This is a long post. You will only get value out of it if you find yourself genuinely interested in human beings and experience design.
What Comes Before Customer Experience Management?
More and more I come across the term Customer Experience Management. As I sit with this term, this thought occurs to me: “You must have something in place before you are in a position to manage it!” Put differently, before I am in a position to manage the operation of a building, the building must exist – be in place.
I get there is a different sense of manage as in project management: where one oversees the planning and execution of a project. Yet, I do not see Customer Experience as a project say like a marketing campaign is distinct project with a start and a finish. Customer Experience shows up for me as a way of showing up and doing business with customers which emphasises the critical important of the customer’s holistic experience of your business.
For me the word that rightfully occurs after Customer Experience is design. It occurs to me that this is the first and foremost challenge of Customer Experience: designing customer experiences that speak to customers and leave them feeling great at being associated with your business – association includes yet is not limited to buying from your business. Let’s use the analogy of a rocket launch. It occurs to me that Customer Experience Design is the equivalent of doing that which is necessary to actually get the rocket off the ground. If the rocket does not get off the ground all else is superfluous.
Now I ask you to ponder this, why is there so much talk of voice of the customer and Customer Experience Management and almost nobody talks about Customer Experience Design? Really dive into this question with an open-inquisitive-questioning mind and you may just see why it is that so many have achieved so little in the domain of Customer Experience.
What Does It Take To Design Great Customer Experiences?
My short answer to this question is that all that you/i need to know is disclosed-shared by Amanda Burden in the TED talk below. I urge you to watch it, and watch it again. Here is the talk:
I share with you aspects of the talk which resonate most deeply with me and my lived experience of business and in particular the domain of Customer including Customer Experience.
1. Seeing What Really Matters, What It Is All About?
“When people think about cities, they tend to think of certain things. They think of buildings and streets and skyscrapers, noisy cabs. But when I think about cities, I think about people. Cities are fundamentally about people, and where people go and where people meet are at the core of what makes a city work…”
My take? The game of life, of business, of performance, of Customer Experience is about people! In our obsession with strategy, with operations, with processes, with data, with technology (do we love technology!) we are oblivious to fact that these games are fundamentally about people and in particular the human (existential) dimension.
2. Direct Observation Into The details Of Human Behaviour
” ….. enjoyable public spaces are the key to planning a great city….. But what makes a public space work? ……. One of the first spaces that I studied was this little vest pocket park called Paley Park in midtown Manhattan…. what was it about this space that made it special and drew people to it? Well, I would sit in the park and watch very carefully, and first among other things were the comfortable, movable chairs. People would come in, find their own seat, move it a bit, actually, and then stay a while, and then interestingly, people themselves attracted other people, and ironically, I felt more peaceful if there were other people around. And it was green. This little park provided what New Yorker’s crave: comfort and greenery …”
My take? Great experiences are designed. The design follows detailed observation of human behaviour. Can anyone do this work? No, it takes people like Amanda who are both trained in the field of human behaviour AND are in touch with their own humanity. Notice, Amanda noticed that she felt more peaceful in that park when there were other people around. And being in tune with her own experience (bodily state, feelings, thoughts, mood) she was able to guess that this park met the New Yorker’s craving for comfort and greenery. Put differently, direct observation AND lived experience led to inductive thinking – the kind of thinking that does not show up when one is process mapping in the office or poring over VoC reports.
3. Designers Who Have The Requisite Grasp Of Human Beings AND Find Themselves Called To Enrich Lives
“… one of the more wonky things about me is that I am an animal behaviorist, and I use those skills not to study animal behavior but to study how people in cities use city public spaces… For me, becoming a city planner meant being able to truly change the city that I lived in and loved. I wanted to be able to create places that would give you the feeling that you got in Paley Park, and not allow developers to build bleak plazas like this….. I was determined to create places that would make a difference in people’s lives.“
My take? When I see an organisation using the lean-six sigma-process guys to staff their Customer Experience effort, I know it is doomed. These folks lack that which it takes to craft experiences that speak to customers. What do they lack? Humanity – they are not sufficiently in tune with their humanity so how can they be in tune with the humanity of others? Process folks are focused on efficiency/throughput. Not comfort, not connection, not beauty… What they are not called to do nor determined to do is to create experiences (and ways of doing business) that make a difference in people’s (customers, frontline personnel) lives.
4. Great Experiences Need To Be Lived-Experienced Before They Are Implemented; Details Make The Difference
“…. just to make sure, I insisted that we build a mock-up in wood, at scale, of the railing and the sea wall. And when I sat down on that test bench with sand still swirling all around me, the railing hit exactly at eye level, blocking my view and ruining my experience at the water’s edge.
So you see, details really do make a difference. But design is not just how something looks, it’s how your body feels on that seat in that space, and I believe that successful design always depends on that very individual experience. In this photo, everything looks very finished, but that granite edge, those lights, the back on that bench, the trees in planting, and the many different kinds of places to sit were all little battles that turned this project into a place that people wanted to be.“
My take? To design customer experience one needs to be clear on what actually constitutes an experience. And in the domain of customer experience one has to experience-live the customer experience (on more than one occasion) in order to grasp the critical importance of the little details – the kind that are not on the minds of those redesigning processes and/or experiences in the comfort of the office.
5. Cultivating Customer Trust Starts With A Deep ‘Listening’ In The Deepest Sense of Listening
“So how was I going to get this done? By listening. So I began listening, in fact, thousands of hours of listening just to establish trust. You know, communities can tell whether or not you understand their neighborhoods. It’s not something you can just fake. And so I began walking. I can’t tell you how many blocks I walked, in sweltering summers, in freezing winters, year after year, just so I could get to understand the DNA of each neighborhood and know what each street felt like. I became an incredibly geeky zoning expert, finding ways that zoning could address communities’ concerns.”
My Take? Consider what it takes to generate customer insight (and trust). Consider what listening actually involves: listening to the voice of the customer directly (thousand of hours) and listening by experiencing that which the customer experiences by walking in his/her shoes in “sweltering summers, in freezing winters, year after year…”. Now compare that with what the big brand consultants peddle, and what VoC offers. As I have stated in a previous post: “There is ALWAYS a price. It is ALWAYS paid. We only get to choose whether we pay the price right up front, during the middle, or at the end.” Notice, Amanda paid the price right up front. Which is why her work turned out to be a success when implemented.
6. To Design Great Customer Experiences Tap Into Your Humanity, Not Your Design Expertise
“So what’s the trick? How do you turn a park into a place that people want to be? Well, it’s up to you, not as a city planner but as a human being. You don’t tap into your design expertise. You tap into your humanity. I mean, would you want to go there? Would you want to stay there? Can you see into it and out of it? Are there other people there? Does it seem green and friendly? Can you find your very own seat?“
My take? I do not have any design expertise. Yet, I find myself well fitted to the challenge of experience design. Why? Because I find that all it has taken for me to design customer experiences (and the associated changes in the frontline experience) is the capacity and willingness to tap into my humanity: to put myself in the place of the customer (and the frontline) person – to experience that which they experience and a burning desire-commitment to making a difference in their humanity as lived-experienced. Which is to say, I find myself in total agreement with Amanda. And, design expertise-tools have their place, can come handy – just as a saw has its place can come handy in the hands of a carpenter who loves working wood to create beauty.