Why better software *is* better customer experience

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Tim’s bad service from a major courier reminded me of a similar experience just after we moved house. In Tim’s case, a next-day lawnmower that took a week-long detour means he’s unlikely to buy from the supplier until they change their delivery company. In mine, there was a more direct result.

It all happened when we moved into a newly built house, with a new postcode. New addresses take a while to work their way into everyone’s databases, so we spent the first few months taking calls from lost couriers and trades people, talking them in via the nearest landmarks.

Our infant son was still munching through snacks, slurping through pouches and making his way through an unlikely number of nappies, and we wanted to save some money. We had a plan: we’d keep buying all the healthy, fresh, quality food from good old middle-class Ocado, and we’d get one of the cheaper supermarkets to deliver all the branded, non-perishable products along with its own-brand nappies.

It didn’t last long.

Two hikers exchange a high-fiveThe first time Ocado delivered, we had a call from its driver and had to talk him to our door. Three years of weekly shopping later and they’ve never needed to call again. Contrast that with the other supermarket: the first time we placed a bulk order for nappies and wipes we got a call, but the same thing happened next time. With the third order we didn’t even get a call, and our shopping ended up back at the local branch.

You don’t need to be a software engineer to deduce the simple reason why Ocado now gets all our business, and the other shop is considered a timewaster: Ocado’s systems let its driver add a custom location for us on his first visit, and every other driver, in every other van, has benefitted from it since.

All of this is a simple example of the difference, to your customers, between being a comparatively young company run on purpose-built, user-centric business systems, and an incumbent, seemingly trying to get by with off-the-shelf SatNav.

When supermarkets sell essentially the same products, and their traditional battleground has been price and perceived quality, it’s a reminder that better customer experience is also a selling point. And if you operate at scale, becoming a software-driven company is the only way to deliver it.

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