Doing what works versus the customer experience

Every so often, I hear a story which makes no sense. “We put a huge popup banner on our website, and our sales increased by 15%”, “we slowed down our website, and our sales funnel converted 2% better”. While these sentences may make technical sense, they’re odd to wrap one’s brain around, as they shouldn’t make sense. To me, this comes down to a delta between doing what works and the customer’s experience overall with your store, brand, and/or product.

Do popup banners really work? Apparently, they do. Are they annoying for customers? You betcha they are. A popup banner gets in the way of your customer’s purchasing experience, despite perhaps offering a discount for subscribing to a mailing list. I personally find popups to be invasive, if not treated correctly, and applied only to first-time visitors (or in context, for a regular visitor).

Outside of the web

I’ve recently been having discussions with a local fibre optic infrastructure provider, which can be summed up as “you really should listen to how frustrated your customers are before you plaster cheeky marketing in front of all your customers, and act as if everything is happy and cheerful”. This feels like an interesting opportunity to examine the customer experience versus doing what works.

If I were to step into the shoes of said company, I could quite clearly see how putting the company’s logo and branding all over their work, and in their customers’ faces, helps to keep the company’s name in the minds of the customer, making the customer more likely to choose the company as their fibre provider of choice. When I take into account how sticky this product is (it’s got a high switching cost), I’d assume that customers would remain with whichever provider they chose initially. This would indicate that I’d need to do everything I can to “win the customer” right out the gate, including plastering the company logo and marketing everywhere. At this point, whether the marketing is cheeky or terrible is almost irrelevant. The objective would be to put something in front of the potential customer, regardless of how it impacts the customer experience. A great example of this is Telkom, our largest telecommunications provider in South Africa. They have a monopoly hold on the market, so don’t seem to care too much about their customers’ experience. The switching costs are high, and there aren’t many (any) alternatives, so a customer who despises Telkom is still a customer.

This is an unfortunate reality we see today in this particular industry. For a moment, lets look at the alternative which, of course, is my personal favourite; focusing on the experience your customer has with your company and product/service.

A story of a great customer experience

I use an internet service provider in order to get access to a fibre connection. This isn’t Telkom. When I pick up the phone, a human being politely answers within 2-3 minutes, at most. When I send an email, I get an answer within the hour. If I want to pause, adjust, or cancel my subscription, I can do this myself without contacting a support representative.

When troubleshooting a recent internet issue for a family member who uses the same company, I spoke to the company over the phone. The representative then paused for a moment, and asked what router we’re using. They then asked a colleague to step in and assist, who had assist another customer who so happened to have the same router make and model, and had spotted a trend with that model. We swapped out the router, and were right as rain in no time.

I’m sure you can guess who I’ll be recommending to anyone looking to get fibre internet access.


“Delight” is a word which stands out to me a lot in this context. If it takes a little bit longer to get to the resolution, that’s okay. If the customer doesn’t get exactly their solution, surprisingly that’s also okay. If the customer has a resolution to their reported issue/query, and has high quality assistance from the team behind the product, this arguably means more than whether or not the solution is exactly what the customer set out to achieve, if it resolves the issue sufficiently, and helps the customer to feel as though they’ve had a pleasant experience, while also having their query resolved.

While there is certainly a place for “doing what works”, I’d say this should be done only within the context of delighting the customer in some way. Applying context to a popup on a website is a good example of this, or making sure to examine marketing/branding from a customer’s view point.

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