MUSINGS ON EXPERIENCE, TRANSFORMATION, STRATEGY AND MORE
Almost every company wants to make life easier for its customers. Reduce that Customer Effort Score.
But when trying to easy-fy a customer experience, we often work on the wrong problem.
You’ve done the customer journey maps. You’ve built your Net Promoter programme. You’ve got more personas than you can handle.
But somehow the Holy Grail of customer centricity remains out of reach. Leaders aren’t fully on board. Employees stay in their silos. Budgets don’t show genuine commitment. And somehow that digital transformation is more about technology than about the customer.
It’s not that anyone means bad. Or that they don’t care. It’s just that despite everyone’s best efforts and intentions, the pieces of the puzzle don’t match.
Whenever I encounter these situations, I challenge myself to look beyond the tools of the customer experience trade and consider the bigger picture. Typically, I do this with three questions which don’t provide magical answers, but usually progress the conversation.
I’m sharing them here, as they may also have some value for you.
There’s a dirty little secret in the land of corporate transformation.
While all of us in the trade talk a good game about mindset change, behavioural design and psychological safety, reality is that many change programmes aren’t really about transformation. As narrative design rockstar Christy Dena pointed out the other day, they’re about compliance.
Mini-case: Blackbox by Brightfish
One of the quickest routes to market disruption
is to repurpose or reframe a product or service you already offer. It takes minimal investment. The risk of market testing is small. The payoff can be significant, and instant.
I have the privilege of regularly hanging out with theme park creators, immersive theatre producers, metaverse-builders, ritual designers and more.
Our conversations invariably turn to the stories they tell.
These can be real or virtual world extensions of stories we know. Think Star Wars at Disney or a live theatre meets VR version of The Tempest I recently experienced. Stories of transformation from Meow Wolf or my friends at Punchdrunk Enrichment. Or stories that are simply fun, like The Girl on the Phone, which make you the protagonist in a journey to save a kidnapped woman from her captors in Caracas.
During the lockdowns, we learned that we can get a lot of work done without ever leaving the house. To the point that as restrictions lift, we're not that keen to return.
But where does this leave our offices? Will we still need them tomorrow? If we do, what will they look like? And more important, will we still want to endure traffic jams to be greeted by uninspired desks, stressed-out colleagues and mediocre coffee?
A lot has been written about this topic in the past 18 months.
But I wanted to do a little more than be philosophical. I wanted to look at a real office space, with real people and real business challenges.
So, I hooked up with some friends to actually design an 2023 office concept experience.
... and what to focus on instead
You may know that I'm hunting for a Transformation Algorithm
Its goal is to help us move beyond the >70% failure rate of corporate transformations and create transformative experiences for employees, customers and society. Ambitious? Moi?
To get there, I’m walking around the problem.
Looking at it from all perspectives (Japan style). So without claiming expertise in any domain, I’m blending systems thinking with neuroscience, behavioural psychology, philosophy and my background in experience design. There’s even a little math (I couldn't resist 🥸.
It's a work in progress, but I'm getting there.
Meanwhile, here are some more thoughts as I put together the puzzle. The article starts a bit gloomy, but it ends more upbeat… I promise.
It's all work in progress, so don’t hold back on comments, compliments or corrections 🙂.
These days it’s fashionable for every company to have a ‘higher purpose’.
It feels good to do the ‘right thing’. It also makes business sense.
Companies with a clear, higher purpose have better financial performance. Employees in purpose-led organisations are more eager to get out of bed and work more. Shareholders and customers vote with their wallets for companies that aim for prosperity instead of profit.
During the lockdowns, I finally got round to properly outlining my Laws of Experience Design. It’s a set of principles I use whenever working on customer, employee or other experiences.
Even the best customer experience has never convinced me to like the taste of truffles.
But I always wondered whether my taste perception would change, if I actually hunted them myself. Would the customer experience of finding the food, transform its taste. Or would I still continue my track record of baffling Italian cooks around the world.
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.