A Methodology For Crafting Awesome Experiences

Anyone can put together a customer experience.

It really is not that hard to do.

You document a process, look for some imperfections to work out (if you don’t find any that adds to the cache of the experience being “well built”), create documentation as to what should happen at what time.

C’est fini.  An experience is born.

Of course, that is a bad experience.  I don’t even have to see what the final product is, I know it is bad.  I have crafted  sufficient experiences to tell you.  That – is a bad experience.

Want to do it right? Well, that takes a significant amount more.

I am going to take the crafting to good experiences, cut it into smaller portions, and give you some guidelines in seven episodes.

Here is episode one – the 100,000 foot view of crafting awesome experiences.

To craft an Awesome Experience you have to use a methodology.  A methodology will ensure that you stick to best practices, that you do the parts you don’t want to do, and that you (at the very least) use a checklist to ensure you followed all the steps.

There are four parts to my methodology:

design – crafting the experience in paper.  determining what the experience will look like when it is done
validate – bringing it to the customer for input.  if we want them to use it, it better be what they need and want.
implement – bring the documentation to real life. there is so much more than you think – pilots, tests and more
measure – you will measure with metrics and data specific to the crafted experience and nothing else.

Needless to say, I hope, is that the methodology relies on iteration.  There is no end to experience management, it is a lifelong journey with milestones along the way.

There are two more sine-qua-non elements for this methodology.

First, we need an index that stretches across the entire methodology.  Something that relies on smaller measured elements but also brings it all together into a single metric that is easy to see in a dashboard, analyze, slice-and-dice and make meaningful.

Second, all this has to happen within a framework.  You cannot do this on a stand-alone model without further integration into the rest of the organization.  And you certainly won’t do this on a silo-mode, channel-by-channel.  I won’t let you.  Too painful.  Either in a multichannel model or nothing.

So, what do you say – are you with me for the next few weeks to explore the other six posts?

16 thoughts on “A Methodology For Crafting Awesome Experiences”

  1. I am sure with you. Although I do see the need of such a framework and structure, running all these changes through a panel of customers is a) too time consuming b) too expensive c) in my occassions even impossible

    When you have a customer base that would contact you on a regular basis, they would notice the change and can provide feedback that the next time they would contact you that the experience is different but for a customer base where about 95% of the customers have a single contact event with you during the live time of the product, a change will go unnoticable and it will not be possible to incorporate their feedback to improve it just for them.

    That you have to measure your process, I am with you on that one, that will at least ensure that the change is a benficial for both the business and the customer

  2. Love the idea of “Crafting” an Awesome Experience. Implies a deliberate(focused) and creative(design) effort. So many companies focus on “crafting”(designing) a product without doing the same for the overall experience that envelopes and nurtures the product(and customer). It’s an end-to-end process that starts long before the Salesperson is ready to make his pitch and extends long after same Salesperson tallies up another sale.

    Design and Validation is necessary — to a varying degree depending on product, perhaps, but vital. This step sets stage for being proactive instead of reactive. A customer having to “tell” you something is helpful and often actionable, but by then the “experience” has been “broken” already, IMO. It’s like taking a time-out in the middle of a play/movie/sporting event to explain something. Helpful…sure. But boy does it ruin the experience!

    I’ll be looking for the remaining parts in the series.

    Thanks!
    Russ
    http://twitter.com/russhatfield

  3. Eagerly awaiting episode 2. Very much in line with my comments at:

    http://trisynergyllc.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/we-cant-monitor-quality-in-it-starts-with-leadership-vision/

    Although I think this idea makes sense in practice few companies will take the time or believe this can be done – which implies that customer service “just happens”. Taking the time to go through a structured approach and actually design interactions should shed some great light on process problems.

    Can you cite share some examples of success stories in interaction design as you go along?

  4. Regarding an example:

    I don’t think it’s the best one out there by any means, but one that popped into my sleepy head ; )

    I had the opportunity to participate in the “self-checkout” implementation(process, procedures and technologies) at a few local branches of one of the largest grocery retailers in the US. We(7 of us) literally began by sitting in a lights-out conference room with relaxing music playing. A facilitator walked us through envisioning the as-is checkout process *as a customer*. Individually, we walked through the process in as granular a level of detail as possible. We did the same for what we each thought was an optimal self-checkout process. Then moved to classic brain-storming, sketching, modeling exercises. We “designed” the experience, per the original post(I’m leaving out a lot of detail, mind you).

    We then moved to creating a mock-up of the various implementation ideas(4 in all). In a warehouse we had self-checkout stands, actual clerks as stand-ins, same lighting, music, in-store merchandising, etc. as a “real” store. We simulated the proposed experienced in reality.

    Marketing had qualified a focus group(22 actual customers) to perform walk-throughs and usability testing with our mock-ups. We Validated with actual customers.

