How to Create Meaningful Customer Experiences

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Although six out of 10 large companies aspire to be customer experience leaders, our organization has found that only 7 percent have achieved excellence in this category this year. What makes it so hard to deliver great customer experience? One word: people.

Experiences are all about people, from the customers who interact with your organization to the employees who shape those interactions. Unfortunately, most companies fail to recognize the human side of these interactions. Instead, their approaches to customer experience—such as voice of the customer programs and customer journey mapping—focus exclusively on the logical, left-brain elements of customer experience and fall short on the emotional, right-brain aspects.

Introducing People-Centric Experience Design

To help companies add a more human element to their customer experience efforts, Temkin Group created a concept we call People-Centric Experience Design (PCxD). We define PCxD as an approach for fostering an environment that creates positive, memorable human encounters.

To achieve PCxD, organizations must master three principles:

1. Aligning through purpose. Just about every large organization has a vision statement and a mission statement. But when it comes to making decisions on a day-to-day basis, these documents play no role in how the company is actually run. This is not the case for customer experience leaders, who create and sustain a clear sense of purpose that inspires loyalty from customers and alignment from employees.

2. Guiding with empathy. People have a natural capacity for empathy. Unfortunately, companies often bring out people's more selfish tendencies and suppress their empathetic ones by playing into their personal biases and arranging the organizational structure to reward self-centered behavior. For instance, while a typical customer interaction cuts across many functional groups, companies push employees to stay focused solely on their own functional areas. This myopic view is often reinforced by incentives centered on narrow domains, creating a chasm between empathy and personal success. Companies must elicit human empathy, not selfishness, by sharing a deeper understanding of customers and their needs.

3. Designing for memories. When it comes to loyalty, customer experience isn't very important. What is important? Memories. People make decisions based on how they remember experiences, not on how they actually experienced them. This distinction is important because people don't remember experiences the way they actually occur. Rather, they construct memories as stories in their minds based on the fragments of their actual experiences. An improved understanding of how people truly remember things can help you focus on improving the most important moments.

Put PCxD to Use in Your Organization

If you want your organization to tap into the power of purpose, empathy, and memories, you need to widely share the concept of PCxD. But it is important to do more than just spread the words. Think about how you can apply the ideas by addressing these questions:

  • How can our leaders be more purposeful? Have your executive team discuss this topic and encourage individual leaders to develop plans for instilling a more explicit sense of purpose throughout their organization.
  • How can we better communicate our purpose to customers? If you have a true purpose, customers should know about it. Examine your marketing plans and identify how you are making the organization's purpose evident to customers.
  • How can we raise the level of empathy across our organization? Identify ongoing processes to raise the awareness of customers and their needs across the organization.
  • How can we deliver experiences that drive loyalty? Teach employees how customers remember experiences, and incorporate this knowledge into all experience design discussions and forums on improving customer experience.

The bottom line: By embracing PCxD, your company will create experiences that are meaningful and memorable for both employees and customers.

Bruce Temkin is the customer experience transformist and managing partner of Temkin Group, a research and consultancy firm focused on enterprise-wide customer experience transformation. He is also the chair and cofounder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (www.CXPA.org) and author of the blog Customer Experience Matters (experiencematters.wordpress.com).

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