What’s the Best Way to Design Customer Experience?

Customer experience is increasingly important in a world where more and more businesses are service oriented. Currently, 80% of companies in the U.S. sell some sort of service. How do they differentiate themselves and attract clients?

By creating an excellent customer experience.

Customer experience looks at every point where a customer interfaces with a good or service.

In a recent talk at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, authors Thomas A. Stewart and Patricia O’Connell discussed their book on customer experience, Woo, Wow, and Win: Service Design, Strategy and the Art of Customer Delight.

Although some observers might confuse user experience with customer experience, they are quite different. User experience is about online, digital experience. Customer experience is about the customer’s entire experience, across a range of services.

It covers the moment from the customer’s first becoming aware of the service to signing off.

  • How was the experience of signing up for insurance?
  • Of getting coffee?
  • Of shopping at a given plaza?

The talk gave the differing customer experiences at Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks as an example. While the product is the same — coffee and related food — the experience is very different.

  • Dunkin’ Donuts is designed for the customer on the go, with limited and small seating areas and colors conveying energy.
  • Starbucks, on the other hand, is designed for customers who may want to sit in comfortable seating, use wi-fi on their laptops, and generally hang with a cup of coffee. Its music and decor are designed to be sophisticated.

Customer experience is a relatively new field, primarily, Stewart and O’Connell believe, because manufacturing firms tend to focus more on their product’s quality and the internal processes required to produce it. The customer experience is centered primarily on the product’s quality and serviceability in manufacturing.

Five Basic Principles

They have five basic best practices principles for customer experience design.

  1. Make sure your customer is right for you. A spin on the adage “the customer is always right,” this principle highlights the need for a match between what the customer wants and what a given company is providing. A customer wanting a quick and convenient burger does not want a gourmet restaurant, and a customer wanting a specialized meal is not going to be happy with McDonald’s. But that’s not the fault of McDonald’s.
  2. Meet expectations every time, which they refer to as “delight every time.”
  3. Great service should not require heroics. If the customer experience has been designed correctly, in other words, the normal functioning should result in great service, as far as the right customer is concerned.
  4. Service should be delivered at every point in the chain or channel.
  5. A good customer experience design is never complete. Companies, customer profiles, individual preferences, and environments all change.

The field of customer experience is likely to grow in coming years as companies increasingly attempt to win customers with superior experiences across multiple channels.