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Your Three Kinds of Customers
Your customers learn and change, so should your product.
When you design the user experience for your products, it is important to remember that every product actually has three different user experiences. These three experiences exist because you have three types of customers and each of them will use your product in different ways. The three types of customers are:
Newbies: People who are using your product for the first time, right now.
Students: People who have used your product a few times and have mastered the basics but have not yet decided if they will be dedicated customers.
Experts: People who use your product as frequently as possible, ideally part of their daily routine.
Each type of customer has different needs, different expectations and requires different strategies to win them over. Let us review them one at a time.
Newbies: Winning on Day Zero
Day zero begins the first moment that a new customer touches your product. You should assume that, on day zero, Newbies know nothing about your product or what it is supposed to do. Hence, your challenge is to simultaneously educate them about the product while demonstrating how useful the product will be once they master it.
Your primary goal with Newbies is to get them to come back a second time. Customers that only try a product once are lost and almost impossible to recover. You want to find a way to bring them back often enough to increase the chance you convert them to a loyal customer.
To win over the Newbies, there are some key things you need to provide as part of your Day Zero experience:
The Wow Factor. Newbies need to see something exciting and memorable during their first time using the product, without requiring them to do a lot of work. Something that is so impressive that they will have an incentive to learn more and put up with the natural frustration that exists when learning something new. This initial payoff will set the tone for their interaction with the product.
Goals over Tools. Many products have their interface built around capabilities of the product, exposing everything the product can do. Newbies don’t yet speak the language of your product so they won’t know how to translate their goals into the features and tools you provide. You should focus instead on the goals of a first time user and map those into features for them. It gives you a great chance to demonstrate the power of the product, while helping a customer achieve a goal during their first time using the product.
Limit Choices. While it might be great that your product can do a lot of things, you don’t want to expose these all at once to a new user. Instead, you are best to reveal only the minimum necessary to use the product and reveal additional complexity later. Providing too many options and too many paths will only serve to confuse.
Remember, your goal with a Newbie is not to turn them into an expert but to get them to come back again. If you are successful, your Newbies will become Students.
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Students: Getting Over the Hump
Student customers are already familiar with your product and have used it a few times, so hopefully they have experienced the Wow Factor and have achieved at least a few of their goals using the product. You managed to convince them to come back multiple times, now your challenge is converting them into an Expert.
Getting over this hump, and turning them into loyal customers, will define how quickly your business will grow. Some common ways to help turn Students into Experts:
Always show them something new. Don’t overwhelm customers with power tools all at once, but encourage them to explore something new every time they come back. If you see them attempting to achieve goals, you can coach them with better or faster ways to achieve the same goal. You can also introduce features and tools they haven’t used before to expose them to everything the product has to offer. Constantly being exposed to new things will give them a strong incentive to keep coming back and learning more.
Watch out for warning signs. If customers show signs of frustration or lack of engagement, proactively engage with them. For example, if they try the same action multiple times with no success, you can prompt them with help on how to achieve their goal. These friction points also become the top priority for you to improve in the user experience.
Make sure that you are closely tracking your Students because they will be at risk of loss until they become Experts.
Experts: Rewarding Your Evangelists
Experts are the most active customers you have. They use the product constantly, hopefully everyday, and know all of the features inside and out. Since they are already as active as possible, your challenge is to keep them that way and not lose them.
The best way to keep them engaged is to stay ahead of any reason they might have to leave. While you can’t force someone to be happy, you can remove reasons for them to be unhappy. Anticipating reasons they might depart and removing them ahead of time is hard but there are some general ways to do this:
Constant Improvement. Constant and consistent improvement to the product is critical. It provides customers with a sense that the product is always getting better, which will translate into patience when they encounter things they don’t like. If they get frustrated and feel that the product is stale they are more likely to give up and walk away.
Open lines of communication. Solicit and listen to feedback from these customers, giving them a feeling of ownership in the product. You should have special lines of communication available to Professional users which will make them feel valued. It will also allow you to prioritize their concerns and improvement requests.
You will lose customers, even Experts, that is a fact of life. However, minimizing that loss is critical for maintaining your business. It is significantly cheaper to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one.
The Shifting Sands
The number of your customers who fall into each category depends on where in the lifecycle of your product you are. When you first launch your product, everyone is a Newbie! After a while, you will have a mix of all three. If your product has been in the market for a while, the mix depends on your rate of new customer acquisition and your existing customer retention rates.
The rate of change also varies by product! Some simple products are easy to learn and Newbies become Experts in days, other products are complex and it can take years to become an Expert. You will need to create your own definitions for each segment that match the features and usage of your product.
Always measure how many customers exist in each group because it’s a key factor in your product strategy. Whether you can remove certain features, add new features or change your navigation all depend on how different groups will react and how large they each are. There are countless other ways to segment your customers, but for decisions regarding your product this is a critical cornerstone.
Keep in mind that your team will go through the same evolution from Newbie to Student to Expert. As a result, your team will eventually be composed mostly of Experts and have more difficulty seeing the product through the eyes of a Newbie. This is one reason products become more complex over time, and you need to find ways to help your team adjust for the bias of their product expertise.
Conclusion: The Perfect Product
There is no such thing as a perfect user experience, as it is difficult to balance the needs and interests of all three types of customers at the same time. Some products are very simple to pick up and use the first time but are not useful for experts. Other products are powerful for experts but very difficult for first time users to learn. You cannot make everyone happy at the same time, but you can alleviate as many problems as possible. Just because there is no such thing as a perfect product does not mean you should not aspire to create one.
By taking all three customer types into account when designing your user experience you will get as close as possible to your ideal product.
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