Encouraging Stick-with-it-ness

I purchased a new shaver recently, and tossed in among all the paperwork (warranty info, ads for accessories, instructions in multiple languages) is this bit of afterthought:

This just screams of missed opportunity. In product development, a lot of effort is put into creating an attractive package that will encourage people to buy; some effort is put into the OOBE, or Out Of The Box Experience (what happens when you take everything out and see it for the first time and then try to set it up and use it); and while there’s a lot of us who talk about the overall user experience, it’s distressing to see products be delivered to the customer with such a lack of finish around something so crucial.

The developers have reason to believe that the first time you use the product, you may be disappointed. Or at least not delighted. Nor the next time. Nor the next time, for 30 days, at which point (gradually, we assume), you’ll be receiving the optimum results.

The automotive industry has framed this sort of issue as “break-in” where you the customer are responsible for taking extra care of the vehicle during that period (with specific dos and don’ts like top-speed, etc.). Consider the difference between “It won’t work at its best for a while” and “Be sure to take care of it while it breaks in.” If the issue was the customer learning curve you might see messages like

Congrats on your purchase of a new Kodak digital camera. If you’ve (somehow) never used a digital camera before, you’ll probably find you are taking a lot of crappy pictures (hey, no film, right?). But after a while you’ll get the hang of it: you’ll figure out how to best aim, focus, and expose your picture, and you’ll also clue into the need to delete all your failed pictures. Until then, you might feel a bit frustrated, but that’s just the regular learning curve and it takes most people about 30 days of regular picture taking before they feel more confident.

The shaver people have to do more than toss a piece of a paper in the box to properly reframe this initial-sub-par-evolving-to-primo-experience. Some ideas (and I’m sure if you’re reading this you have others)

  • A 30-day supply of shaving lotion: “By the time you use up this lotion, you’ll be shaving at peak smoothness!”
  • 30 days worth of calendar stickers showing a progressively more smiling shaving man that you can put on your calendar after each shave (variation: 30 Post-Its that go on your bathroom mirror and are pulled down one-by-one as you count down from 30)
  • A phone call (or text, tweet, email, or snail mail) after 30 days congratulating you on reaching the optimum phase for your shaver and making you mindful of the experience you are now having
  • A 30-day subscription to a local newspaper that will fit into the morning routine. Stickers on the paper remind you who paid for it and count down towards optimal shaving
  • A social media app (i.e., a Facebook page) that alludes to a 12-step program, where members receive their 30-day tokens as they complete their trial period with the shaver (“I’ve got 30 days clean and shaved”)

The specific ideas, while fun to generate, aren’t really the point as much as the need for companies to think a little more broadly about optimizing the links between their promises, expectation management, and overall experience.

See also: The Experience Before The Out-of-the-box Experience


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