Demystifying Customer Experience

By Tim Hurles, Partner

September 18, 2015   

Creating great customer experiences may seem complicated and specialised, its inner arcane workings known only to a few privileged initiates.But it’s not. Fundamentally it consists of a logical series of exercises in common sense. The tools, methods, processes and language often serve to obscure what is clear, so to help illuminate here are Seven (yes, seven!) Principles of Customer Experience (CX) Design.

Watch and listen to your customers

There’s no getting round it; at the core of designing a fantastic customer experience is customer engagement. You may know your business, and you may know your business’ view of your customers, but unless you’re working with customers directly you’re not going to get a clear view of what they truly think and feel. And so you won’t know what it really will take to create a great experience for them.

Understanding customer behaviour in context is critical; there are many tools to help with this, from shadowing and guerrilla testing to Lego serious play and co-design. The tools are designed to be enjoyable, collaborative — this is what it takes to be productive. In fact, once you’ve been involved in a few sessions with customers you may well start creating your own tools.

Empathy unlocks insight that leads to action

Unlike quantitative research, the insights that are needed to create good customer experiences are more focused on how the experience feels. What is the customer’s emotional state at different points in their experience with your brand? What are they thinking, what motivates them? Answering these questions requires getting deeper insight from a smaller group of people; it’s about quality not quantity.

Empathy is critical in truly understanding where the problem lies. What is causing pain, stress, resentment, frustration; and what can cause joy, pleasure, affection, attachment? Identifying the right problem means that you have the best chance possible of getting a great solution.

Understanding through empathy with customers means you can make clear-headed and informed decisions about what actions needs to be taken. It reduces risk considerably. It also helps to convince peers and stakeholders; it’s difficult to argue with the customer.

Be customer informed, not customer led

Insight gleaned about what works and what doesn’t for your customers is used to inform, underpin and inspire the ideal experience you design for them. What you find out will unlock new concepts and paths that will lead you to innovative and creative ideas that ultimately will be the differentiators between you and your competitors (in your customer’s eyes).

Quickly create prototypes and hypotheses that you can then take out and show to customers — they’ll soon tell you if you’re onto something or not. If not, then at least you haven’t invested much, and you’ve learned a lot.

Collaborate to innovate

Working collaboratively with both customers and internal stakeholders has many benefits. The first is that inspired ideas can come out of the blue from the most unexpected sources. It could be that guy from the dev team; it could be an excitable customer; it might even be Dave from HR.

The point is that collaboration enables us to quickly get all the ideas out on the table, discard the (many) bad or unworkable ones and move onto the good ones. This is the basis of vertical innovation.

A quick list of other benefits of collaboration:

  • Rapid gain of insights, developing concepts and designs
  • Internal engagement gives key stakeholders a chance to have their say and capture their thoughts
  • Aligns key people behind direction and process and gets things going
  • Is productive and enjoyable
  • Act now to fix smaller things (rather than wait to fix big things)

Good experiences are designed by using iterative processes. The principles behind this come from product and software design; get something that is just good enough out there, and iterate it to perfection. If you wait for perfection, you’ll miss the moment. This is where the concept of Beta comes in handy.

Think about what you are doing as a service, not project. From a service position you’ll then be thinking about it as a something that evolves over time through a process of continuous improvement (based on customer insight of course), not fire-and-forget.

CX is brand

Although a good set of brand guidelines are important, the thing that’s really going to get your product or service noticed is the experience. There are some fairly awful brand names and logos out there that are hugely successful because of the value they provide to customers through their experience. Focusing on the customer experience should be at the core of your marketing strategy.

And finally… CX is the route to organisational change

Many organisations are looking to transform; the nature of the world today demands it. And there is a growing need for transformation that has global reach, resonating with customers on a local scale. But transformation can’t be an objective in itself because it becomes an internalised function, an echo chamber for the organisation — and doomed to failure.

Happily we have the solution, and it won’t surprise you: If you want to transform then focus on designing great experiences for your customers. The organisation then has to transform in order to deliver these; in short, there is a really good reason to transform. Change is then a byproduct of creating experience. It’s remarkably effective.