In the digital age, everyone is an influencer, and what people think of your brand is vital, and can even go viral.
Of course, the concept of customer experience is not new, but we have entered into a new era of business in which brands are defined by those who experience it. Therefore, customer experience – both real and digital – must be seamless and at the highest level of satisfaction at every single touch point.
Do you really know how your customers experience your brand each day? Do you know what they feel at every moment they come into contact with your brand? Do you know what they say about your brand when you’re not there? If brands were more aware of the experience they offer along with their products and services, they wouldn’t be victims to what consumers share about their experience online and on social networks.
Good products, even creative communication and good customer service no longer suffice. X – for experience – goes beyond that: it is about “creating such memorable moments for your customers through every encounter they have with your brand – all day, everyday.”
For Brian Solis, architecting experience begins with empathy with consumers. You have to put yourself in the position of a consumer and see through their eyes – in other words, become them. Only then will you know what it’s like to experience your brand as a consumer. As Rebekah Cox (Product Designer Lead at Facebook and Quora) states, “great design is all the work you don’t ask people who use your product to do.” As Tolstoy said, “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself!”
In order to deliver a memorable customer experience, companies need to structure themselves around 4 poles: collection and interpretation of client data, client information and services, client relationships (in particular digital), and new technologies (especially connected devices) that offer new multichannel experiences.
Brian Solis defines experience as the combination of UX (User Experience: the experience delivered by the product or service itself), CX (Customer Experience: the experience delivered through contact points between products and services and customers), and BX (Brand Experience: the experience offered by the brand via its vision and mission). Apple delivers a unique user experience through its products and their interfaces (iPhones, iPads, Macbooks, iTunes, etc.), and a specific customer experience (Apple Store, Genius Bar), which are all in line with its brand idea: “Think different.”
Brand Experience is a crucial part of experience architecture – and I would argue that it should actually come first in this equation, for any experience designed without the brand idea in mind is incomplete. Brand Experience should be the foundation of experience architecture, since the brand idea is what defines and drives the brand in its every action, at every touch point.
Brian Solis recommends mapping out experiences in order to visualize a consumer’s experience journey with a brand (before, during and after purchase). The model is based on active listening to consumers, and the search of qualitative insights and quantitative information.
He reminds us of the importance of not contenting ourselves with an “average customer,” which does not exist. Instead we need to adopt the logic of personas, which allow us to better understand who we are speaking to and better design the customer journey in a personalized way that is adapted to different types of consumers.
He insists on the importance of experiential storytelling – storyboarding and scenario writing – which he illustrates with the unpacking of an iPhone. Solis recommends designing experience as a 7-phase experience flow: 4 of which occur before purchasing, and 3 of which come after purchasing.
In this diagram, Solis clearly redefines the role of each contact point. For instance, the role of advertising is to incite interest and serve as a “trigger to connect.” The web’s purpose is to inform and educate; apps serve to interact to convince, and points of sale are to incite to buy. After purchase, the role of packaging is to convince to reassure. The product should engage to delight, and customer care should motivate to promote.
At first glance, we might say this diagram seems a bit too simplistic, but it is actually quite powerful in showing us how within the chain relationship between a brand and its consumers, each moment has a distinct purpose, and we ought to maximize the role of each element rather than try to carry out everything all at once along the journey.
Disney, Starbucks, Nespresso and Apple have proved that being obsessive about customer experience can generate unique and lasting attachment to their brands. And yet, still so many companies today deny the value of a perfectly designed A-to-Z customer experience. Too few brands actually take into consideration consumers’ feedback; too few brands focus on certain points of the experience they offer. In the digital age, inexperience is no excuse! Design is not just an aesthetic – it has to be at the heart, if the not the heart itself, of your brand’s sensible created value that you deliver to your consumers.
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