Have you ever heard about Jeremy Bentham? Back in the 18th century this English philosopher introduced the principle of utility. In his main work ‘The Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation’ Bentham stated that all human beings by default act to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. As we seek a maximum of happiness, we weigh the positive and negative effects of every action, and choose our interests accordingly. This philosophy is what’s become known as Utilitarianism.
In fact customer engagement is built on this very principle. The ratio of pleasure and pain in the user experience determines customer convenience, which in turn affects how customers make decisions about what products to buy, what services to use, and with what providers to engage. Therefore it’s up to businesses to go out their ways to indulge in any whims or expectations customers may have while removing any unpleasantries that cause discomfort in the customer journey.
In this week’s blog we’ll try and define convenience in the user experience and stress exactly why you as a business really can’t afford to go without it.
What is convenience?
Convenience is first and foremost a matter of perception. What can be perceived as convenient by one individual might differ in many ways from what others experience as pleasing. Also, what can be perceived as convenient by that same individual in the morning, might differ from what he himself finds to be convenient in the evening.
In 1986 a framework was introduced by Yale & Venkatesh² for understanding convenience. Within this framework variables such as attitude and situational context influence an individual’s preference and need for some of the attributes of convenience. What this basically means is that as an individual’s situation changes, his perception of what is convenient changes as well¹.
Brown³ (1989) suggested that convenience lies in the service instead of the individual and breaks up convenience along the five dimensions of a service: time, place, acquisition, use, and execution. Clulow & Reimers⁴ (2009) found that convenience in retail derives from minimizing the costs of time, space, and effort. Ari Weismann (2012) suggested that, although every one of these previous definitions has merit, neither of them really accounts for the fact that a customer experience can cross services, products and contexts. Convenience in the user experience must take into account the costs of the experience (in money, effort, and other terms), a true understanding of the stages of the experience, and an understanding of customers as their needs and behaviours change from context to context¹.
And why is it important?
Let’s say you are going abroad. Your bags are packed and everything is accounted for. After a pleasant flight you hit terra firma, happy to be on holiday. Yet what you’ve forgotten is the fact that your Mastercard isn’t activated in the country you’re visiting. Now, while in the past this could have been a real bummer, image the following scenario. Based on your location you receive a push notification on your smartphone with the unfortunate update, yet instead of leaving it there, you’re immediately asked if you wish to activate your Mastercard there on the spot. Simply by pressing a button. Isn’t that convenient?
In the modern digital era we live in, this is the sort of convenience that can be expected of businesses to provide, enabled by the technology they have at their disposal. This is the sort of convenience in customer communications that gets customers over the line and into your corner.
Convenience and usage
When you compare them to the standard issue version you find in your kitchen drawer, the pair of scissors on a pocket knife aren’t the best ones available on the market, nor are the tweezers, or even the knife for that matter. But what makes the Swiss pocket knife a tool that so many people carry about, is the sheer convenience.
The same goes for customer communications. The functionalities on your customer smartphone application might be top notch, if your customers can’t work out how to use them they will gladly choose for the competition that might have less bells and whistles but excels in intuitiveness. That’s how the level of convenience of a tool, but also an app or service provider, determines usage.
Convenience and costs
Self-service applications create higher levels of perceived and actual convenience for the user¹. Nowadays travellers can print their boarding passes at home or even at the airport. This moves the effort onto the customers, but for many of them the perceived convenience of being in control outweigh the additional time they have to put in. As such more work for the user translates to less service costs for the airline companies.
¹ Weissman, A. (2012, February 16). Convenience: The seven essentials of a customer-centric business. Retrieved November 19, 2018, from https://uxmag.com/articles/convenience
² Yale, L., & Venkatesh, A. (1986). Towards the construct of convenience in consumer research. Advances in Consumer Research, vol. 13: p403-408.
³ Brown, L.G. (1989). The strategic and tactical implications of convenience in consumer product marketing. Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 4: p53-59.
⁴ Clulow, Valerie, & Reimers, Vaughan. (2009) How do consumers define retail centre convenience? Australasian Marketing Journal, vol. 17, iss 3: p125-133.