessary Evils with Good Customer Experience

| June 17, 2015
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NecessaryEvils-01Even with all the cool technology out there today, there are still a few aspects to daily life I can’t avoid with a click or a swipe.

While I can schedule an appointment online to take my driver’s test, I still have to schlep down to the DMV to prove I can drive. I can email my doctor when I have a cold, but for her to make a diagnosis, I need to come into the office. Some things just can’t be done digitally. Which means those things are a necessity for all of us. And in some cases, like the DMV, a necessary evil.

But why evil? If chores like going to the doctor, or the airport, are common to everyone, why are those experiences still so painful? Is it because we’re a captive audience in these situations, and have no option but to suffer through a horrible experience?

Or is it because we give up some luxuries of an enjoyable experience in exchange for a product or service we really need, and just don’t have any other options? Is there a threshold for poor UX that we’re willing to endure if we get what we want or need? And what happens when someone else comes along with a solution that’s much more enjoyable to use?

While it’s true we can’t avoid places like the airport, the dentist, or the DMV, that doesn’t mean we’ll put up with a lousy experience forever. Let’s take a look at a few companies that are designing a better experience to make those necessary tasks a little less evil.

AAA

In addition to rescuing you from a lonely stretch of road in the middle of the night, AAA had the genius idea to add limited DMV services for its members. If you needed to renew your registration, or get new plates for your vehicle, for example, you could stroll over to the closest AAA office and take care of business. Minimal wait times, cheerful folks ready to help, and multiple convenient locations.

The DMV of course, offers the same service—renewing your registration—but without these basic, yet appreciated perks.

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One Medical Group

If you’re feeling crummy, going to the doctor’s office sucks. Crowded, outdated waiting rooms, an under-staffed front desk, and a habit of somehow never having your name or insurance information correct just add insult to injury when you’re under the weather. Assuming you could ever get an appointment.

So when One Medical Group opened its doors I jumped at the opportunity to try it out—even if it meant I had to pay an annual fee for the luxury. The folks at One Medical saw the disconnect between patient health and patient care, and they opted to offer the full package. Patients can schedule appointments online and choose a practitioner in any office based on their needs. So, if I happen to be working from our Mountain View office and need to get a bum knee looked at, I can be seen within hours at their Palo Alto office, instead of waiting until I was back in San Francisco to see my regular doctor.

And the offices? They look more like the reception area of a Silicon Valley hedge fund than a typical doctor’s office. Appointments start on time, and practitioners actually get to know their patients. For privately-run medical groups like One Medical, it’s all about the patient experience, and it shows.

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Instacart

When grocery delivery became a thing (remember Webvan?) I rejoiced. Despite living two blocks from a major grocery store, I allow myself the luxury because grocery shopping is such a horrible experience for me. Standing in line at a crowded grocery store after work is the last place anyone wants to be. (Except maybe at the DMV.) Customers are grouchy, checkout lanes are habitually understaffed, and nothing ever seems to be where you’d think it would be. (My favorite example is Trader Joe’s moving the salsa from the chips aisle to the condiments aisle. I still head to the chip aisle looking for it, even though I know it’s somewhere else.)

Instacart takes this task off your to-dos by taking the shopping list you create online, and giving it to a personal shopper in your area. Your shopper then takes your list and hoofs it to all the stores you’d normally go yourself, and does the shopping for you! And it gets better. Your shopper then braves the crowded parking lots and traffic, with your groceries in tow, and delivers them right to your door. For a fee, of course. But what’s a few extra bucks if it means your sanity is saved?

Uber and Lyft

Remember the last time you hailed a cab? If you’re in a larger urban area, the answer is likely, “No.” For years taxis had a monopoly on non-public transportation, and they took advantage of it. Cars were filthy, drivers were rude, and sometimes couldn’t even get you where you were trying to go—if you could even get one to pick you up in the first place.

It was a horrible experience, and that’s where services like Uber and Lyft saw a massive opportunity. Taxi companies ignored what their customers wanted or needed, because they had no choice. Until they did. And now, they’re scared stiff. They should be.

Not only will services like Lyft and Uber pick you up wherever you are, but they provide a bunch of useful information we never had access to before. Like where your car is, and how long it will take before it arrives. A helpful text when the car arrives! And no money ever changes hands! Gone are the days when shady cabbies claim they don’t have change for a $20. Oh, and the water bottles, clean cars, and friendly drivers are a nice touch too. They make the experience so pleasant, many of us willingly pay more for their services, rather than suffer through the ordeal of taking a taxi.

The Lesson

While there are some experiences we can’t avoid completely, how we interact with them can change, as these examples illustrate. Industries that are considered to be a necessary part of life aren’t immune to the powers of a good customer experience.

These companies are just a handful of examples of innovators that refuse to allow old standards to hold us captive to necessary evils. Whether you’re ready or not, the customer experience is what will draw your customers in, or drive them away.

What’s great about the companies discussed here, is that none of them operate solely in the digital space. If ever there was a great example of the omnichannel customer experience, these companies are it. And that means no industry is exempt from the impact of the customer experience.

The good news is, it doesn’t take an army of designers and consultants to overhaul your CX. Start by talking to your customers. Learn about the omnichannel customer experience, and become a champion for CX in your organization. It won’t happen overnight, but by making CX a priority now, you’ll be ready when the next disruptive technology comes along, and your customers will be far more likely to stay loyal if they know you have their best interests at heart.