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I was in a customer experience workshop a few weeks back. It was for a large law firm, and they had engaged an agency to help them understand their customer’s experiences. Except it wasn’t about that… instead they came in holding a premise that shook me to the core, and wasted everyone’s time in that room.

Let’s build an app.

An app. For a law firm.

I’ve been in many workshops just like this one, and many play out in a similar way. The organisation already knows what it’s going to do, so they set up activities in order to bring people along the journey that they have created, so that in the end they receive validation for their grand idea. And that idea in many organisations nowadays is similar – digitise ‘the things’ and automate ‘the things’.

This workshop didn’t go they way they wanted it to, though. I was there ????

Don’t get me wrong – my preferred method of communication is generally digital. Send an email, a text, a pic. It’s easy, and it’s fast. And because I’m extremely tech-savvy, I rarely have a problem. I spend many days on my phone, walking down the street staring at it’s little screen and tapping away at the little virtual keyboard.

That’s my shape. And I’m far from unique… many people are of a similar shape to me. They want to get stuff via an email, or a tweet, et cetera. They definitely don’t want something to show up in their postbox if it’s possible to have it any other way. However, it’s not the only shape. In the room, the firm had brought in a good mix of customers; some young, some old, professional and blue collar – a good sample set. Not representative of every customer, but they gave it a red-hot go.

I waited patiently, interacted with their facilitator minimally, and bided my time. When they pulled their ‘app’ out of the bag, and went around the table for feedback I was the last to speak, and changed the discourse of the entire conversation.

You see, while an app might be a good, secure, fast and cheap way to communicate with an organisation, it cannot and will not work for everyone. Furthermore, the need for the app was borne from an attempt to survey their customers, rank them on a scale of zero to ten, and try to work out if they would recommend the firm (ala NPS style). It was also borne out of an attempt to reduce the cost of engagement with their clients – both of these things the facilitator ended up telling the group after I pressed the point.

The law firm had missed the point, and lost sight of their purpose – the reason why their clients come to see them in the first place. Instead, they were chasing a few different targets; one being an NPS or recommendation score, and the other being a cost-engagement figure.

Unfortunately for the agency, once I had finished turning their engagement model inside out, all but two of their sample group wanted some way of not using their new app. It wasn’t for them.

Some clients want to engage face-to-face, some will want to work over the phone, some via email, some via an app, and maybe even some via telegraph/smoke-signal/sheep-counting/fax. Instead of focusing on the technology or method, they should be focusing on the engagement. Very quickly, they will find their customer’s experiences with them being more valued, by their customers.