Love Is A Universal Experience

Sarah B. Brooks
IBM Design
Published in
3 min readDec 8, 2021


Communication between functional groups is challenging in any organization. We all speak slightly different dialects when it comes to how we understand and play our roles in meeting the wants and needs of prospects and customers. Finding shared language is important. It’s important because when organizations botch hand-offs between functions, prospects and customers experience friction and frustration. We all know that erodes loyalty.

Conversely, when handoffs between organizational functions are seamless, the customer or prospect experience is positive. We can recognize this from our own experiences. How many products or services we interact with everyday work so well that we love them? Precious few.

At IBM, we create products and services that power businesses. We’re often an invisible layer of life infrastructure to the average citizen or resident. We help power businesses that provide everything from airline ticketing systems to mobile healthcare to banking security. Yep. It used to be that this world of enterprise software wasn’t expected to work as easily or be as lovable as the most attractive customer-facing products and services. This is no longer the case. Expectations have changed. It’s been at least five years since former IBM Senior Executive Bridget Van Kralingen wisely noted that, “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere, becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.”

Happily, for all of us who work with all kinds of enterprise software every day, this raising of the bar makes getting our jobs done each day a little easier. Thanks, Slack. My inbox thanks you. I thank you.

Across the IBM Design organization we’re very focused on pervasive excellence. A big factor in our ability to achieve pervasive excellence is having a shared language between all members of a cross-functional team. This allows us to sharpen our focus on our customer’s wants and needs across their end-to-end experiences.

When we think about these end-to-end experiences, we think about the discreet mindsets of people during each context of experience. Based on customer research, we developed an end-to-end experience model that we call the Universal Experiences.

IBM’s 9 Universal Experiences

The Universal Experiences represent the mindsets and contexts people are in throughout their relationship with IBM. They provide a way to approach customer relationships holistically. They span across the entire end-to-end customer lifecycle. They’re not only focused on the product or service use itself, but all the moments before and beyond. This includes all the conversations, people, platforms, products, events, websites, and more. That’s basically every single digital and analog interaction we have with our customers. We recognize that each must be designed with excellence and care to earn people’s trust, loyalty and hopefully even love. These experiences are:

Discover: People need to find the best solutions that fulfill their needs, define options, and begin the consideration process.

Learn: People need to evaluate if a solution is the best option for them, gain expertise, and get their questions answered.

Try: People need to test a solution through hands-on experience and evaluate if a solution can fulfill a use case.

Buy: People need to transition from trial to paid with efficiency and transparency, gain purchase approval, complete their purchase, and manage billing.

Get Started: People need to get going quickly with minimal training, easily understand how to use a solution to fulfill their needs, and complete tasks.

Use: People need to use solutions to get their job done, use increasingly complex levels of functionality as proficiency is gained, and apply updates and fixes for productivity.

Get Help: People need to resolve their issues quickly and ideally proactively, reduce productivity blockers, leverage community expertise, and feel heard. This spans all the other experiences.

Expand: People need to grow solutions so they can fulfill their needs at a broader scale, seamlessly upgrade, easily understand service contracts, and fulfill additional new needs.

End Use: People need to end product use, migrate or remove data securely, re-establish product use or relationship, or end the relationship if sentiment is damaged. We understand this is a natural process, and we want to make sure people know we will warmly welcome them back.

The great thing about the Universal Experiences is their broad applicability. They are becoming the lingua franca for end-to-end experience across our business. And with 350,000+ plus IBM employees, singing off the same song sheet matters. It makes for a wonderful melody.



Sarah B. Brooks
IBM Design

Service Designer. Practical Futurist. Inner World Explorer. IBM Distinguished Designer, Strategic Foresight. @TheRSAOrg Fellow. Opinions my own.