Matt Watkinson book launch: The ten principles behind great customer experiences

The ten principles behind great customer experiences

Last Wednesday I spent a lovely evening at the cosy bar at Ogilvy, and after a couple of drinks headed in to the packed boardroom to see a presentation by Matt Watkinson.

Matt is a world leader in customer experience with an impressive worldwide client list. Although I had my doubts about whether I could take someone who owns a red Porsche seriously (sorry Matt) it was pretty easy to see the truth in what he was saying. The evening’s chair, Rory Sutherland, kept up the tempo and the chuckles with his uniquely contrarian perspective.

Matt cuts through the flabby thinking that tends to accompany the world of “customer experience” – a term which he defines as the qualitative aspect of any interaction that an individual has with a business, its products or services, at any point in time.

The book is exceptionally well written: there’s a zen-like clarity, his words selected with laser-like precision. I love the pictures of his research material in the accompanying website; it’s also got downloadable worksheets to help people structure their customer experience thinking. Useful.

Matt's research materials

Matt’s research materials

Rather than list or summarise its principles (buy the book or start here) I thought I’d mention the themes which remain with me a week on.


Analysis paralysis stands in the way of improving things for real customers. The era of big data means we’re drowning in numbers, to the detriment of empathy. We spend hours constructing complex market share models without acknowledging that these are only models of reality, not reality itself.

Any linear relationship between a single metric and satisfaction is dubious. Rory described how economists’ arguments for HS2 use length as the single determinant of success, ignoring the bigger picture. This conveniently ignores the fact that a) you can work on a train and b) if you’re going to Brum from London you’ll probably still need a day out of the office even if the journey is 38 mins shorter.

The lesson? Quantitative metrics “cannot replace an empathetic feel for what might delight the customer”. Get out there see your customers for yourself.

Understand why people really buy your product

You can look at consumption through several lenses:

  • Use value – what it does e.g. a fridge cools
  • Exchange value – what it costs
  • Sign value – how it compares to other objects, what it implies about the owner

Sign value is critical as you cannot generate good customer experiences without understanding why people buy your product. Ask yourself “If our brand is the answer, what is the question?” We’re after the truth here – not what people post-rationalise after purchase. Matt gave the example of Superdry. Faux-Americana and Japanese cultural signifiers of authenticity are beside the point. Their founder is quoted as saying they produce “clothes blokes can go down the pub in and not be laughed at.”

It’s easy to see how strategy and tactics can tumble from such a powerful insight.

Engage the senses

This is one I’ve spent 6 months thinking about for a client project which is now bearing fruit, so it is a particular favourite. Consider each sense in turn – are you engaging with it? Have you overlooked anything?

Website UX testing often sees users asking for more photography. The question is whether this stated need belies an implicit need – to get closer to the product, to engage more than sight alone.

Matt gave the example of this video from Leica, who convey quality through sight and sound, giving you an immersive experience of texture and weight.

When you think about it, capitalism has brought us to the point where we have oversupply in every category. Any consumer product is likely to be pretty good. As Mark Earls points out in Herd: “’s 10 years since JD Power revealed that there is no such thing as a bad car; they’re all good.”

Points of difference are precious few, so seek them out. You could even build an identity around them. Sticking with cars, here’s Martin Love in the Observer on “surprise and delight” features:

“The reassuring clunk of a door, the rubbery nub of a tactile indicator stalk, the balletic unfolding of a drink holder – these aren’t design solutions, they are the salesman’s hook.”

We are all educated in design now. The bar rises daily.

Taken from the book’s first chapter:

“10 years ago, when faced with confusing technology many would simply say ‘I’m not a technical person.’ Nowadays the consumer knows better. There are no technical and non-technical people, there are products that are well designed for their intended audience and there are those that are not, and we are now far more likely to blame the product rather than ourselves. This reflects a growing role that design plays in our lives. Amazon was not the first online bookstore, Google was not the first search engine, and IKEA was not the first furniture manufacturer: their success is intrinsically linked to their excellence in design.”

Inspiring stuff. I’m already looking forward to the next #ogilvychange event.

About Simon Shaw

I'm a Director at an insight consultancy. I'm interested in marketing, market research & consumer psychology. The views expressed are not necessarily those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Books, Customer Experience, Events, Market Research, Marketing, Planning, Retail, Strategy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Matt Watkinson book launch: The ten principles behind great customer experiences

  1. Pingback: Senteo Launches New Recommended Reading List for Customer Experience, Customer Relationship Management and Loyalty Topics |

  2. I am intrigued by Matt’s book. I met one of the authors of another excellent book on CX, Jeofrey Bean (the co-author is Sean Van Tyne). I do not think Jeof drives a Porsche of any color. Great post. Love the Leica video. They had me at the white gloves, but the clicks of the lens pushed it over the top.

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