Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The third dimension of customer experience

Image via http://elementdigital.co.nz/
Experience is the primary differentiator in the selection of products and services in a post globalisation world. Making it better is at the heart of any digital transformation where humans engage.
There is a reason we value it so highly - in an increasingly humanist world it is replacing religion as our arbitor in gathering ethical knowledge - best described in the phrase "If it feels good it must be right".
Our feelings - built entirely on our own experiences and our experiences of others provide a 21st Centurry equivalent of scripture.
This argument for the primacy of the internal self, that the pursuit of wisdom is the collection of experiences, is well made in Homo Deus - a brief history of tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
In the last fear years Customer Experience has become very hot with marketers and technologists, CFOs, CDOs, CTOs amd CEOs.
But few have really stopped to understand what experience actually is - and without doing this we are missing a trick in improving it.
So let's start with the basics:
An experience isn't empirical data. It can't be found in the air around us or in the atoms of the desk in front of us. This is important because so much of experience design has focused on optimising for one generic experience.
Experience is not done to people - it is done by people.
It is subjective. And it has three dimensions.
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 part of the mix. This is the realm of rational choice after all. We can map out what the customer is doing and what the customer is trying to achieve and it's all very transactional and rational and we can streamline it and make it easier and see incremental improvements and roll the same journey out on the assumption we are all rational actors (which any regular reader of this blog will understand is very far from the truth).
2. Dimension Two: Emotions.
There has been an emerging focus on emotion in the customer experience world which is to be commended. This is often because Design Thinking has played 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. But again there is a one-size-fits all weakness to this which leaves room for improvement.
3. Dimension Three: Sensitivity.
This critical third dimension is the layer in which we can personalise and, very importantly, contextualise experiences to meet the experiential needs of the individual.
We can design for customers based on their past behaviours and (if we can apply AI to the unstructured data of their latest published thoughts) their self-expression of mood. What we have difficulty responding to is the mass of previous experiences that create an individual's Sensitivity.
I call this the Trip Advisor problem. Two people can have what we have come to describe as the "exact same experience" and score the same hotel very differently. Our sensitivity to the experience is our context. As my old friend Alan Moore is always fond of saying, Without Context There Is No Meaning.
Reviewer One may have been spoiled with five star hotels his entire life. His sensitivity to quality is therefore somewhat raised. Reviewer Two may be more used to the Two Star life. When both end up in a four star we may design their experiences to be exactly the same from booking to check-out but their own sensitivity will determine if this is a better than normal experience or a worse one for them.
Sensitivity means paying attention to your sensations, emotions and thoughts - and allowing them to influence you.
Without it we do not experience.
And yet we continue to work on customer experience without giving this third dimension - this dimension of context - due attention. We stumble into it rather than calling it out as a specific area of work to be considered.
I believe by identifying and describing this third dimension of customer experience we can go a long way to greater application of technologies such as Decisioning and Artificial Intelligence to deliver contextualised customer experiences which best fit an individuals sensitivity.

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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?