    Ultimately, we measured, tweaked and settled on a “winning” implementation which was rolled out in a 3-store test.

    From there they’ve continued to monitor, measure, tweak some more — incrementally improve based on explicit and implicit feedback.

    To this day, the self-checkout stands get FAR more traffic than the traditional checkout lanes. So much so that when I went back into one of the original test locations(about a year after initial test) they had more than DOUBLED the number of self-checkout lanes.

    In this case, the “experience” is obviously about more than the product in a shopping cart. You really can craft the experience but do it WITH your customers. Don’t assume, don’t guess and don’t rely on numbers only. Make it easy for them to buy.

    Dare I say, make it fun!?

    Russ
    Seattle, WA
    http://twitter.com/russhatfield

  5. @Arvid,

    Using customers may be a little bit longer and cost more, but you get the savings in the back end when you have an experience that customers use and that does not need constant tweaking.

    Besides, you are thinking focus groups and the like – but there are lots of other ways (including surveys, online evaluation sites, etc.) to do it that is not that expensive or time consuming.

    The rewards are actually worth it.

    @Russ,

    I guess I am going to let you handle all the comments and writing in the blog 🙂

    Very nice to put what I was trying to convey to Arvid before. Using customers at the front-end is the best and easiest way to create change agents among them, have them adopt the solution, and become advocates for it.

    It is the best, by far, model I have found through the 20+ years of building systems that are used.

    Thanks for the case study you provided. Very timely. See below for my take on case studies.

    Also, I twitted this back to you, but the use of the word crafting was on purpose to project the idea that experiences are more art than science and that is the way to approach them.

    @Mark (TriSinergyLLC),

    I am reading your blog as soon as I am done here.

    As for case studies, my approach is to use very short examples as I go into details. This was the introductory post and was just trying to set the stage. Expect many, many more examples as we move through the other 6 parts.

    One more item on case studies. I tend not to use company names when I use examples. A large number of them were done while working for Gartner and there are several legal ramifications even after leaving in mentioning them by name.

    Cases that are published and common knowledge I will mention by name, only if in a positive manner. I will never mention a company by name or reference if using them as a bad case study.

    Thanks for reading and engaging, more to come!

  6. A common mistake is to combine a bunch of good ideas into a singular customer experience. This usually ends up being a mess because there is no cohesion. So, i’m on board with using a framework to map out a customer’s experience. Themes based on the brand are probably best to build a remarkable customer experience. Looking forward to your posts on this series.

  7. Jay,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, I do remember seeing some of those messes. Goes something like “hey, we did so well in deploying that IVR, maybe we can do the same with email”.

    The rest, better described by you.

    That is what happens when strategy lags behind intentions. And the reason I do what I do.

    Saving the world from “messy experiences” one strategy at the time 🙂

  8. Great post, with a wonderful flow of persuasive ideas…

    but I think you are grabbing the pencils too fast. I highly recommend beginning with an observation phase; watching the customers, maybe talking to them (watching is better – people lie to seem more capable), watching the processes that impact the experience, watching other industries for ideas… _then_ I’d reach for the Post-Its.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series…

    Adam Lawrence
    Experience Director
    Work•Play•Experience

  9. This methodology, does it change dramatically when the client is a b2b big player, like a tech giant? We work with mostly those and see a real desire, but without a proven methodology, there is a lot of resistance for some of the reasons sighted. I wonder if you design a methodology for a grocery store, does it resemble one for an IBM?

    1. Robert,

      That is a very interesting question, thanks for asking.

      This is the basis for customization. I don’t think I have ever used this methodology exactly as it is here, there are always changes to it based on where and how we use it. Some companies, as you well point out, are in the B2B space and for them something like a note-taking CAB (customer advisory board) would work best as far as integrating the customer into the development of the experience. Some other companies have such a large and diverse audience that it is almost impossible to create segments (I do emphasize that in the methodology, designing experiences by segments), so panels are more interesting.

      In any case, this is very adaptable as long as the core principles of it are followed:

      – involve the customer
      – iterate between customers and internal stakeholders
      – work on segments, not across all population at once
      – measure, measure, measure

      most of these details are in the successive (7-part series) posts for this methodology.

      thanks for stopping by and for bringing this great question to discussion.

      esteban

  10. We are going through the processes with some of the CRM companies to see how each one is adjusting, to social exposure, and bringing them into their application. For example, SugarCRM, which sees itself as an Open source b2b application, has opened the door to using many of the social sites and going further to match their contacts with online services like Hoover’s; LinkedIn, Twitter and more. So the idea being, this will automatically search the social landscape and append pertinent info to your data and also aggregate intelligence on them. Pretty cool but so many apps, so little time. We’ll be looking at that over the next few weeks at http://tek-tips.nethawk.net. let us know what you think and if you have anyone we should interview, please advise. cheers, rm

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