At Your Convenience (Business Brilliance #10)

29 April 2019 | 9 Comments

I recently scheduled an annual checkup with my doctor. After finalizing the date and time of my appointment on the phone, the receptionist informed me that I needed to update my paperwork.

Paperwork! Visions flashed through my mind of awkwardly crouching over a clipboard in the doctor’s office, gripping one of those pens with the plastic flowers taped to the end.

But then the receptionist offered an alternative: “You can print out the form from our website and fill it out in advance.” Sure, it’s still paperwork, but it makes a huge difference to be able to fill it out on my time in the comfort of my home.

Perhaps most importantly, I felt like they were looking out for me as a customer. They were putting my convenience first, despite the extra effort they had to expend to build a website and feature the form on it.

The experience made me reflect on Stonemaier Games. My overarching philosophy is to “make it about them”; that is, put the customer first when making decisions. In terms of convenience, though–removing areas of potential discomfort and making things easier for the customer–I’m not sure I actively think about that as much as I should.

I can only think of a few examples:

  • Champion Cancellations: The recurring memberships app we use for Stonemaier Champions will automatically charge members once a year to continue their membership. I would prefer for those members to get a notification from the app, but until the developers implement that, I send a monthly update to Champions a few weeks before their auto-renew will happen that details exactly how to end their membership if that’s what they want (and assuring them that I won’t even see the cancellation).
  • Tell Us Anything: There are many different reasons why someone might want to contact us directly; in fact, there are 10 different reasons and methods listed on our Contact page. However, on that page is a simple form where anyone can simply tell us anything they want. No need to open an e-mail or hunt down the perfect contact method.
  • Bundled Products: Very recently I started offering product bundles on our website, with the idea being that sometimes customers don’t want to track all of the various products related to our games. For example, if you find yourself looking at any Viticulture expansion on our website, you’ll also see the “all Viticulture expansions bundle” (which conveniently offers a discount too).
  • Learning Games: I understand that for many people, learning the rules of a game is quite inconvenient. So I try to design our games and rulebooks with learnability in mind. Sometimes we even include quick-start guides in the game, and we always contract Rodney at Watch It Played for people who prefer to have a video version of the rulebook.
  • E-newsletter Top Articles and Videos: I create a lot of content on this blog and my game design YouTube channel. For people who just want to see the most popular posts, I highlight the most-read article and the most-viewed video on our monthly e-newsletter. I offer longer top-5 lists in the monthly Champion newsletter.
  • Replacement Parts: Requesting a missing or broken component can be an awkward experience. We get thousands of these requests every year, so we try to make it as easy and essentially as anonymous as possible–all you do is fill out a form, and a week or so later the piece will show up in your mailbox.
  • Easy-Open Components: Have you ever tried to open a shrinkwrapped deck of cards that doesn’t have an easy-peel strip? It’s agonizing! Recently we talked to our manufacturer, Panda, and they revealed an even friendlier (both for the consumer and the environment) method of packaging cards: paper strips. So we’re going to be implementing them whenever possible from now on.
  • Back-in-Stock Requests: I don’t think it should be the customer’s responsibility to remember to check back to see when a product is in stock again, so last year I added a back-in-stock app to our Shopify store. That way you can “set it and forget it,” trusting that I’ll contact you whenever a reprint of a game like Wingspan is available.

My list started out with 2 things, but it grew a bit more as I thought about it. But I’d still like to do a better job of this, and I’d love to hear your examples of other companies that try to put the customer’s convenience first.

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9 Comments on “At Your Convenience (Business Brilliance #10)

  1. doctors in italy don’t have you fill out any paperwork. isn’t it even awesomer? granted that wouldn’t work when you’re ordering a game online…

  2. I work at Trader Joe’s and one of our 7 core values is giving a “wow” customer experience.

    Many of the things we do may seem little, but they can mean a lot and add up to a much more convenient grocery experience.

    When a customer asks where something is, we walk them to the product. We don’t just point or tell them where it is.

    When a customer is looking for something that can’t be found on the shelf, we find out everything we can about when it will be in. If it is in the back on a pallet, we get that item to them and on the shelf. If it is on order, we give them an eta of when it will be arriving. If it is not currently orderable, we tell them what we know about when it should be back in.

    We offer holds for an item and set them aside. For people who are coming out of town, who want large quantities of an item, or who simply want the peace of of mind that their item will be there when they come in.

    Aside from our regular demo spot that we give away samples at, it is our policy that the we can open up an item for the customer to try right there in the store.

    Returns are no hassle. Didn’t like a product? No problem, we’ll take it off your purchase today or give you your money back.

    When a line starts to form, we ring a bell, more employees open up additional registers, taking the people next in line.

  3. Such a great article. Gary Vee would sum this up as “removing friction”. Essentially just making it as easy as possible for the consumer.

    A good example from him would be the way he generates content. He has his main video content in which he then has his team strip the audio from and make a podcast out of. Then he also has that transcribed into written so that you can read it like a blog. He then also has snippets taken of quotes put over his image and uses that for things like IG.

    Essentially from producing content 1 time. His team creates video, audio, written, and picture content. Maybe something to look into as I know I read every one of your blogs, but for some reason I dont follow you as actively on youtube, aside from when you embed links into this blog.

    In relation to your blog post though, I love the Easy to open components as that is a big thing for me. I love opening new boardgames but hate unwrapping cards. I like the plastic pouches that are heat sealed that ive seen cards come in as those take less then 1 second to open.

    I have not heard about the paper strips though? Is there anywhere you can point me for more information on those.

    1. Cody: “Removing friction”–I like that a lot! And I really like the strategy you outlined here of making content available in a variety of formats. I might consider doing that for more of my content–maybe make the blog, YouTube channel, and Facebook live chats all available in podcast format?

      As for the paper strips, I don’t have an example yet, though I know I’ve seen it in a few games (I just can’t remember which ones).

  4. Both you & Seth made good points but there is not enough competition among healthcare providers to drive innovation. Its the 21st Century and healthcare can do so much better.

    My healthcare provider in NC allows you to provide all those survey questions online and through their mobile app. This makes transfer of digital information so much easier for all parties.

    You can update your prescriptions, make, review, and reschedule appointments; receive your lab results, and even pay billing.

    I do occasionally find incongreuncies within their systems. They have to scan and print my insurance card & driver’s license to paper for filing. They also print their HIPPA forms to paper and require a wet signature. However, when they do billing they ask you to provide a digital signature for payment. To paraphrase Deming, continuious process improvement should remain evergreen.

    With conglomeration of healthcare networks consumers are less likely to motivate change. Let’s not even talk about medical services or specialist that are out of network.

  5. I don’t know about anyone else, but I really don’t enjoy going shoe shopping. About 10 years ago I needed a new pair of dress shoes for a job I was about to start at so I dragged myself of to the store to make my purchase. I got to the store and realized that trying on dress shoes while not wearing dress socks was going to be an exercise in frustration for something that I already don’t enjoy doing, and I certainly didn’t think to bring dress socks with me. I was pleasantly surprised when the clerk at the shoe store offered to provide me with a pairs of socks in order to try on the shoes, all without the guarantee of me making a purchase with them. Long story short I did purchase shoes from that store, and the experience has stuck with me all of these years. It seems like such a small thing, but it certainly made my day.

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