How the 'idiot curve' can help in bettering customer service


Whenever we are starting something new or stepping into unfamiliar territories, fear can hold us back.

During such times, logic and timelines may seem irrelevant.

The picture of the end goal may sometimes be familiar, but the means to surf us there is what makes it look unattainable.

We first engage on a journey to unearth new information and demystify misconceptions while steering clear of any potential risks.

We then gradually work through our fears and gain the courage to navigate through the journey to success.

This is what is known as the “idiot curve.” It is the tendency to feel dumb before getting smart.

The concept, which is used in many fields, also applies to the customer’s journey. But to know your way, you must first know where you are going. 

The concept of the “idiot curve” in customer service can be understood as a psychological or emotional journey that customers go through when they initially struggle to understand or use a product or service but gradually gain confidence and proficiency over time.

Here’s how it might relate to customer service: 

Initial Confusion (bottom of the curve): Customers may feel confused or frustrated when they first encounter a new product or service.

This could be due to unclear instructions, complex features or a lack of user-friendly design. 

Learning and adaptation (climbing the curve): As customers engage with the product or service, they start to learn and adapt. This phase may involve seeking help from customer service, reading manuals or exploring online resources. 

Support and guidance (curve’s ascent): Effective customer service during this phase is crucial. Clear and responsive support can help customers overcome challenges, answer questions, and guide them through any difficulties. This support can be through various channels, including helplines, chat support, or detailed documentation. 

Confidence and proficiency (top of the curve): With time and support, customers become more confident and proficient in using the product or service. They may discover its full range of features and benefits, leading to a positive customer experience. 

Customer loyalty and advocacy (descending from the curve): Customers who successfully navigate the “idiot curve” with the help of excellent customer service are more likely to develop loyalty and become advocates for the brand. They may share positive experiences with others, contributing to word-of-mouth marketing.

The ‘idiot curve” in the context of customer service represents the journey customers take from initial confusion to mastery, with effective and supportive customer service playing a crucial role in helping them climb the curve and ultimately have a positive and satisfying experience with the product or service.

As their confidence increases, they realise how interesting a product or service is, and they begin to anticipate new experiences. 

From the service provider’s perspective, a business can identify existing gaps by mapping out a customer’s journey through the curve, which can be leveraged to optimise customer experience.

This feedback loop helps a business understand its customers and break various biases that may hinder quick buying decisions. When customers’ feedback is taken into consideration, it solidifies the commitment by an organisation to put the customer at the core of every business operation.

Consequently, the buying process becomes easier and seamless, enhancing delightful customer experiences.

The results are replicated in an array of areas such as higher customer spending, repeat purchases, and brand loyalty, creating a strong and reputable brand. 

The writer is the founder, The Loop Consulting, and a PhD Candidate at Kenyatta University  

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