You Cannot Design an Experience

When the pioneer of customer loyalty research writes about customer experience in the Harvard Business Review, you’d better listen. In 2005 Fred Reichheld co-authored the article “The Three “Ds” of Customer Experience”. In this insightful and visionary piece, the authors point out that “eighty percent of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8 percent of their customers agree.” Then, the authors outline three ways to remedy the situation.

According to them, the following behaviors set the companies that got it right apart from the rest:

  1. design the right offers and experiences for the right customers.
  2. deliver these propositions by focusing the entire company on them with an emphasis on cross-functional collaboration.
  3. develop their capabilities to please customers again and again — by such means as revamping the planning process, training people in how to create new customer propositions, and establishing direct accountability for the customer experience.”

I agree with the spirit of those statements, but not with the phrasing of point #1 above. I submit that no one can actually design a human “experience!”Experience is an emergent property of the interaction of people with products. If you take the definition of “customer experience” outlined in thisblog post seriously, you will agree. “Experience” is a subjective state, the result of several conditions: A) the person with his or her personality, dispositions, moods, needs, and so on; B) the situation or context of use; and C) the product or service in question.

Companies can only control their products. The really consumer-centric companies also have gained knowledge about and empathy for their users (their personality, dispositions, moods, needs, and so on).

It is only when you develop products and services based on such knowledge and when you constantly track consumer feedback and adjust accordingly, can you HOPE to affect the consumer experience positively.