Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Pre-Mortem As Antidote To Murphy’s Law

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The Pre-Mortem As Antidote To Murphy’s Law


murphy__s_law_by_cutty_sark
Things go wrong.  Murphy of Murphy’s law fame says so. In fact Murphy goes further by stating that whatever can go wrong will. It’s my experience that Murphy is usually right. So I am not taking a faith leap to tell you that right now things are going wrong with your customer experience.
And some of those things are costing you, costing you dearly.
Some of those things are obvious, and you are likely trying to fix them. Other things, not so much. And that is where your biggest opportunities for improvement exist. As well as opportunities to plan against them in the future.
Let me introduce you to the pre-mortem, the antidote to Murphy’s Law.
Gary Klein of the Harvard Business Review writes
A premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem. A postmortem in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits except, of course, the patient. A premortem in a business setting comes at the beginning of a project rather than the end, so that the project can be improved rather than autopsied. Unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the “patient” has died, and so asks what did go wrong. The team members’ task is to generate plausible reasons for the project’s failure.
In our book, Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide, we describe the pre-mortem process as it relates to the Buyer Legends process.
  • Begin by having your Team imagine that the customer has completed her (or his) buying journey and either didn’t buy at all, didn’t buy what you sell (in favor of an alternative solution), or bought from a competitor. Now ask yourselves:
    • What went wrong that led to these outcomes?Your intuitions about the most likely bad outcomes and most likely causes will be more insightful than you may think.
    • This process will give your team permission to voice doubts or fears about your brand’s interaction with customers that they might not otherwise feel safe in doing.
  • For every wrong turn, missed opportunity, or bump that could derail the customer’s successful journey, take time to imagine how that process would most likely play out. For instance, how would this detail-oriented customer react if a major detail about your product is left out of their journey or if that detail was hard to find? What would that look and feel like, and at what point would that frustration or anxiety actually derail the sale?
  • Now think up fixes, resolutions, and workarounds for each failure point. The point to the pre-mortem exercise is to give you insight into problems that exist in your current buying paths, so that you can then use it to immunize your conversion funnel from common (and not so common) mistakes that will keep your customer from closing the deal. Understanding these will help you write a more realistic and helpful Buyer Legend when you move onto the next step of Reverse Chronology.
The reality is that most companies lose more sales every day than they make, and we have stated in the past that if you are converting less than 15% you need to evaluate what is broken in your customer experience, get to the bottom of what is going wrong, and plan to get it right.  That is why, hands down, the pre-mortem step is the most impactful step of the entire Buyer Legends process.  In fact, rarely does this exercise fail to produce at least one a-ha moment for our clients.  When you imagine the sale is already dead it frees up all the mental energy that you used to try and get the sale and points it at all the potential pitfalls and problems in your experience.  A pre-mortem is powerful optimization technique but also imagine how powerful it is when you are designing a new customer experience from scratch.
After you perform your pre-mortem you will likely end up with a long list of potential proof of Murphy’s law, but not everything on your list is equal.  Some thing are worth your effort some are not.  In my work with clients we often use Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization to separate the more pressing issues from the tinier ones.  First sort the list of problems into the follow categories.
Functional. Does this product/service do what the prospect needs? How easy is it for a prospect to determine this?
Accessible. Can she access it? What are the barriers to her ability to realize the need? Is it affordable, reasonable, and findable?
Usable. Is it user-friendly? Are there obstacles?
Intuitive. Does the sales process/Web site feel intuitive and natural based on her buying preferences? Is she forced to endure unnatural buying modalities to realize her need?
Persuasive. Does she want it? Does she truly understand if it fills her need or solves her problem? Is her expectation reasonable? Will she be delighted?
eisenberg-graphic-1
Once they are sorted simply work your way up the pyramid.  Again, remember not every problem is in search of a solution, and you should focus on the problems that are likely to impact the most customers, and problems that you can actually fix. Analytics can also confirm some of the problems you identified exist and give you an indication of which ones are causing you the most grief.
Performing a simple pre-mortem should be a common business practice, but the Buyer Legends process turns it up a notch.  A pre-mortem when used in conjunction with personas (I’ll cover these in more detail soon) will uncover more specific problems and allow you to address the unique problems that exist in more than one customer segment.
Be warned, the pre-mortem is not for those that like to play peek-a-boo. If you like to pretend that the only problems that exist are the ones that you can see then skip over the pre-mortem.  This is not an exercise for anyone that wants to hear the that their not so attractive baby is a supermodel.
We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help , please let us know.
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P.S. This is the first in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts, please sign up to our newsletter for updates.
Anthony Garcia (19 Posts)
Anthony Garcia heads up Client Services for Buyer Legends.  Anthony
began his career by way of radio broadcasting at the young age of 14.
After a 15 years in broadcast radio management Anthony became an ad writer and client
consultant for Roy H. Williams “The Wizard of Ads” and managed a portfolio of high profile
clients including Leo Schachter Diamonds and Robbins Brothers.  He went on to become
the lead consultant for Future Now Inc. working with Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg to help
clients like HP, Webex, and NBC Universal. Anthony has teamed up with the Eisenbergs
to work with such clients as Runa.com, OneSpot, Adorama, and Google.