What is a good customer experience? And how do you make it great? Delightful? Fantastic? Supercalifragilisticexpialodocious?
Do you do it by adding more experiential components?
Should you create memorable wow moments?
Digitalise every touchpoint? Make life effortless and seamless?
Be more like Disneyland? Apple? Amazon?
All the above?
For as long as I’ve been an experience architect, I’ve struggled with these questions, and especially the one-size-fits-all-commercial-agenda-driven answers you find online.
Because to me, it all depends on the situation. Yes, when like Lexus, you promise our customers ‘AMAZING’, turn every experiential dial up to eleven. Also, when paying €5 or more for a luxury espresso, I expect my coffee to come in a pretty cup, in a pleasant atmosphere, with a friendly server and it helps to add a tasty cookie (macaron?).
But in some situations, ‘more’ isn’t always the answer. I mean, does my electricity company really need to delight me with memorable experiences? Or is it enough that they keep the lights burning, provide a clear self-service zone and a have a friendly/efficient contact centre? Beyond avoiding surprises in my bill (hard these days!), I could forgive them for going easy on the experiential investments.
Then - this morning - I had a thought. It got triggered by the below table from Matt Duerden’s article How to use narrative structure to create better experiences (link in comments). In it, he described five types of experiences and links them to the level of System 1 and System 2 engagement they triggered.
As an oversimplified reminder: System 1 thinking is the 98% of time where our brains operate on autopilot, like when you don’t remember how you drove home. System 2 is the 2% where we pay conscious attention and, arguably, use reason.
What if, I reasoned, the core question wasn’t whether brands and businesses should be ‘less’ or ‘more’ experiential?
What if different business objectives simply required different experiences. So the challenge was to decide the right approach for the right situation?
Below, I’ve tried to come up with three scenarios. What do you think?
Business aim #1: Make sure your customers don't leave.
You want customers to keep purchasing your toothpaste or renew their subscription. You want to keep them in ‘autopilot’ mode or System 1 thinking. Turn the experience you offer into a habit. Eliminate every problem, disruption, or irritation that could catch the brain’s attention. In your ideal world, your audience’s brain even sees switching as an unwelcome change.
This is the world of seamless, friendly, and effortless. One-click-buying. Steve Job’s promise that ‘Apple just works’. Of friendly, easily accessible, contact-centre employees and chatbots that actually understand your question.
As long as you keep meeting the customer’s expectations and you ensure another player isn’t more seamless, accessible or effortless, or significantly cheaper, your customer will stay.
Business aim #2: Differentiate yourself from your competition
For this business aim, you want to snap your (future) customer out of autopilot mode and get them to pay conscious attention to your offer. To switch away from your competitor. Or, if they are already buying from you, to confirm their loyalty, buy more/other products or attract their friends with positive word-of-mouth.
To achieve this goal, system 2 needs to kick in and the brain needs to experience something it doesn’t expect and appreciates. Procter & Gamble call this noticeable superiority. Matt Duerden talks about mindful and memorable experiences. I prefer differentiators.
But whatever the name, this is the land of experiences that resonate emotionally, of immersive spaces, of stories that connect to customers at a deeper level. The moments you make ‘a difference’ to the customer in a way your competition cannot match. Simultaneously raising the bar for the complete industry.
Business aim #3: Transform your customer's reality (and leapfrog your competition)
In this final scenario, you offer your audience an experience that shows how their world could be different and better than it is today. Expand the perception of what is possible.
It happened when Spotify showed us that renting music was an option. When Amazon introduced the one-click-buy button. When Fenty went all-in on body positivity. Or today, Meatable is showing us that a juicy steak is possible without harming animals or the planet.
Either way, it’s where you use technology, a new business model, a radically innovative value proposition or simply great experience design to show your customers a new direction that can transform part of their life, your industry, or even the world. Once they take that direction, they’re never going back.
What do you think?
Are these three scenarios helpful? If so, which one has your focus? Can you clearly link the experiences you design to the objectives of your business?
Or am I being too simplistic?
Let me know.
PS. I just realise that the above also applies to employee and shareholder experiences.
Want to better connect your customer experience to your business goals?
Then let’s have virtual coffee. We can have a general chat or brainstorm about loyalty, differentiation and (industry) transformation.
I’m sure our chat will be interesting.
Which feels like a good idea in itself 😉.
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.