Expectations are constantly changing

What is new today is required tomorrow.

I want to do a small memory exercise. Can you take a moment and think about the first time you ordered something, physical or digital, online and after ordering you could actually track the progress of your order? How did you feel that first time? How do you feel today when you order something and you can track progress?

For me that first experience was ordering a book on Amazon in 1997. It was at that time revolutionary. I could not track every step but they offered me more insight into my order process than anyone else at that time. What Amazon did in 1997 would be at the very least table stakes in today’s world. That is what I want to discuss in this post; changing consumer expectations in the context of product building.

Good product building involves a tremendous amount of work. A variety of inputs go into the decision to build a new feature. Usually the features being developed are expected to move some metric that directly or indirectly will impact a major objective and/or Key Performance Indicator(KPI).

The challenge with consumer expectations is that you are not competing with only your direct business competitors offerings. If Amazon is selling retail goods and has transparency into the order flow then regardless of what you are selling your consumer expects a similar level of transparency.

This phenomena is best captured by the Kano model.

The Kano model helps with feature planning. There is a lot of material out there on the web on the Kano model but I want to focus on the three buckets that features need to be placed in when prioritizing. One bucket is the must have features, another is performance features, and the third is delighter features.

In graphical terms it is generally illustrated in this form.

Kano Model. Source: https://leanproductplaybook.com/author/

Let’s talk about some of the basics and then get into some real world examples. I recently noticed a very interesting problem with airline tickets. I bought a ticket online. I then had to cancel it. I cancelled it online. I received credits for my ticket which I could use. I used those credits. Then I cancelled the ticket again. I again received credits. When I tried to use the credits again I could not. I had to call into the call centre.

This experience didn’t just happen with one airline. it happened with three different airlines.
In my mind the ability to cancel tickets and get credit without penalty has been one of the delighter’s that came about due to the pandemic. However, the must have of being able to purchase online broke down in my use case. It might not be a use case that is occurring enough to be high on the priority list but for this consumer I was left unhappy. It gets worse when we realize that hold times with some of these airlines have wait times of up to 3 hours when calling in. The airline itself is also losing money because calls into a call centre are expensive.
One international airline took my bad experience to the next level. The call center changed my ticket and only at the end of making the changes was I told of a small charge. That charge wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that I was told that I could make payment only after another department does some work on the request. Next day I called them because I had not heard anything back. They then tried to take payment from me and it didn’t work. I was then told that I had to go to a local office of theirs. Guess what? I was in a country that they don’t have an office in. I was then told to email one of their offices. I emailed them multiple times over three days and received no response. The story actually goes on and gets worse. The point is clearly the must have was not met.

I don’t mean to pick on airlines, they are just great for many business examples because they are such complex operations involving many things.

Another example comes from a well know tech brand. This company offers family sharing for their applications. I signed up! It delighted me to hear they have family sharing. I invited my family into my sharing. It didn’t work. Never really figured out why but we narrowed it down to the fact that my account is in a different region than theirs. No where does it warn you that it won’t work if in different regions. A delighter became a not so delightful experience. The must have in this situation would have been clear communication on being in the same region.
My final example is from an insurance company in Canada that sells home, tenant, and auto insurance. I was very impressed with the fact that I was able to actually do everything online without speaking to a person. Not only did I not need to talk to anyone but I had a dashboard where everything was visible to me. I’m not done though. What really delighted me was when I had to call in once to claim a referral gift. I was talking to the customer service agent and had to be put on hold. We all hate being put on hold. As I was beginning to regret calling in the agent told me ‘anytime you need me just speak up and I will come back’. In all of my life I have never had this feature available to me. It really delighted me and made me so much more comfortable being on hold. Clearly someone at this company really understood the stress levels and frustration of people being on hold listening to music they hate and having no control on how long they stay on hold.

It is not easy to build great products. The Kano model is a great framework to keep in mind. It’s not easy to get to delighters. I think it should be easier to identify must haves. Overall the key is to implement the model and be honest with your assessments.

Feel free to share your comments below and I’ll definitely try and engage in the discussions.