Increasingly, companies aren’t just selling products and services to their customers. They’re selling experiences, which is why the most successful companies have invested so many resources into designing and understanding the customer experience (CX).
Sephora, for example, is legendary for completely rethinking what the retail customer experience can be. Their stores use mobile technologies, touchscreens, and interactive displays that work together to enable customers to play with a wide array of cosmetics to see which ones they like the best. And their digital experience aligns with the in-store experience. Their website and mobile app share information to provide tailored tutorials, video and celebrity news, and interactive product information, making it a central, personalized hub for all things beauty and skincare.
Note that, while the user experience (UX) is a key aspect of the CX, they are not the same. The CX is a wide-ranging, umbrella term that covers all aspects of how customers interact with the brand and how the company communicates and delivers on its brand promises: brochures, social media, digital products, in-store, and so on. The goal is to create a consistent, customer-centric viewpoint across all touchpoints.
The UX, on the other hand, covers the actual manifestation of the CX and, typically, it applies to digital. The goal of UX is to make the user experience with a digital product more accessible, enjoyable, and intuitive.
Digital design changes when you do so from the perspective of CX. Certainly, you still need to ensure that the digital product is easy-to-use and meets the needs of the user, but now you also need to ensure that it provides an experience that’s consistent with all the brand’s other touchpoints.
In CX-based design, you go through a number of different phases, and the first, Discovery, is especially important. First, you’ll need to create customer personas, which are profiles of the types of users for whom you are designing your product and the common traits each one shares. Make sure you do this from a human-centered approach — there’s much more information behind the link — and ensure that you have all the organization’s current brand and marketing standards documents. There should be critical information about your users that will be helpful.
Next, you’ll need to make sure you understand the needs of your stakeholders. These are people inside the company (or client) that have something at stake in your product: sales, billing, marketing, R&D, and so on. Clarify each of their needs so you can meet them throughout the process, whether it’s simply keeping them informed via weekly email updates or getting approval for each key design point.
Once you’re done with the discovery and have a good understanding of your users, you need to map the customer journey, a design tool that visualizes how users will interact with your product at all points. How will they learn about your product and what will attract them? What points of the product will they interact with first? What are possible pain points?
Finally, you’ll test the product with actual users in a human-centered approach and refine it based on their feedback. Note that these steps aren’t linear. Testing, for instance, may uncover something new that needs to be added to the customer journey map or alter something important in a persona.
But throughout the design process, it’s important to follow the brand standards to ensure consistency. Spend time looking over current products and assets so that the UX of whatever you are creating feels like a cohesive and seamless platform-to-platform experience.
When working with a CX perspective, there are a number of common mistakes that we see design teams making that can result in a less-than-successful product.
Inconsistencies: When customers move from one touchpoint to another, such as from a website to a mobile app, the functionality and UX should be consistent. For example, if you've subscribed to a streaming service, the mobile app should know where you stopped in the video you were watching on the web so you can easily resume. Additionally, if searching for content is at the top of the website, but located elsewhere in the mobile app, this will cause frustration for users. You want all touchpoints to work as a cohesive product.
Set it and forget it: As mentioned above, improvement should never stop. Continue to analyze user engagement data to evaluate performance and make updates to continually provide an even better customer experience.
Unintuitive design: Users don’t want to go through multiple steps to access functionality they want. Designers don’t do it on purpose, but these kinds of clunky choices create frustration for users, and they typically end up in the final product because of a lack of sufficient, rigorous, human-centered testing.
CX design does bring significant business benefits. For starters, it increases user adoption, because you’re more likely to create something that customers want and enjoy using. It also increases customer retention and cross-selling. According to a 2020 study from Qualtrix, almost 9 out of 10 consumers who have a “very good” customer experience say they would trust that company to meet their needs in the future. For those who have a “very poor” customer experience, just 16% would do so.
It only takes one bad product experience to taint the whole brand, after all. Think of your own interactions with companies. If you visit a chain restaurant, and your server is rude and inattentive, how likely would you be to visit any other location, even though this was just an experience with a single individual? Each touchpoint is vital, and the CX must be great across all of them.
And, of course, the biggest benefit is that you increase the value that customers get out of your products. It’ll be easier to use, more enjoyable to interact with, and will better help them accomplish their goals.
Of course, saying one should follow CX design is easier said than done. It needs to be intertwined with the company’s core goals and pervasive throughout the entire organization in order to reap the full benefits. But it’s never too late to start the process of fully understanding different customers’ needs and expectations and establishing a consistent, customer-centric experience across all touchpoints. The end result is tangible business benefits and happier customers.
What’s not to like?