Sometimes, we place far too much importance on the advent of new technology. In fact, technology has not been the ‘difference’ people expect for quite a while. When the web came along as the latest new technology it was incredible because it provided a new era of information access. However, the latest technology is often not the panacea it used to be and it can leave us feeling underwhelmed and unengaged.
The difference today is that people expect technology to be both useful and easy-to-use. The best solution for achieving mass technology adoption is ensuring that social behaviour has been carefully considered and incorporated. When this happens people’s expectations are met and they will feel much more comfortable using the technology.
In recent times the Internet technology revolution has been superseded by the social media revolution. However, the latest revolution is an experience revolution and this will require new skills and thinking and a dedicated focus on the user experience that is delivered by technology.
Figure 1: The eternal technology vs. experience conundrum.
Amazon has invested heavily in both technology and experience. However, when you use the website it is not the technology that stands out but the experience it delivers. People visit because they ‘want’ to do something however, without the technology there is no experience. Yet, when we are using the Amazon website we become susceptible to the many forms of persuasion they offer and they can do this because of the good experience we have when using the site and the positive state of mind it puts us in. I don’t believe I’m the only person to look at the ‘customers who bought this item also bought’ section and did, indeed, buy another item. I didn't need to buy another item but the site experience made me want too! Delivering a great experience can significantly change the way that people engage with a site. This is one of the many reasons why every organisation is going to need a Chief Experience Officer (CXO).
The rise of the Chief Experience Officer
The CXO is the person dedicated unequivocally to the way their organisation makes their customers feel, ultimately providing them with a meaningful experience. So, the CXO’s job will be to help their customers generate meaning by providing experiences that feel good and engage us. They will know that a positive and meaningful experience is good for the organisation, and they strive to consistently ensure it is delivered to every customer. They also know that the development of any ‘relationship’ will often hinge on a customer having a meaningful experience.
These positive and meaningful experiences allow a deeper relationship to be formed and with it the opportunity for further and richer engagement and ultimately, trust. In an economy that is becoming dominated by experience the CXO can be the catalyst for positive and far-reaching change. However, the CXO will also know that this new approach will have very little to do with controlling the ‘customer’ experience but actually, sharing control and providing the customer with greater choice, value and meaning. The customer and the organisation will operate with greater harmony and the customer will exert greater influence because of this new co-existence. The CXO will help tailor the right balance that works to enhance this new co-existence between an organisation and its customers: generating meaning to each and every customer will become the priority.
Figure 2: Bridging the meaning gap with experience and the creation of a new organisation (O) and customer (C) co-existence. The above figure shows the overlap as a consensus which represents the experience both the organisation and customer shares.
Smart organisations will focus on providing great experiences that generate meaning
Online life moves pretty fast! What we tolerate today as an acceptable experience could be frowned upon within the next 12 months as the experience provided feels below the expected standard and, even worse, not good enough. This presents another challenge for an organisation because in this new era of synthesis between the customer-and-organisation and their collective ambition-and-attitude the expectation for improvement can, and will, amplify. Therefore, the demand for a better customer experience can only increase.
So, if customers are telling brands how to improve and they don’t, can’t or even worse won’t, it won't be long before customers will start thinking they are not being listening to, and worse still, that the organisation doesn't even care! This is why the CXO is so important because they are tasked with online customer care and ensuring the appropriate consideration has been placed on customers needs and expectations.
A CXO’s mantra will be to listen, to learn and to adapt (quickly)!
In the experience economy a brand should always be in listening mode, this will be a basic expectation! Any organisation that does not listen or does not know how to, may be met with uncompromising customer rejection; people have a tendency to avoid things that make them feel negative. This should be read as a real warning because many organisations’ online technologies fail to meet a customer’s basic expectations of what a good experience is and how it should make every customer feel.
Figure 3: Customer feedback will increase in terms of boardroom priority.
