The Customer Experience: The Design Moment of Truth

Business 2.0 ran an article this month on their ‘2nd annual bottom line design awards’. The article promised to “go beyond surface beauty to single out objects that look good not just in pictures, but also on their makers’ income statements.” According to them, “design aesthetic was but one of 10 metrics we used to rate each product. We also considered user experience, brand strategy, sustainability, innovation, risk taking, corporate strategy, business impact, cultural impact, and the element of surprise.”
Satjiv Chahil, SVP for Marketing at HP, nominated custom-made m&ms. Frog Design execs were involved too. Sounded like two good votes. And besides, it was M&Ms. Who doesn’t like M&Ms? M&Ms was on their way to make a big sale. And if my enthusiasm was any indication, their placement in Business 2.0 would yield big results.
I was excited to do the order. My company logo has a circle element that I’m always working on playing up. Plus, the custom made m&ms come in many colors and I could get one close to the copper color of my brand. I am hosting an upcoming “Spark” dinner soon, with my best clients and colleagues. What a great idea for a chatchka, I thought and so different that coffee cups or t-shirts.
If Satjiv or the Frog Design guys did check out the customer experience, then these guys don’t know good from bad. If they didn’t, and included the factor of user experience as a consideration, they clearly didn’t do their homework.
Here’s my reality:

The ordering process went okay. Not elegant, but okay.

I wanted brown, but brown M&Ms can’t be custom printed. But you can order them in 5 lb. bulk. Okay compromise.

The orange and red were good color choices that could be custom printed. I’m guessing the color choices were linked to being able to print white clearly on them. No information on that but I’m guessing.

I decided I would order one color with “win” on one side and “markets” on the other since I like those words and they reflect both this blog and the tag line for my company. On the other color, I would order a simple “Rubicon” word. All 3 are ordinary words, right?

There was a waiver online to make sure the user wasn’t violating copyright law. I clicked through the long work. I committed to being legal.

I couldn’t get the packaging I wanted so I ordered everything, and was prepared to assemble red, orange and brown together and package locally.

But here’s the rub. Sales operations didn’t want to make the sale or customer experience ‘friendly’.
I got a letter from a Bill DeSanti the M&M Operations Manager:

There’s a problem with your order, as entered.

(You may also be receiving an automated version of this email – you need only respond to one – due to internet email issues and spam blockers, we are currently using redundant contact emails)

Due to trademark restrictions (the ‘m’ on the product is a brand symbol), use of company names, trademarked or registered phases used on the product causes some concerns. Until very recently, we could not allow it. These restrictions also apply to use of phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and links.

Happily, we’ve managed to resolve this, by allowing limited use by a simple, one use agreement, which I’ve attached.

Please remember to enter the order number on the form, in the space provided on page 1 of the Agreement. Your order number is: R0546925

and also appears in the subject line, above.

Feel free to contact me at the numbers below if you have any questions, or fax the signed agreement back to the fax number below.

Fax Number
908 813 8086

Frequently Asked Questions –

*Why is there an agreement necessary?
As both our trademark and yours appear on the product, it requires use of this (relatively) simple agreement to respect each others Intellectual Property rights. There are no additional product or handling charges resulting from this – it’s just a legal trademark requirement.

* Don’t have Adobe?
This link can be used to get to Adobe’s site, to download their free reader.

*Need a different format? On request, we can email Word format versions, or fax them to you – please contact us for these.

* Don’t think your message requires the agreement?
With only the message content and customer information to sort by, we can classify orders as business use which are not – this is not an exact science – please explain, and we’ll take a look!

* Will this process extend the delivery time? Every effort is made to stay within the commitment window specified in the terms and conditions – For Custom Printed Candy, this is 10 Business Days. Sometimes this is not possible, but prompt response enables us to do our best to get it to you quickly.

* Has my credit card been charged?
No – credit card authorization occurs after acceptance of order (which has not occurred yet), and the actual charges do not take place until your order is shipped.

* Is overnight shipping available?
While the website does provide for an upgrade to overnight shipping for prepackaged Color Candy, the process for producing Custom Printed M&M’S(R) takes time – so the overnight delivery of these products is not offered.

For further information, please respond to this email, or contact our Customer Service Team

Customer Service – 888-MYMMS-88 (888-696-6788)

– Bill

Bill DeSanti
Manager – Business Operations
My M&M’S
Fax (direct) 908 813-8086

Along with Bill’s Letter was two contracts to sign. One was an agreement form, and one was a T&Cs.

My M&Ms Terms and Conditions

Custom M&Ms Agreement

Let’s be clear, this was a $167 order. For M&Ms. Not Nuclear Secrets.
I wrote to Bill and explained that the process seemed disrespectful and there’s no way I’m signing a 5-page-waiver for M&Ms. And, not unexpectedly, Bill never wrote back.
I think the experience matters so much that I’ve got to now find a new thing for the dinner.
The object lesson for all of us marketers and business leaders. (If it isn’t obvious…) Custom-tailoring products to user preferences is a GREAT idea. And technology today supports it in a way that I believe it will come to be ‘normal’ in the next 5 years.
Yet customization on it’s own is not a business model. It is but one part of a business model — design has to be tied to the ultimate customer experience. There are many solid resources on Great User Design, so I won’t comment on that. I consider design is an interdisciplinary piece of the marketing puzzle. And I also think the solid user experience is a key part of a sustainable business model. In this case, M&Ms seems rather afraid of their customers, don’t they? They seem to me to have taken a strong, compelling, creative idea with high-profit opportunity, yet made the customer the enemy.
And it would be fine that the M&M company doesn’t choose to do tailor made products. But either be in the business or be out. If M&M isn’t ready to be in the business of customer-friendly tailoring, then they shouldn’t be, ya know, doing this. But doing 5 page agreements after the customer signs an online waiver is — in my opinion — a sign of a bad design, a bad model. Even my lawyer friends had a good laugh.
Remember that every choice you make in the order and entry process is a key choice in your customer experience. Choose well.

No replies

  1. Amazing that you would be required to do all of this reading and approving just for $167 wortth of custom M&Ms. Seems to me the time invested in all this cost you much more than the M&Ms themselves! 🙂

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