The experience is the product
Instead of hiring UX designers; become an experience driven company by hiring a Chief Experience Officer
The entire history of economic progress can be recapitulated in the four-stage evolution of the birthday cake. As a vestige of the agrarian economy, mothers made birthday cakes from scratch, mixing farm commodities (flour, sugar, butter, and eggs) that together cost mere dimes. As the goods-based industrial economy advanced, moms paid a dollar or two to Betty Crocker for premixed ingredients. Later, when the service economy took hold, busy parents ordered cakes from the bakery or grocery store, which, at $10 or $15, cost ten times as much as the packaged ingredients. Now, in the time-starved 1990s, parents neither make the birthday cake nor even throw the party. Instead, they spend $100 or more to “outsource” the entire event to Chuck E. Cheese’s, the Discovery Zone, the Mining Company, or some other business that stages a memorable event for the kids — and often throws in the cake for free. — Welcome to the Experience Economy
Some companies have adapted well to the experience economy:
- Walk into Sephora and you are the star of the show, literally. The floor is referred to as the stage and employees are called cast members. Cast members wear earpieces that allow them to discreetly pass information to each other so that, as if by magic, Susan the skincare specialist is expecting you and knows exactly what you’re looking for.
- Watch an Apple commercial and the focus is always on the experiences made possible by technology that operates in the background.
- Dine at one of the restaurants in Disneyland and, without having to say anything, you will be greeted by servers who know your name and take you to your table with appetizers already waiting.
- Duolingo’s marketing, on-boarding and sign-up experience is so fluid; it’s almost impossible not to start learning a new language, when you visit the site.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies hire UX designers to design UI components believing this makes them part of the experience economy. However, the outcome is often a mediocre looking cake, packaged in a generic box that is impossible to open, delivered late by a scruffy looking delivery person that double charges you.
A more effective way to join the experience economy is to hire a user experience champion who works across the entire organization; thus ensuring a user driven experience is delivered consistently across all touch-points.
UX designers and researchers are in a great position to level up to the Chief Experience Officer (CXO) role.
Opportunities to step up include:
Leadership: CXOs should touch all departments keeping teams focused around the company’s core values and big meaningful goal.
Tesla: ‘to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.’
Facebook: ‘to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.’
Internal Propaganda: You should eat, sleep and code your company’s core values. You should be proud to constantly reinforce them through posters, t-shirts, and yourself. Put up posters around the office that represent the company’s core-values. Print t-shirts allowing others to unite and share the company’s core-values. Lastly, if you’re not personifying these values, you’re probably in the wrong place. For example, if a core-value is to have fun and you’re always walking around angry then it’s time for a change.
Pixar: ‘You are not your ideas’
Facebook: ‘Done is better than perfect’
Nike: ‘Be Authentic’
Hiring: Work with hiring managers to help find talent that personifies the company’s core-values and experience driven mindset. Attract talent by being active within meetups, conferences and online forums.
Onboarding new hires: Be one of the first touch-points a new hire interacts with, and thus reinforcing the importance of experience design within the organization. Bring new employees up to speed quickly and clearly on the company’s big goal, key performance indicators and the short-term milestone. Provide reading materials that deliver good overviews of the company’s core-values and, of course, be there for any questions.
All hands meetings: It is your job during the all-hands to unite the team and reinforce the holistic experience as a team effort. All-hands are great opportunities to report customer feedback and either celebrate or support each other as a team.
Branding/Marketing: Often marketing and product teams butt heads to the point that they operate in silos. It is your job to not let this happen. Unite teams around core-values ensuring consistency and mutual respect for each other. Alignment, respect and collaboration are the keys to building consistent user experiences across different touch-points.
Usability studies and research: This is still on you. Your time is more valuable so delegating or outsourcing research is an option. However, understanding usability best practices and reporting where they are not being used remains a top priority.
Stop hiring UX designers to replace visual designers. Instead level up UX to the executive level to transform your company into an experience driven organization.