Brian Solis, Destination CRM
User experience design is now a C-level imperative, whether executives get it or not.
Companies in almost every industry are holding on to their past. They’re grasping to retain relevance within dramatically shifting markets. Part of the challenge is that too many companies are living in nostalgia, stuck in the belief that new generations of customers will still love them the way previous generations did. But the reality is, markets move on. Customers discover better experiences and those become their standard for consumption moving forward.
This is where we are now. Traditional customer experiences are like the silent films of yesteryear, and rising digital-first brands are the hot new talkies, and there’s no going backward for consumers. Just as user experience (UX) was at the heart of Hollywood’s transformation, the same thing is happening to businesses all around the world.
Every industry—finance, healthcare, automotive, real estate, and so on—is missing how critical user experience design can be. In doing so, businesses open the door to disruption. Digital- and mobile-first companies are changing the game every day. All the while, laggard companies aren’t keeping up with these design and engagement standards and are paving a dangerous path toward obsolescence.
WHAT IS UX, AND WHY SHOULD EXECUTIVES CARE?
UX refers to a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system, or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful, and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership. But UX is bigger than digital interaction, although that is a primary opportunity for your work in customer experience (CX). If you extrapolate the principles of UX as a discipline, you can dramatically improve and integrate every touch point, digital and physical, in the customer journey.
Every aspect of your customers’ interactions with your product, service, or company defines their perceptions and feeling of the whole. When you combine that with your work in CX, you have a potent recipe for accelerating innovation and ultimately brand relevance. CX is best defined as the sum of all engagements a customer has with your company in each touch point throughout the customer life cycle. It’s measured in each moment and the sum of all moments.
Experience is not a technology strategy per se; it is what someone senses and how he reacts in a moment and how that moment endures and is recalled over time. The best and worst experiences evolve into memories, and that’s the foundation for a brand. Experiences can and should be designed. Successful CX requires UX thinking in everything, not just websites, apps, and lower-level design disciplines. UX should shape the interactions you want people to have, and it should define the work across the enterprise.
There are huge consequences for businesses that ignore UX. Google penalizes companies by lowering search results if websites aren’t mobile-optimized. Facebook also limits the exposure of advertisers with underperforming mobile sites. Google and Facebook realize that the performance of advertisers’ products affects the experience of the platform itself. Unhappy users blame both the offending company and the platforms for serving substandard experiences. No one has time for bad experiences. But everyone has options to explore.
THE RISE OF ACCIDENTAL NARCISSISTS
Most executives do not live their brand the way customers do. This is why simple things such as websites, brick-and-mortar spaces, and apps are all still based on yesterday’s design principles. The fact that we still call physical spaces “brick and mortar” only serves as a symbol of our outdated language and mind-set.
Most people abandon a website in just a few seconds if it’s slow to load or perform. The same impatience translates from online to the real world. People aren’t just becoming impatient; they’re being conditioned by the best apps and services to get not only what they want, but when, where, and how they want it. I refer to connected customers as “accidental narcissists” because they are tethered to their devices and their favorite apps are catering to their every whim. You want gas delivered to your car? You want your Unicorn Frap delivered to you now? You want to be approved for a home mortgage in 10 minutes? There are apps for all of that!
Yet businesses still insist on pushing customers through dated touch points and processes and holding them to outdated policies. I call this the “cluster funnel” and it’s forcing customers to explore new options and choices.