Think about the entire customer experience

While I was ordering at a fast-food chain recently, I experienced a bad customer experience. The chain had implemented a new Point-of-Sale system which utilized a fingerprint reader for when the store manager might need to override a transaction. It was peak trading time and the franchise owner was hovering around front-of-house, I assumed to help if there were any issues with the new system. The cashier needed an override and the store manager was trying to use the fingerprint scanner but it wasn’t reading his fingerprint. The owner, watching this, was getting frustrated and came over. He immediately blamed the store manager for having dirty fingers. He then proceeded to take the store manager’s hand in his and started vigorously wiping his fingers with a cloth. After this, he pressed the store manager’s fingers hard against the reader and moved it around to try get it to read the fingerprint. After an excruciating minute of this, he eventually did a manual override, apologizing to me for the delay with that “you can’t get good staff these days!” look in his face.

There are so many problems with this scenario.

Firstly, an owner that thinks it’s ok to demean and belittle his staff like this, especially (but not only) in front of customers should have his franchise license revoked.

Secondly, the owner assumed that the system was correct and the human was wrong. In this case, with a new system being rolled out, things are bound to go wrong. Biometrics are notoriously fickle and immediately blaming the store manager will most likely make the store manager less confident with the new system. The accuracy of the biometric equipment should’ve been tested in the environment it was going to be used, especially in the case of a fast-food franchise and a fingerprint scanner!

Thirdly, it was clear that there had been inadequate training on the new system. The cashiers and store managers were still very tentative on the system and all orders took a bit longer to process. It was peak hour and the queues were backing up. The staff should’ve been trained sufficiently before the new system went live.

When companies develop new systems to support their business, too often they neglect to think about the entire end-to-end customer experience journey. A system is more than just the screens and the interface. In this case the customer didn’t even interact with the system but it nonetheless had an impact. When a new system is implemented, customers are generally understanding that everything might not run smoothly, but that’s exactly why you need to increase your overall customer experience to compensate. Making your customer uncomfortable by getting angry with your staff and not knowing what your system isn’t working isn’t helping your cause any. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and try to understand what could go wrong and what you could do to fix that, before it happens.

Are you being loyal to your customers?

loyaltyI love the concept of loyalty cards. I have a wad in my wallet and I make sure I use them religiously – saving money on something you’re going to buy anyway is a no-brainer. However, it’s important for both the customer and the vendor that the mechanics of the loyalty card are carefully considered. A loyalty card implies that, if the customer is loyal to the company, the company repays that loyalty  to the customer in a clearly defined and consistent way. It’s this consistency which is sometimes lacking.

Vida e Caffè is a great example of a company that gets this right. They have a clear and consistent loyalty program – swipe your card for any purchase and and get 5% of that purchase back, which can be used towards any future purchase. Simple. All you need to do is remember to keep your card on you and swipe. (Incidentally, they also give you a free coffee during your birthday month – a nice touch.) In case you REALLY don’t understand how it works, they even explain everything clearly on their website.

Kauai on the other hand, is not simple or clear. Kauai has 2 separate loyalty programs, one for smoothies and one for coffee. Both of them give you a free beverage for every 12 beverages of that kind. (buy 12 smoothies and you get 1 smoothie free) Sounds simple enough. But wait, there’s more. To participate in the smoothie loyalty program, you need a blue smoothie card and you must collect blue smoothie stickers. If you want to join the coffee loyalty program, you take a brown card and collect brown stickers. 2 separate programs, 1 company, 1 customer. This is inconvenient and makes my wallet bulge a bit, but as a loyalty card fan, I’m willing to deal with it.  However, the devil is in the detail, and this is where the loyalty scheme falls apart.

I really like my coffee. A large Americano is my standard fare after gym at the Kauai while I start my day and catch up on emails. A large Americano is R2 more than the regular, but the extra caffeine fix I get is worth it. Sometimes I’ll splash out and also have a smoothie, usually a large Peanut Butter Bomb with the extra protein. Yummy. The large is R4 more than the standard.

Fast forward 12 coffees stickers and 12 smoothie stickers later. I’m at the counter gleefully about to redeem my cards for a free large Americano and a free large Peanut Butter Bomb but I’m told that isn’t the deal. Not so lucky. The free coffee is limited to a regular coffee. In fact, it’s a regular Americano, Cappuccino or Latte. Don’t even think about the flat white – that’s not included in the promotion! A similar restriction is placed on the free smoothie. These are limited not only to regular and medium sized smoothies (why both and not all I can’t understand), but also to specific smoothie categories, namely the “Fruit”, “Berry” and “Delight” smoothies. It completely excludes “Power” smoothies, the category my beloved Peanut Butter Bomb falls into!

