By Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group
Thoughts from the new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design
In my research and in my work, I continue to observe the importance of experience in building long-term, meaningful and productive customer experiences. But when I say customer experience, I’m not referring to traditional CX work nor am I solely focusing on customer service or support. Customer experience is more than that. It’s anything and everything. And this is why businesses are underestimating the value and promise of experiences to serve as incredible competitive advantages.
See, experiences are emotional, constructed of a series of emotions that materialize in moments of truth. This is why CX is more important than we realize. It is not any one thing or any one moment, customer experience is the sum of all customer engagements in each touch-point throughout the customer lifecycle. Said another way, experience is the new brand. Experiences are the new branding. And, the future of business is rooted in experience.
In math, x represents a variable to be solved for. In business, the x we must solve for is the experience we want to give our customers.
In 1998, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore published a controversial essay in the Harvard Business Review heralding the era of “The Experience Economy.” They put forward the idea that businesses should creatively orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and those experiences, and the memories they instilled, would become part of the product and brand.
We know that giving our customers delightful experiences is important, and as customers, we know the quality of experiences we want. So why is it that when we get into work, we lose this customer perspective?
I hear all the time from executives and strategists: “We must be customer-centric— we must improve the customer experience!” But so often the reality of what they’re doing is designing products and services that are merely less poor. And, chances are that they don’t even know what the customer experience is because they’re simply removed from it.
Part of the problem is that how to go about creating truly meaningful experiences for customers is still so little understood. Who in business hasn’t heard the mantra, “Customer experience is the new competitive advantage?” But has anyone actually told you how to design experiences, or articulated exactly what the standard for a good experience is? People in different silos of a company will give different answers about how to deliver on experience. Product managers will say, “Design great products.” Customer relations managers will say, “Make customer service matter again!” Those in marketing will focus on creative campaigns and branding.
Creating a great customer experience used to require that companies merely present information and functionality in a usable, efficient, and enjoyable manner. But this is no longer enough. Customers are placing greater demands not just on products and services, but on the ongoing experiences that their interactions with companies offer. If they can’t get what they want, they’ll hack their way to it.
Experiences are more important than products now. In fact, experiences are products. They’ve also become a lively topic of consumer comment for all the world to hear. People increasingly share their experiences with companies and products in our connected economy, and we can either be active participants in creating and nurturing desired experiences or spend more and more time trying to react or make up for bad experiences. What’s more, consumer demands continue to evolve. We’re just getting started.
We need a transformative approach to customer experiences. Everything starts with empathy, intention and design.
In order to be competitive, brands must get better not only at understanding and satisfying customers’ wants and needs but at anticipating them, even before customers know what they want and need. This type of experience design is referred to as experience architecture to create proactive experiences. And, these are quickly becoming the new standard.
Experience architecture is the art of engendering desired emotions, outcomes, and capabilities throughout the customer journey. It is the process of strategically designing and strengthening a customer’s entire spectrum of interactions with a product or company.
It was Maya Angelou, among a few others, who inspired me to write X in her brief but moving words about the power of experiences, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But, people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The bottom line is that for most companies, customer experience is not truly a priority in the way we describe here. They manage experiences rather than leading them. But, no amount of advertising, marketing or customer service enhancements can override the effects of a poor experience. People will talk and people will listen. People will also experience. This is why, now more than ever, experience is the most important thing in business.
Welcome to the CDO Community
This is one out of many in a series of articles contributed by, and for, our network of C-suite digital and data leaders.
Brian Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders, keynote speakers, and best-selling authors in innovation and digital transformation. His new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, explores the importance of experiences and how to design them for customers, employees and human beings everywhere.
Brian is principal analyst at Altimeter Group. The company recently acquired by Prophet, whose Chief Digital Officer, Chan Suh, spoke at the last two CDO Summits in New York City.
A digital anthropologist, and futurist, Brian also studies disruptive technology and its impact on business and society. More so, through his reports, articles and books, he humanizes technology’s effect to help people see people differently and understand what to do about it. Specifically, Brian studies digital transformation, customer experience and culture 2.0 and “the future of” industries, trends and behavior.
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The Sydney Experience
Brian Solis understands the importance of customer experience in shaping a CDO’s strategy. That’s why the CDO Club holds its CDO Summit events with a focus on delivering engaging experiences to the world’s leading digital and data strategists and practitioners:
If you are tasked with understanding what digital leaders must do in order to succeed in almost any industry, the best place to learn more is at the CDO Summit.
We have extended our Early Bird discount until January 31, 2016 so register today for the Sydney CDO Summit on 01 March, 2016, hosted at the UTS Business school and presented by Accenture Digital.
The CDO Summit is the “must-attend” digital event of the year. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 CDO Summits received stellar endorsements from dozens of speakers and attendees alike:
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Harvard Business Review
President Barack Obama 2008 and 2012
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