Designing the Customer Experience

Organisations are now thinking ahead to what their customer experience will look and feel like in years to come. These experiences will be personal, fluid and meaningful in ways we can only dream about today. They will be innately social. What friends are doing will drive the experience as much as individual behaviour. Don’t even count on the experience being screen based. Wearable devices, proximity systems combined with voice recognition and motion sensing will force brands to embrace the physical. All of this with no compromise in security, privacy or performance.

Happy and sad masks
How will your brand experience make customers feel?

Things used to be simple. One website. One device. A couple of browsers. A single user journey. It was possible to take a blank sheet and design your site from scratch. Handover the design to the developers and get it built in relative short-order.

Then things got complicated. You needed experts to build the content management systems. Designers need to be digital natives. Get the right experts together, put together a plan and execute. Sure there were more devices, more user journeys and often a legacy system or two to deal with. The methods got more structured, more governance was required to cope. Projects take longer. However the requirements are still relatively static over the lifetime of the delivery. They are also easy to understand at least by the experts involved.

The type of customer experience we are imagining will change things. The speed at which the expectations of the customers are changing is constantly increasing. Therefore projects must deliver in ever shorter timescales or risk delivering an experience that no-longer meets the customers needs. The ground is always shifting.

Even capturing what it is the customer wants is getting harder. Once customers were delighted just to have nice easy to use experience. Then the requirements were clear. I want to book a flight. I want to find a skirt for the weekend. I need a new vacuum cleaner.  However these new customer experiences are about being emotionally engaged. Making something meaningful isn’t so easy.

A tacit, intuitive connection is required between those creating the experience and the complex world of your customers. Often you will be co-creating an experience with your customers. In order to anticipate the future, your brand will need to help bring the dream into reality, by doing, by taking risks, by pushing the boundaries.

There are elements of your business that are easy to predict. You sell Flights, Vacuums or Fashion now, you will continue to sell them in the future. Your core business systems can continue being managed as they are now. Top-down design, expert guidance and detailed project plans work. You’re existing service-orientated architectures will do the job. You just need to keep these systems as independent as possible from the constantly changing world of your customer experience.

So what methods will organisations use to allow a more meaningful customer experience emerge from what exists today? The teams working on the new experiences will need a very close relationship with your customers. They need an innate understanding of their lives. They will understand tacitly what a good experiences feels like. That will allow them to make good decisions on a day-to-day basis.

Feedback will be critical to success. Testing ideas earlier. Failing fast. Performing well designed experiments whose sole purpose is to increase a teams knowledge of what kind of experience the customer will value over another. When success is an emotional response, even figuring out what to measure is going to be hard and ever changing.

The goal here is to remain adaptive. It is the speed at which we are learning about what makes a great customer experience that is key. Any idea that has potential to further this goal should be tested. It is the speed at which these tests can be done that will become the new measure of efficiency.

So the future is unknowable. Organisations will need to accept that the way they run their internal facing systems won’t work so well at the boundary with the customers. Not if that organisations wants to create meaningful and emotional experiences with their customers. That will take a new kind of team, one ready to anticipate their customers changing needs by learning faster than the competition.

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