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Customer experience, quality, and the hype cycle

Customer experience quality and the hype cycle

You have got to try this!

Think back to the last time a friend emphatically recommended a product or service to you.

For me, it was shoes.

A friend was raving to me me about Shoe Companyโ„ข๏ธ - an incredible, new, online-only merchant. My friend was vibrating with excitement as they told me how wonderful it was to buy from them. The website was beautiful and straightforward, the product was well-designed and sustainably made, and the ordering experience was exceptional.

They explained that when their shoes arrived, they looked great, and fit just right. Even so, the packaging that they were shipped in was minimal and thoughtful - made from recyclable materials, the box had a small strip of adhesive tape integrated into its lid so that the box could be easily re-sealed and mailed back thanks to the return label provided inside.

I really love thoughtful experiences -- so this recommendation stuck with me. Around 6 months later, I was looking for a gift for my wife, and recalled the fervency of my friend's recommendation. Just like that, I bought her a pair of shoes that I thought my wife might like.

You might be able to guess where this is going already.

Gartner Hype Cycle chart, with my experience overlaid on top. I was recommended the company when they were in the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" phase, and bought from them when they were in the "Trough of Disillusionment" phase.
A modified version of the Gartner Hype Cycle chart, showing my experience

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my experience was different. The website was still beautiful, but the ordering process was clunky. The product was still well-designed and sustainably made, and the packaging was nice. The shoes arrived, and while they looked great, they didn't fit quite right. The return label was missing from the box, and I found myself driving out of my way to one of a few shops in the city that could process my return.

Woof.

I was disappointed, and I felt like I had been misled by my friend's recommendation. But what was happening here? Why did my purchase differ so much from my friend's? At the risk of oversimplifying, I think it comes down to growth.

The company in question saw rapid growth, and as a result, they had to make some trade offs to keep up with demand. They prioritized growth over quality, and their product and experience suffered for a while.

On the other side of the spectrum are companies who make the decision to grow more slowly, and focus on quality as job #1. These companies may not grow as fast, but they tend to have a much higher chance of success in the long run. I find myself more loyal to these companies and experiences, having never been let down by them.

Growth-first companies can bounce back from a dip in quality, and many have done so. I've been impressed lately with Airbnb's efforts to improve their product, and I'm hopeful that they'll get back to providing the unique alue they once did. But I think that the companies who prioritize quality will have a much easier time sustaining growth, and handling issues as they arise.

(Newsletterman's footnote: I'm intentionally not naming Shoe Companyโ„ข๏ธ. The point of this musing is not to shame or call anyone out. I'm just using this as an example to illustrate a point. I've noticed this same pattern in all sorts of companies and services, and I think it's worth thinking about.)

Recommendations from all over the hype cycle

Now that I've pointed out that you shouldn't trust recommendations from your friends (lol), here's some things I've found lately that you might enjoy.

  • ๐Ÿ˜ Mastodon (specifically, hachyderm.io) - You may have seen that I've left Twitter, at least while it's under Elon Musk's control. I've moved to Mastodon, and have an account on Hachyderm.io. If you're on Mastodon, feel free to follow me there! If you're not sure what Mastodon is, check out joinmastodon.org. If you're still not sure, reply to this email, and I'll find some time put together a quick explainer video.
  • ๐Ÿ“– The Innovation Stack is a book by Jim McKelvey, who co-founded IRL payments company Square (now and its parent company Block). It's hard to imagine how a glass blower became the founder of such an influential company -- his story is fascinating, and the book is a great read.
  • ๐Ÿ“š Hardcover.app (Public beta) is a service for rating, recommending, and discovering books to read. If you've used GoodReads and find its UX lacking for 2022, or you're looking for a service not owned by Amazon, you'll love Hardcover.

My recent work

  • ๐Ÿณ๏ธ Twitter, and the Perils of Obedience I wrote a long-form opinion article on my departure from Twitter, relating it to a famous experiment in behavioral psychology from the 1960s.
  • ๐Ÿ“น Quick tech tips on TikTok and YouTube - I've been experimenting with releasing 60s tech tips on TikTok and YouTube. If you're active on either platform, I'd love to hear your feedback! TikTok: @irreverentmike / YouTube @mikebifulco
  • ๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Did you know you can write C++, C#, and Java code that can be used directly on the web? My recent interview with Matt Butcher from Fermyon on the Software Engineering Daily podcast dives into Web Assembly, and was one of my absolute favorite interviews yet.

Thanks for reading Tiny Improvements. If you found this helpful, I'd love it if you shared this with a friend. It helps me out a great deal.

Until next time - be excellent to each other!

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    Customer experience, quality, and the hype cycle

    The Gartner Hype Cycle, and its relationship with customer experience for new products and companies.

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