Let’s do the math here. A Peanut Bomb is R45.90 while the most expensive free smoothie you can get  is R 29.90. So I’m only getting around 65% free of the value of what I have been spending. However, someone who only buys the cheapest smoothie at R 19,90 can redeem their smoothie card for a free medium smoothie worth R29,90, which is a massive 150% more than what they were spending! I wonder if Kauai has considered this in their budgeting?

The coffee situation is similar, but you can score, if you are willing to compromise. A large Americano is R17.90, while a regular is R15,90. If I want to stick to an Americano, I will only score about 88% of my free coffee, but if I’m willing to have a Latte or Cappuccino instead I get the full 100% free.

This system is neither simple to understand, nor fair to the the customer, who expects that if they buy 12 of an item, they should get one of those for free!

The bottom line here is that while I’m willing to be loyal to Kauai and buy the products that I like, they aren’t willing to reciprocate and be loyal to me. While other great companies have got it right and reward the customer loyalty based on actual financial spend, Kauai only rewards their customers on their quite specific terms. This makes the taste of the coffee quite bitter, and the Peanut Butter Bomb smoothie leaves my stomach grumbling with unhappiness.

The challenges creating virtual representations of physical layouts

The way that Apple represents a physical space in a virtual environment is really starting to bug me more and more. With the advent of IOS 7 and the heightened ability to see apps visually next to one another in a virtual space has made the need for a rethink more urgent.

Switching between apps may seem easy, but depending on how you switch between apps, the apps change their order based on which one you’re using at the time. This was slightly annoying in the previous versions of iOS, but it becomes just downright frustrating in iOS 7, where zooming out (4 finger swipe up) shows you a thumbnail of the apps that you’ve used in the last while. The app that you select from this list then moves to the beginning of this list. If you want to go back to the app you were previously using, the intuitive motion would be the 4 finger swipe from left to right, but instead of just leaving the app in the current position and making it active, iOS moves this app to the beginning of the list so there are no apps to the left! You have to swipe from right to left to get to the next app, or the one you were using last.

app switching issues
Why change the order of things?

I question the way that Apple implemented their ‘multitasking’ in the first place. You can only work on one app at a time in iOS anyway, so why have the paradigm of the home screen with its static app layout and then also provide the user with a counterintuitive Multi-tasking arrangement of apps that are currently ‘in use’? How could a user be expected to remember the order in which they last used their apps? If I’m switching between apps on my iPad, I usually only need to switch between 2 apps to do basic copy and paste tasks. Anything more than that becomes tedious on an iPad and I’ll usually resort to using my laptop.

IOS is supposed to keep your state when switching to another app, so why not simply keep the recently used apps in the order in which you used them?

I would really like to see a more consistent handling of physical space translates into virtual environments. This can be the make or break for interfaces. No matter how unique or innovative virtual interfaces are, as humans, we have specific ways (barring cultural and a few other exceptions) that we expect to interact with the world around us. If the order or placement of items in a virtual world is not what we expect, we’ll be confused and less likely to use the interface, or reach the desired outcome.

I’m also keen to start looking into a new paradigm for mobile (and indeed other devices) OS design. The current home screen and app list feels very siloed and is making less and less sense to me.


I’m on a usability drive. I want to make sure that whatever website or web app I write is immediately and easily usable. So I’ve almost finished reading Steve Krug’s “Don’t make me think”. Great book, great style of writing. So now I think of everything in terms of usability. Take the coffee cups that Vida e uses. They don’t cater for my style of coffee drinking. I like to drink my coffee hot. No patient waiting around for it to cool down so that it doesn’t burn away the lining of my throat (if there is such a thing). I want to get that caffeine rush and I WANT IT NOW! But what’s with these pathetic mugs? Sure they look pretty, but how are you supposed to hold the bloody things? You put your index finger through the eye and the cup automatically slips down so that the cup is pressing against your middle finger. But the cup is hot, so you can’t keep it there. So you rush that first sip so your finger doesn’t burn, but because you have to take a sip really fast, you end up taking a rather large slurp, larger than you normally do, and you burn your tongue, palette and anything else that’s in the path of the burning hot l(j)ava. Using a straw would just be poncey and it would probably melt. So I either have to wait for the coffee to cool, or steadily burn both my middle finger and tongue/throat, etc.Who thought these mugs were a good idea? A designer, probably. One that doesn’t actually drink coffee. Probably one of those typical Capetonian hippy-types that only drinks spring water and the occasional dainty porcelain cup of Chamomile tea. Probably with the pinky pointed skywards too.Would it not be too much to ask that everyone does usability tests? I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to offer a free cup of coffee in exchange for a few simple questions, such as: “can you actually drink out of this mug?”. I’d be the first to put my hand up for that.