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 (who is also the father of the Net Promoter score) co-authored an article called “The Three D’s of Customer Experience.”  In this very insightful and even visionary piece, the authors point out that “[e]ighty percent of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8 percent of their customers agree.” Then, the authors proceed to outline three ways to remedy this situation. According to them, the following three behaviors set the 8% of companies which got it right apart from the rest:

  1. “They design the right offers and experiences for the right customers.
  2. They deliver these propositions by focusing the entire company on them with an emphasis on cross-functional collaboration.
  3. They 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 completely agree with the spirit of those three statements, but have a bone to pick with the phrasing of #1.

I submit that no one can actually design a human “experience!”  Experience is an emergent property of the interaction of people with products and services.  If you take the definition of “customer experience” outlined in another post here seriously, you will know what I mean.  “Experience” is a subjective state that is the result of several conditions – (1) the person with his or her personality, dispositions, moods, needs, and so on; (2) the situation or context of use, and (3) the product or service in question.

Companies can only control their products and services.  The really good consumer-centric companies also have gained deep knowledge about and empathy for their users or, specifically, 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.  There are no guarantees, but there is always hope …


One thought on “You cannot design an experience

  1. So true, there are no guarantees in life, other than knowing that we can guarantee ourselves with an ever living light of hope, that will guarantee our change of thinking, despite environment being the way it is, static or changing. And that thought will manifest into another similar and another similar and eventually into an experience of our choice. And that is a guarantee.

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