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A word of warning
on 25 February 2015
** PLEASE ALSO READ THE COMMENTS FOR THIS REVIEW, AS THE AUTHOR HAS PERSONALLY RESPONDED TO IT - PLEASE ALSO NOTE THE REVIEW HAS BEEN ALTERED SLIGHTLY SINCE THE CONVERSATION IN THE COMMENTS **
This book is well thought-out and has some very valuable insights about customer experience; however the way it is introduced caused me some concern. I am referring to statements such as the following:
"Numbers and calculations can rob people of their humanity with truly harrowing consequences"
"Another form of measurebating is the return on investment calculation that is typically required as part of a business case to get funding for a project. It's a topic that grates on many in the design world, since it is almost impossible to translate something that is qualitative into something quantitative"
"..if you focus on delighting your customers, assuming you've got your sums right, profit becomes a well-earned by-product.."
This kind of language gave me the impression that the general approach and advice here is to suspend any notion of making money; deliver a fantastic experience; and 'believe' that business benefit will sort itself out at the end of the day as a result - therefore the expert knowledge and 'best-practices' of a designer should be used to deliver the best possible consumer experience without any research or data and without too much concern for any business benefit.
The principles in the rest of the book are sound beyond doubt, but I have to take issue with this initial ethos for the following reasons:
I have worked with designers, creatives, UX/ED professionals for many years and, whilst I have a massive amount of respect for the talent and vision of many of these people, I have too often found many of them to have a very singular drive and motivation, which is the self-interested pursuit of notoriety and personal development. A successful career in this world is defined according to projects on CVs and portfolios, and the projects deemed most worthy are the ones which have won self-congratulatory industry awards or are seen to be cool and sexy by like-minded people in the industry, NOT (or not necessarily) what has been financially successful for the business in question.
There is therefore a pervasive underlying attitude around the whole profession which manifests itself as a rebellious opposition to business-objectives, KPIs, analytical thinking and general over-rationalization - instead favouring the designers own intuition and creative talent - but far too often this betrays a concealed goal: "I don't want to do the work which you tell me to do or which is right for the business; I want to do cool, progressive stuff which I can tell my friends about and which will progress my career"
This book has the valid goal of instilling passion for customer-centricity and delivering customer experience for its own sake, rather than for any corporate profit objectives which conflict with the experience, and yet I worry that the upfront message of this book can be used as mantra and fuel-for-fire by those types which I describe above - and so I warn against allowing this thinking to gain too much hold in your business; and keep a close eye on your agencies when these kind of arguments are made.
The other issue is that, in any large organisation, you do need funding for any large-scale change to propositions or operations in the name of customer experience. Good luck trying to do this by saying it is the right thing to do on principle and profit will work itself out! A detailed business case must be formulated showing the financial benefit, which means analytics/data/research/insight etc. Sorry but this is just a fact of life.
For me the way this book opens is unfortunate, because there are some very important and valuable pieces of advice about how to think through your customer experience - it's just that for many business the reality is that you are going to need to balance this with the realities of business in order to make it work, and I do not think this book provides enough guidance on this area, and ignoring it is potentially dangerous in my opinion.