Part 3: Choosing The Right Experience (For Your Customers)

by | Nov 11, 2015

The experience itself is the The Big Show, right? You may have noticed that in this 6 part series only 1 of the days is dedicated to talking about what the experience itself is and the other 5, more or less, are focused on how to make it happen. This is intentional.

Practitioners, including Ceatro Group, always lead with the cool new experience they helped a company create. We (try to) hook people with the unique and innovative bells and whistles we created to make the experience fantastic.  By doing this though we deemphasize all the heavy lifting behind the scenes to execute it and we also artificially raise the bar on what a customer experience actually has to be like to satisfy your customers.

We are here today to deliver the bland news that most great customer experiences aren’t fantastical.

They aren’t full of bells and whistles. They aren’t full of ridiculously creative features or award winning touchpoints. Instead the great customer experiences – the ones that please customers, don’t encourage attrition, improve revenue, and contribute to customer loyalty – are tailored, consistent, respectful, simple, and make life easier for customers.  Sometimes they have innovative components, sometimes they have a features that will wow customers, but most of the customer experiences that organizations should be striving for are just solidly good experiences.

This is important to be aware of before we talk about how to choose the right customer experience for your customers because organizations need to release a little pressure on this step to get the process started. If you think that you have to take your customer experience today and turn it into a Disneyland experience you may never get started. Remember, most experiences today are mediocre to poor because organizations have never really focused on them. There really is a ton of room for improvement so just get started.

In the title we wrote (For Your Customers) in parentheses to emphasize two things:

1. The customer experience you design is for your customers, not for your company. This means that you can’t just design it based on corporate goals and capabilities.

2. There is not a ready made answer for what experience you should offer your customers because your customers are unique to your business and your business strategy is unique to your business. You have to use those unique things as your basis for design.

So, with that understood let’s break this effort into four chunks of activities:

  1. Understand what matters
  2. Focus the team
  3. Come up with concepts
  4. Choose and plan


1. Understand what matters

There are at least 5 areas that you need to understand well in order to achieve a great customer experience design: the customers’ current state experience, the customers’ needs and expectations, the organization’s business strategy and goals, the organization’s capabilities, and the competitive landscape.

If the customer experience you design is for your customers and depends on the uniqueness of your organization’s customers and your organization’s business strategy you can’t skip any of these areas. Let us explain the first two in detail (the others are a little more understandable right out of the box):

  • The customers’ current state experience:If you already have an experience in the market that you are redesigning or correcting the current state is that customer experience (see these two blogs for more details on mapping this: 1, 2) and all the supporting analysis to show areas of opportunity. If you do not yet have a product or service in the market, the current state is the experience your target customers have with the problem your new product will solve for them. This means that if you are, for example, creating a new electric car for teenage drivers in a market with no electric cars the current state experience is of teenagers buying, driving, and maintaining cars in that market today.
  • The customers’ needs and expectations: You need to know what is important to your target customer segments. It would be great if you could understand them as people and understand their needs related to your product area and your company. At the very least you need to know the last two and if they don’t yet interact with your organization you can discern this through research from analogous experiences. We briefly touched on needs vs. wants here and will explore this further in the coming weeks. We encourage clients to also create customer-oriented metrics (measurements from the customer’s perspective) at this stage to help evaluate the concepts later on.

2. Focus the team

The team that is going to work on this needs guidance in four major areas before starting:

  • Experience scope: what is included in the experience that the team is working on? We encourage you to use our definition of customer experience for the scope part if you want the broadest outcomes. If you need to focus down to sub-experiences inside the Whole Offering, we encourage you to still include all channels, processes, and operations that support the experience in your design.
  • Level of innovation: Earlier we shared the freeing news that not all customer experiences are fantastical and not all parts of a customer experience are innovative. We like to help clients drive this home by defining, based on step #1 Understand What Matters, which areas of the experience need to have what level of innovation treatments:  breakthrough, differentiated, good, and not awful. The team should either do this together or receive direction from the sponsor.
  • Investment Impact: Should the team factor in how much money and how many resources the company wants to spend before they design concepts (i.e. constrain their design before they start) or should they design the ideal customer experience and then constrain it later if necessary? (We like the latter. Find the ideal, then make trade-offs if you have to.)
  • Time: How much time do they have to do this part of the effort? Hint: think in weeks and months, not days.


3. Come up with concepts

Woohoo! The fun part!  . . . Sort of. Customer experiences are broad and deep. We believe that good, comprehensive concept development takes a lot of structure to get right. Idea generation and concept development is a matter of lots of inputs, lots of stimuli, and lots thinking.  By the time you get to this step your team likely will have all the tools they need with them: a good understanding of the customers, the business, the market, the scope of the experience, and the level of innovation needed to create a set of solid concepts. We recommend that the team creates multiple concepts for each area of the experience that is within scope and then winnows them down based on customer oriented metrics and business strategy.

There are a number of ways to execute this step. We haven’t found a one-size fits all approach yet so we always custom design the approach for each project based on the team and complexity of the experience. On one project [electric car services and experience design] we broke the experience up into 12 different major customer activity areas. Then we methodically designed a whole concept for each area that ensured smooth linkages between the services, process, and operations. On another project [employee experience during a merger] we designed each major employee task for the first three months as a separate experience and then wove them all together to make sure the entire experience would work.

Check out the recent article Fast Company published that affirmed what we have always thought: instead of being about magic, creativity is a lot about persistence and science.

4. Choose and plan

So now you have an amazing design for the experience but, sadly, you won’t be able to execute it all at one time. Technical feasibility, investment, customer tolerances, sales cycles, and resources won’t permit it. In this step the team should prioritize which areas of the experience get done in which wave based on the current state experience, value to the customer, value to the company, and feasibility. These should be plotted on an aggressive roadmap (think 12-18 months max; any longer and you will have to redesign your design) to guide the project team.

6 Part Blog Series: What Does It Take To Actually Make a Great Customer Experience Happen

Originally published on September 24, 2013