A little customer experience can go a long way
Customer experience-savvy organisations will capitalise on this new revolution by filling in the commercial ‘gap’ left from a poor experience with one that is superior. Through the sustained focus on delivering a great customer experience we can become more competitive and increase the level of quality we expect. Any organisation that thinks they have an unassailable and totally defensible position needs to wise-up. Customers are fickle and loyalty can literally change hands in a ‘click’. A big difference could lead to an order of magnitude shift in online adoption that essentially was realised through a very small change; such are the margins between the good, the bad and the great.
Apple has already demonstrated the power of experience with the release of the iPhone that changed the whole smartphone market overnight. Apple entered the market with a single product that revolutionised the smartphone marketplace by providing a natural touch screen interface that was actually easy-to-use and most importantly, enjoyable. They literally broke the mobile phone mould and provided the customer with a new level of experience. This demonstrates the advantage that experience can make to a marketplace and its audience. The right technology with a better user experience can result in big changes that lead to mass adoption.
Unfortunately, this type of change can happen very quickly and will leave less experience-savvy organisations wondering what has happened, and why? The answer is 'experience' happened! The benefit for any organisation that does adopt a customer experience approach also creates consequential benefits that are positive, rejuvenating and inspiring for the whole organisation. By getting closer to the customer the organisation encourages greater internal engagement. This represents a clear statement of intent by recognising the value that can be simultaneously brought to both employees and customers. This brings me back to the importance of understanding social behaviour and how best to represent it as part of a customer experience.
Social behaviour offline must be matched with online
In the 21st century the need for quick and easy information flow is even more paramount than ever before and this trend will only increase and with its customer expectations. Human beings are social, habitual animals and we strive for convenience. This means the things that we do and enjoy doing that feel natural, logical and intuitive will generate positive experiences. The opposite is also true because the things that we do that make us feel negative, confused or frustrated we will learn to avoid and we will also remember how those experiences made us feel and share the bad news with others. To succeed with the design of a digital experience we need to ensure the social behaviour we are supporting matches as closely as possible with our physical experience.
Not every aspect of the physical experience can be satisfactorily matched with the digital experience, due to the limitations with current technology and how adequately it can represent our sensory capabilities. However, there is still a lot of behaviour that can be mapped to ensure we deliver a total experience that feels more joined-up regardless of whether it is in the physical or digital world. The benefit of this approach is that as technology advances and can better support our senses (and expectations) even more accurately then the fit or matching between the physical and the digital gets even closer.
Figure 4: Technology and social behaviour must be aligned to achieve success (or avoid failure).
At the turn of century a website called boo.com was launched and it is infamous because it failed, big time! One of the reasons for its failure was not the lack of investment or ambition but a mismatch between the social behaviours and the technology. Specifically, boo.com did not deliver a customer experience people expected. The design and use of technology by boo.com had plenty of usability problems and this created an ‘inconsistent user experience’.
Rule of thumb: people do not like inconsistency! Retrospectively, not enough understanding was placed on the behavioural factors that shape the user experience. Essentially, boo.com did not acquire enough customers to make investors think the site (brand) could be salvaged! Whilst boo.com was certainly ahead of its time with greater focus on the customer, the investment disaster could have been avoided, and more importantly, an experience could have been delivered that did match customer expectations. To put it another way a user interface that does not reflect customer behaviour and expectations runs the risk of rejection: any website can be thought of as a user interface or in some cases a collection of user interfaces.
Therefore, understanding the behaviours that drive a brilliant experience in the physical world and how best to match them up in the digital world is a very dependable way to deliver a better customer experience both online and offline: the total experience. Getting your digital experiences right for your customers can be a tricky thing to do well. When it is done well the results are the experience you will be focusing on the customer and if you’re not, then hire a CXO or alternatively get in contact with us.
- How social media and UX work together
- Journeys with Unicorns: Excellence in User Experience white paper
- The value of making experience your business