Do You Have an Experience Strategy?

The experience is the product says Pedro Custódio, Experience Designer Speaker at NEXT Service Design 2012.

Highlights from the talk:

  • companies have a hard time differentiating based on features — the meaningful differentiation is about experience. The product is very easy to make. However, it is the experience around the product that is hard to replicate
  • meanigfully different service takes some thinking behind it — as I'm fond of saying, you can copy what you see (or think you see), but if you don't know what's under the hood, or behind it, it just won't be the same
  • Dan Pink wrote this in A Whole New Mind — economies are about generating ideas that create emotions

Many companies think or say they have an experience strategy, yet they really don't — Custódio runs through a series of numbers 

  • 86% of companies say that customer experience is their top priority
  • 76% of companies want to differentiate through experience
  • 76% therefore say they want to improve their online experience
  • 59% want to improve the experience across channels
  • 46% want to add or improve their mobile experience
  • 42% of companies confess that their online/digital strategy is only somewhat reflected with their customer experience
  • very few companies, 64% in fact, have clearly defined customer segments — these companies recognize they need to do some kind of user studies
  • yet only 25% of these companies employees across departments share the same view
  • 62% of the companies say they have a clear and solidly defined brand
  • yet only 35% believe their brand is driving the experience

As customers we are increasingly becoming more demanding. We want more, and faster. I agree with Custódio, for most companies it is hard to stop doing business as usual without putting something in place to get there.

This means starting to think about what they provide customers and build a strategy to get there through experience.

Start with who you're serving

Get a solid understanding of who those people are. What is it that they want? Are you actually serving them, or are you the closest option to what they really need? Because if the latter is the case, you're vulnerable to someone entering the market and satisfying that want.

Even if you know what they want, can you tie that want back to what they need to get to it? This to me is crucial. This is where most companies are still coming up short. Once you start asking these kinds of questions, you uncover unmet needs and gaps in your service.

The most difficult part of this process is that you need to make a conscious effort not to make it about you. Customers and users are in control, and they will figure out where to get what they want when you don't provide, or come up short in the transparency arena.

Watch the Philip example — user research generated through social media on how people were cooking at home around minute 14:10. The insights were developed from collecting information coming from all parts of the world online.

Then ask what they want

What do they want to complete their tasks? What do we need from them?

This second question is more interesting. If you've ever registered on a Web site that required you to fill out long forms just to gain access, you have experienced it — somehow, companies feel they need more than they actually do before they let users access (some of) their content.

Instead, build the customer profile over time, just like relationships.

Where are actions taking place?

Marketers need to prioritize their budgets and resources. Think most impact for least effort as you start building your way there.

IKEA does design of context extremely well at their stores. Which is why their growth is everything but flat. I do what Custódio suggests often — going to a store with my research eyes on, noticing how the floor design is organized, the experience flow, etc.

For example, last night I needed to return an item at a store at the Mall and took a little extra time to swing by a couple of other stores to take in the floor layout, the merchandize displays, what it said about the customer flow they were trying to encourage — or maybe they were not thinking about it.

The Guess Marciano new store is intimidating — too few items on display and a very transparent window casting the spotlight and attention on the customer as she tries to figure out what she wants to look at… it just doesn't work. Why I rarely see anyone in there.

Think about those stores where merchandise is piled thickly all over the place — you can hardly see anything, or you just see the few that happen to be at the front of the racks.

When everyone is so pressed for time, the experience needs to be just right.

"Make it" or "break it" points

These are the crucial points of the experience you're creating. Because you want to put your money where you're making the experience valuable, and stop doing what breaks things. Seth Godin talks about breakage.

Another important point is learning to say no.


It was a good session and I hope the video is useful to you — it's about 28 minutes.

If you are providing a broken experience, you usually know you are. However, most companies try patching it by adding features and functionality before they look to understand what people really want. In some cases, it may be a subtraction.

Get to know your users. It will make providing a differentiated experience much easier, and less expensive in the mid- to long-run.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.

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