Use CX foreshadowing to change experiences in ways that build customer trust and buy-in

'Coming soon' is not enough information when you're redesigning, replacing or optimizing something familiar to customers. Here's what to do instead

This is a free preview article. Subscribe to get full access to my interviews with CX leaders, coverage of the top conferences and first look at CX research. 

I should have been jumping for joy when I found out that the reopening in my local city has reached the stage where I could finally get a haircut, but I wasn’t.

Like a lot of people, I don’t want to get a haircut from just anyone, but from the same barber I’ve been seeing for the past seven years.

That may not be possible for a while longer, because when the men’s salon he works at posted the COVID-19 closure notice on its web site, it included an unexpected postscript:

(We are) currently working on providing you with a new and improved booking platform to serve you better, which will be operational in the coming weeks. At this time we are not accepting any new bookings until we have a firm re-opening date.

What you wouldn’t know from reading this note is that this will be not the second but the third online booking system this particular salon has used. And since I’m like the many people who would much prefer to book online versus calling and waiting as the receptionist looks for an appointment time on her screen, this will affect a critical step in my customer journey.

Then there are all the other details this note left out. It does not say, for instance, whether the new booking system will require a new account setup, or whether longtime existing customers (like me) will be migrated over.

If that happens, it not only means the record of my previous appointments will be preserved, but all the other details the old system collected, like which barber I prefer and the kind of service I usually request (It’s called “Gentlemen’s Cut,” but there are several other kinds).

The last time this salon switched platforms nothing was migrated, and I saw few benefits as a customer, so this obviously influences my expectations.

You can easily imagine how other companies have used the recent lockdown period as an opportunity to make similar kinds of improvements, whether it’s an upgraded e-commerce site, renovations to their physical locations or even changes in staff or responsibilities. Some of these will make experiences better, at least potentially.

These changes are all coming at a time, however, when brands are also welcoming back customers who are wary or otherwise still going through difficult periods as a result of the pandemic. Change is tough even everything seems to be going great. Change amid a global crisis calls for something more than an announcement that tis on its way.

I’m going to suggest we use the term CX foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing, as we were all probably taught somewhere during elementary or high school English classes, is a literary device in which a writer gives some kind of hint about what will come later in the story. Sometimes there are more details than others, but good foreshadowing helps the remainder of the narrative make sense.

CX foreshadowing needs to be more comprehensive than what we get in literature, but it serves a similar purpose.

When a company like my hair salon is transitioning to a new booking system, CX foreshadowing starts by making sure all those uncertainties and unanswered questions I mentioned earlier are addressed.

Beyond that, CX foreshadowing gives just enough information to help me envisage what the experience will be like afterwards. This doesn’t have to happen in words but can use the same illustrations for explainer-style videos that are often part of a customer success team’s assets in SaaS or B2B companies.

I use “foreshadowing” in this case because there may be elements to the experience being changed or redesigned that the brand is not ready to discuss yet. This could be because there are still bugs to fix or trade-offs that will have to be justified once the experience has been relaunched.

When CX foreshadowing is done well, customers are not only properly informed and prepared for the changes to an experience, but are more ready to next any required next steps, to buy into the end result and even to share information about the changes to other customers they know who haven’t gone through it yet.

If this new online booking system works wonders, for instance, I might suggest my friends use it if they’re looking to get their own long-overdue haircut.

The pandemic has proven that brands can’t expect the customer journey to remain the same forever. But that doesn’t mean they can’t share at least a little bit of how the roadmap on that journey might be revised.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.