We have arrived at a time when there are no more handoffs between design and development. Where added value trumps effort (hallelujah, man before machine!). Where user stories are no longer about business requirements, but about enabling users. A time where features are replaced by offering an experience and empathy for our customers guide the decisions we make.
Utopia, or daily reality? As my time at a tech startup in a leading UX position is coming to an end, I was recently interviewing with various companies. This experience made me realize we still have some work to do if we (and by “we” I mean the companies we work for) want to make the most out of our UX efforts.
We’ve all heard that customer experience is the new advantage. That’s a great revelation (which is actually not so new, but that’s beside the point), so now what? How do we translate this insight into actionable results? Let’s start at the base.
What is experience?
As B. Joseph Pine II & James H. Gilmore described it back in 1998 in their controversial essay in the Harvard Business Review:
An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event.
Customers have increasingly higher demands. Not just in regard to products and services, but in their experience when interacting with what a company has to offer. Companies have come to realize how important customer- and user experience (CX/UX) is for their site, app, store, service or product.
Empathy plays a central role when designing services and products, because there’s no point in creating something people don’t want or know how to use. Design goes far beyond aesthetics. Good design is just good business.
Let me explain why:
- It reduces the amount of rework and bug fixes post-launch
- It prevents misalignment — building features which your customers don’t need or want
- And therefor aims your focus towards the things that create value for your customers, enabling you to make better choices and maximizing the effectiveness of team efforts.
Other benefits include:
- Reduced support costs
Reduced requests for clarification by the development team
- More accurate estimates for build time and cost
- And the obvious things such as a strengthened brand and increased loyalty and advocacy among customers.
Lets look at the numbers
- 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience by 2016 *
- Customer power has grown, as 73% trust recommendations from friends and family, while only 19% trust direct communication **
- 86% of customers will pay more for a better experience ***
If you want to know more about how customer experience drives digital transformation ambitions, go read this latest study conducted by Forrester Consulting.
The mystery of the UX unicorn
You must be thinking: Let’s hire a UX unicorn to sprinkle his/her magical pixie dust and make everything better!
Ehm, no. Stop right there. Because without proper commitment throughout the organization, you won’t get the results you seek.
One of the biggest problems is that we attempt to make customer experience design fit with legacy philosophies and processes which come from a different time for a different type of customer. Putting our customer at the heart of an organization requires a shift in mindset and asks for significant changes to our business processes. Without it, we are just managing businesses the way we always have. Change will mean we go from merely managing the customer experience, to designing it.
As a wise man once said:
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is insanity — Albert Einstein
So now that we’re on the same page, let’s see how we can implement this experience-centered approach and identify what we need to change, in order to catalyze business success.
How to make experience work
Forget McCarthy’s 4 P’s from the 60’s. (OK, don’t completely forget them! Just keep them in the back of your mind, however) Today’s consumer is a visual consumer who expects interactive communication and has about an 8-second attention span. It’s no longer about Product, Price, Promotion and Place.
A five-year study published by the Harvard Business Review, involving over 500 marketers and customers across a variety of businesses, found that the 4P’s approach to marketing leads to a real disconnect between what they believe matters and what their customers really want.
The S.A.V.E. framework**** comes closest to what my experiences as a UX Designer have taught me. Even more so for tech companies since they mostly (but sadly) prioritize technology — and the effort they put into applying technology — over everything else.
So let’s take a look at what S.A.V.E. means:
- S. is for Solution. Think about the solution of your customers’ problems instead of the features and functions of the product.
- A. is for Access. It is not about the place, it is not about whether it will be online or offline, your customers need your business to be accessible and you should provide them with it. You choose how.
- V. is for Value. Customers care about the price, it is natural, but before the price come the concerns about the value. Are the benefits of your product relevant to the price you define?
- E. is for Education. Your audience needs and wants to be informed. The number of businesses with online presence grows daily as well as the importance of attraction-based marketing.
To obtain the transformation you seek, your organization needs to do the following 3 things:
- Management must encourage a solutions mindset throughout the organization.
- Management needs to ensure that the design of the marketing organization reflects and reinforces the customer-centric focus.
- Management must create collaboration between the marketing and sales organizations and with the development and delivery teams.
See, no unicorn, no pixie dust, just management driving this train towards a better future.
Experience = value
When customer experience is properly integrated into corporate processes, the organization as a whole will benefit. Everyone on the team involved in developing the product or service will be better informed and as a result, be able to make better decisions. This will have a remarkable impact on the experience your product or service offers, it will not only maximize your ROI of your CX/UX efforts, but your entire development track will be able to create more value in a shorter amount of time. It’s not about building feature after feature after feature, it’s about creating as much value for your customers as you can and getting it out there ASAP.
I didn’t want to bore you with an article about the basic misconceptions people have about user experience and what it is. There’s more than enough on that out there. Instead, I wanted to shed some light on how to successfully incorporate UX into your organization, so that you and your team can maximize it’s pay offs.
To create an experience, UX Designers:
- Understand — research and become the user;
- Create — think of solutions and opportunities;
- Do — prototype and;
- Learn — test.
This feeds back into the mindset of empathy: where you as a designer focus on looking outward, instead of inward. Empathy plays a central role when designing services and products, because there’s no point in creating something people don’t want or know how to use.
Assume you’re wrong, know you’ll fail and be determined to learn.