I had an interesting experience lately. Usually, a brand I have been with for a long time has exceptional customer service — but then again, I had always dealt with a person in a branch. Given the current times, I had to use their other support channels such as messaging. I had a certain expectation given the great service I had received. I was, sadly, disappointed. What ensued was an irritating (to say the least) experience. Completely wasting the precious moments in the day that could have been spent on things that mattered such as running my business and being with my family. Time has become even more precious. With the number of things to juggle increasing and people having more on their mind (worry about loved ones, how to safely go grocery shopping, wearing masks and social distancing, etc.), humans are even less tolerant of things that seem to waste their time for no good reason. That is just one of the effects of 2020, “The Year of the COVID”. Another is that many have looked again at their lifestyle, what they value, and how they are living. Times like these force people to reflect and can amplify feelings that were happily tucked away, or bring up new realizations. These thoughts and feelings do not just disappear once we can go shopping again or a workplace says to come back to the office.
Recently, at EffectUX, we have been helping many customers think about their experiences. Their total experience ecosystem. This is everything. Their customer experience, employee experience, user experience, service experience, brand experience, and every other experience within their ecosystem. It is how these pieces fit together to evoke the right feelings, meet the right needs, and achieve meaningful outcomes.
It is a fact: humans are different now from before. The human of January 2020 is different from the human of January 2021. It is always true that humans adapt and evolve, however, when something like COVID happens, it has a deep impact and can lead to changes in a shorter period of time. What we have experienced has changed the way we view things, the way we feel, and the choices we make. It would be an error not to take this into account when thinking about your experience.
Our schemas, how we view the world, have shifted and changed. It is imperative to understand, who are you interacting with now? They may be the “same” segment, but they are not the same people they were before. It is a great time to go back to the basics and see how your customers and employees have changed. What are their needs now? How has their behavior and mentality changed? How can you best serve them now and in the future?
Here are some reminders, based on our experience strategy framework. Ask yourself these 5 questions as you reimagine your experience.
Setting your Experience Foundation
1: What is your experience vision?
You likely have an experience vision (and if you don’t, it’s a good idea to think about what yours is). How do you want your experience to feel? What is the experience you are driving towards? Revisit it and explore if it still resonates.
2: Who are you serving?
This is a big one. You may have created profiles for your audience or conducted research to understand them. Is your information still accurate? You may want to consider collecting some current insights to really learn how they think and behave now. How have they changed? What is top of mind for them now? What is their life like now? Gathering this type of richer information will help you understand how to best engage and interact with them.
3: How do you measure success now?
How do you know your experience is successful? This is not a scale of satisfaction or NPS, but your whole measurement ecosystem. What are you measuring and why? Reflecting on your measures, given new information on who you serve, will allow you to see if there are any new data points that you need to collect to ensure you are meeting the needs of your audience in the right way, or if there are unnecessary data points you are collecting. This can be both system data points (e.g., speed of a transaction) and direct user data points (e.g., survey). Take this moment to ensure your data strategy is effective and actionable.
Creating your Experience Ecosystem
4: What is the right experience ecosystem based on this foundation?
Various touchpoints in your experience ecosystem may have been impacted and you may have experience requirements between touchpoints that have now arisen. How has your ecosystem been impacted? How do all the elements of your experience ecosystem work together to create the experience vision and feeling you desire to deliver? As you map it out, remember to include the right people and to base it on real audience input.
For example, think about payments in shops. Now, people have concerns over touching objects that others have been touching. Perhaps this means you implement a mobile payment option, pre-pay option, have sanitizer next to the machine, or do all of these. You always have options and choices, requiring varying time, budget, and resources. The key is making the best choice based on experience impact as well as these other levers, built on an understanding of your experience foundation.
5: How are you making them feel safe, secure, and demonstrating empathy?
Looking at everything in the framework, ask yourself this again. Take another look at your ecosystem and your foundation. Given what you know of the people you serve now, how are you truly making them feel safe to do business with you? How are you showing them, through their experience with you, that you are operating from a place of understanding? Looking at how you clearly (and genuinely) are showing you care, and that you respect what they value, creates a stronger emotional bond. And as we know, emotions are key to delivering an experience that matters.
Indeed, each of these could be an article on its own. But the key takeaway is to remember: humans have changed. There is no returning to “the way things were”. Sure, we may return to restaurants, and to travel, and to offices, but we can’t undo the mental impact and experiences that people have lived through, that have changed how they see and interpret the world. That’s not even to mention the changes and disruptions that are very likely still to come. So, look at your experience, what is still right? What is based on an old understanding that has now changed? Where are your knowledge gaps?