How to Compete Via User Experience

Jones + Waddell

“A new generation of businesses that were mere startups a few years ago and are now billion dollar darlings have a new trick up their sleeve that they’ve learned from the luminaries of yesteryear. They are focusing on the customer experience in both their product/service design and business model, instead of a heavy emphasis on marketing and sales strategy.”
— Chuck Longanecker in UXMag

“Perception is reality,” and never is this truer than with the experience your customers come to associate with your product. The Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) conducted a study that found that 77 percent of design agencies named poor UX as their clients’ biggest weakness. This is an area where you can differentiate yourself by excelling.

Your objective with customer experience should always be to surprise, delight, and create a loyal brand advocate. If you can pull this off, you can certainly charge a premium for such an enhanced user experience.

The most important aspect of mastering user experience is to understand exactly why users like your product, which features they prefer, and why, and when, and how they are going to interact with you.

User experience spans the entire spectrum of interactions and touchpoints. Perhaps someone reads a blog review of your product, talks to a friend about it, or reaches out to your customer service. User experience includes every aspect of your identity and policies: your logo, your avatar, your website, your app interface, your chatbots. Laying out the touchpoints that your users will encounter is the starting point for creating an experience that’s seamless across devices and throughout the customer journey.

To fully manage user experience, you need an actual customer experience architecture across every element of your operations — one which takes into consideration things like:

  • Your brand
    What is your overarching vision? Your vision should always inform your brand, carrying through with everything you do. Is your band expressed throughout the entire sequence and at every touchpoint? If not, you have work to do on your customer experience.
  • Customer segmentation
    What are your different target segments? What are their different needs? Creating customer archetypes is a useful practice here. You also need to figure out which customers are important at what points. In order to design for your customer archetypes, you first have to segment and prioritize them. How do they fit with your long-term strategy, and what are their resource requirements?
  • Experience design
    This is where the rubber meets the road in designing for your business needs and customer segments.

Finding Opportunities to Delight

“While customer experience can be defined as the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company, most people operate with a narrower view.”
Denise Lee Yohn on Harvard Business Review

Today, you can order a coffee on your phone and still get a smile from the barista when you pick it up. You can order a ride from an app and still choose to exchange pleasantries (or not) with your driver when he or she pulls up. When we think about great user service today, we think about companies like Starbucks and Uber that have taken the friction out of transactions with technology — but left in the humanity.

Or consider Tesla. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has said: “Purchasing a Tesla should be a delightful experience.” Note that it’s not the Tesla itself he’s calling delightful, but the experience of purchasing the car. And that experience includes researching the car online, looking at it physically at a dealership, signing the paperwork, taking hold of the keys, driving away, and then interacting with the brand via customer service and exclusive membership perks for the lifespan of Tesla ownership.

Whether your product is a Tesla or a 99-cent app, along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to differentiate user experience and ensure a customer for life. User experience encompasses every single interaction a consumer has with or adjacent to your brand, from the potential customer doing research to the loyal brand advocate who could always change her mind.

User experience is a core company value and one of your strongest assets to exploit, and it’s vital that you infuse a reverence for it into your entire team.

Keep in mind that any other companies you partner with in any way become a part of your customers’ greater experience, so it’s essential that their core company values match yours. Your users deserve a seamless and integrated experience. They don’t consciously make note of where one brand leaves off and another picks up.

User experience transcends just using your product and service. It includes every single interaction a customer has with your brand, and customer service is a big factor. We’ll cover that in detail in a later chapter. Never give up on your pledge to delight every customer.

Of all the “bullets of greatness” we mentioned in 1.0, arguably the most important is that your product solves a problem for customers and does so with a great UX. Ultimately, we shouldn’t have our sights set on designing merely usable and functional things, but persuasive, transformative things.

Andy Grove, an early leader at Intel and author of Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company, is credited with the oft-quoted idea that entrepreneurs need to create a 10x improvement in performance with any new experience in order to sway the customer status quo. No one chooses to use a product simply because it exists, has a few good features, or is nicely designed. And if your product has competition in the market, keep in mind that people tend to overvalue the products they’re already using by a factor of 3x, and undervalue alternatives by the same factor. So you have quite the hurdle to jump.

Yes, the things we make must be clearly superior. But they have to be more than that: They have to be compelling. They have to be persuasive. They have to be magnetic.

Want to keep going? Read our book Got Ideas? How to Turn Your Ideas into Products People Want to Use, which takes novice product-makers through the journey of creating great, user-friendly digital products from the thin air of their imaginations. Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook, it’s a hands-on, practical manual for aspiring entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.

Jones + Waddell

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Authors and UX leaders with a focus on user experience and a commitment to ongoing iteration in the quest to create better digital products

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