Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Fourth Dimension of Customer Experience

Image by Salvador Dali
In my last article I discussed the need to better understand what experience is in order to really make advances in how we can improve it.

I arrived at Three Dimensions which I will summarise below – but feel free to refer back to the original for the full story because now I want to move us on to consider a Fourth Dimension:

1. Dimension One: Thoughts.

An experience can be described in terms of the thoughts arising in my mind at any one point in time. Customer Journey Mapping has been relatively successful at grappling with this. This is the realm of:

  • Rational choice.
  • Mapping out what the customer is doing and what the customer is trying to achieve – the process
  • Transaction points

We can streamline it and make it easier and see incremental improvements.

2. Dimension Two: Emotions.
  • Design Thinking is increasingly playing a role in experience design. 
  • Placing yourself in the shoes of the individual helps you understand where they may be driven to anger, what prompts fear, what inspires love. 
3. Dimension Three: Sensitivity.
  • The layer in which we can personalise and contextualize experiences.
  • Responds to the mass of previous experiences that create an individual's Sensitivity.
  • Solves the Trip Advisor problem: Two people have the "exact same experience" but score the same hotel very differently
  • Our sensitivity to the experience is our context. 
This third dimension is rarely called out for separate consideration yet it is where we must focus our efforts if we are to offer truly personalised experiences. This will be the dimension in which Decisioning technologies and the application of Artificial Intelligence will have the greatest impact. Bots are already capable of keeping a record of what they have learned about an individual customer and using that to shape their future interactions with that customer.

Many see a crazy amount of complexity to deal with. Others see the possibilities for AI and the full set of cognitive computing capabilities to make sense (and profit) from unstructured data.

But where to start? Well first, let me add an additional complexity. We like to think about ourselves as a single self – an individual. Yet science (neurological and behavioural) tells us we are really the intertwining of two selves: The Experiencing Self and the Narrating Self. You don’t have to take my word for this. Start with the cannon of work by Economic Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman

The Experiencing Self is the one in the now. It experiences – discomfort in the long queue to see the Princess at Disney. It experiences a sense of fun when it interacts with the smattering of supporting cast found towards the head of the queue. It experience great joy when it gets its brief moment with the Princess herself.

But more often than not the decisions get made by the Narrating Self.

The Narrating Self will evaluate the experiences it has had and generate itself the story of what it has done, from these experiences.

It is the story the Narrating Self tells itself that gives it ammunition to decide whether or not it’s going to endure the misery of the length of queue for the next Disney attraction. It makes its judgment call based on everything the Experiencing Self has gathered – not in aggregate but on average.

So, in the Disney case, if you asked guests to score their experience at each part of that journey (1/10 while I was stuck at the back of the queue, 6/10 when I met the supporting cast, 10/10 when I met the princess) a simple average would give us (1+6+10) /3 ~5.7.

And if we weighted that for time spent in each phase (queue 90% of time, cast 8% of time, princess 2%) then our satisfaction score would collapse to much nearer 1.

Why then do we in fact remember a magical experience and one we rush to repeat?

It is because the Narrating Self – our big decision maker – places a great deal more weight on the end of the experience and completely discounts duration. End on a high.

Disney gets this, It’s why their experiences are structured the way they are. The classic Kahnemann experiment involves volunteers placing their hands in cold water for X time. The same volunteers then place their hands in water of the same temperature for X time + Y time (and during Y the temperature of the water is slightly raised),

When asked which experience they would like to repeat they choose X+Y.

This is because the Narrating Self discounts duration and actually adopts a rule we cannot ignore when designing experience – The Peak-End Rule.

It retells the experience only in terms of how it felt at the peak (and this will usually be a peak of discomfort) and how it felt at the end. It is the average of these that determines how we take decisions. That’s why 2% of the time with the Princess at 10/10 is remembered – and talked about as much as the 90% of the time you spent in the queue.

What are the implications for how we go about our work in Customer Experience?

4. Dimension Four; Narrative.
  • We have seen that duration has little impact on the final story of an experience we tell our Narrative Selves and it is this Narrative Self that will make the decision on which experiences it wants to repeat. It is the story of our experience we share with others, too.
  • We know the Narrative Self uses a Peak-End Rule to evaluate. This means it calculates an average of the worst it felt during the experience and how it felt at the end. The duration of these phases has little or no impact.
  • An experience which offers an improvement in experience at the end versus peak discomfort will be seen more positively even if the period of peak discomfort is considerably longer than the End phase.
This gives us important parameters to work within for improving personalized experience.

Just as with Senstivity, while we may occasionally stumble across and apply elements of the Fourth Dimension of Customer Experience when conducting our work (Leave ‘em on a high, for example!) it is seldom called out as a tool of inquiry and a framework against which experience can and should be assessed and designed.

I am confident that considered one-by-one, the four dimensions will help us design the experience customers will both enjoy in the now and choose to repeat in the future.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?