During the ING Makeathon in 2019, I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on how organizations can shape a delightful customer experience. In summary, I suggested trying to experiment with nine ideas (or let’s call them “directions”) to drive customer happiness. You’ll find my presentation via this link.

A desirable CX is both a frictionless and branded interaction with your organization that leaves an impression and determines what a customer feels about your brand.

In many cases, an organization’s first intuition is to start improving every interaction or touchpoint that’s below par and hits a low satisfaction. It’s a linear process with a suboptimal use of an organization’s budget and resources. You need a solid vision. Though “vision” seems like a vague term, it’s actually not. It’s merely answering four questions before even starting and committing to a company-wide CX program.

  1. What role do you want to play in the lives of your customers? Be exact and concise; it’s a guideline for all CX initiatives.
  2. What experience drivers are most important to your customers? For example, speed, accessibility, etc.
  3. Which of these drivers have the most impact on your business? Satisfaction alone says nothing.
  4. What customer touchpoints do you truly want to be known for? Overperform.

Use these answers to help formulate a CX vision and set the direction for your team. I’ll elaborate more on this topic in another post. Let’s move on to the essence of this post.

1. From product to solution

Booking a room, booking a table, and finding other travel experiences are currently the direction of travel for Airbnb and many other products that are evolving. They are moving from being the best-in-class to claiming a domain (e.g. travel) via an integrated solution. This increases relevance, drives new revenue, and locks in your customers. However, you need to be careful. Always organize your integrated solution around a single customer need. I see too many organizations launching all-in-one solutions organized around the customer, tackling widespread needs that differ in times and space. Banks with credit cards, insurances, beyond banking solutions related to mobility or home, etc. The purchase drivers and the buying moments are vastly different, and it’s very hard to be the best-in-class for all and not dilute the core of your business. You need to have one good pitch to convince the customer to buy from you and only you.

Question: How can you provide your customers with a desirable solution within a domain?

2. From CX to CE

Try to ascend customer experience (the functional desirability) and strive for sincere customer engagement (the emotional connection). Credit Suisse tried this with their Digipigi product for children (a smart and adorable piggy bank teaching children to handle money). Credit Suisse sold 10,000 Digipigi units within two months of launch with 60% of the clients being new to the bank, in turn increasing their market share. They understood the parent-child relationship and truly engaged on a more emotional level.

Question: How can you emotionally engage with your customers?

3. From sale to serve

Evolve from a one-off product sale to gradually establishing a relationship. How? By servicing the customer before, during, and after a sale (for free). In exchange, consumers will bond, gladly reward you, and support your future developments. Take Sherpa, for example. It’s a tailored life insurance and critical illness insurance for the risks that matter most, and it runs on zero commission. The best part? It has a free advice membership, providing trusted financial advice related to insurances.

Question: How can you be relevant for a consumer before he/she even owns your core product(s)?

4. Zero friction

By now, we’re all aware that tackling the needs and pains of customers drives adoption and loyalty. In the meantime, customers become more demanding. Instead of debating what touchpoints you should improve first, how about asking yourself if it’s possible to remove these touchpoints all at once? This is what we call “zero friction.” What’s the goal? Think about how you can internalize all complexity and minimize the steps required to get the job done (as Clayton Christensen would say). Take the well-known example of Amazon Go. There are no cash registers. Just enter, take, and go while the payment is automatically processed. Instead of losing time on improving the cash register experience, just skip it. Zero friction also means reducing cognitive processes and efforts required to purchase and use a product. Take the example of digitally underwriting car insurance. All those car specifications you need to fill in, who knows all that? By scanning a license plate, and by smartly connecting several databases, 90% of information can be prefilled, shortening the overall onboarding journey.

Question: What (micro) steps of the customer journey can you eliminate?

5. Playful experiences

Think about the last 20 interactions you had with an organization or product. How many of these interactions made you genuinely smile (if any)? How about bringing back the fun factor? Even in more “serious” industries, try to surpass the idea of a desirable experience and think of how you can make people smile and enthusiastically talk about their last experience. From using gamification and entertaining illustrations to explain your insurance coverage, to having an amusing experience while onboarding a plane. It might even allow your brand to go viral on social media when people capture these experiences and feel the honest need to share them.

Question: How can you create a more playful and fun experience?

6. Branded experiences

As mentioned before, a desirable CX is both a frictionless and branded interaction with your organization that leaves an impression and determines what a customer feels about your brand. That second part is equally important, if not more, and easily forgotten about. Actually, it ties back to two of the four questions that help you set your CX vision:

  • What role do you want to play in the life of your customer?
  • What customer touchpoints do you truly want to be known for?

The idea is to search for creative ways to transfer your brand image and experience. Decide which moments in the customer journey you want to claim and be known for. Make these your branded moments and overperform. For instance, take Freddy, the ‘high-fiving’ monkey from Mailchimp (after launching a big email campaign). This simple illustration has spawned its own sub-brand and has come to be one of the most cited examples of user empathy. After all, you can delete a bad tweet, but you can’t unsend a bad email to all your clients.

Question: What moments do you want to claim for your brand?

7. Voice-enabled experiences

Simply put, a voice-enabled experience is using voice to move toward a simple and intuitive experience. No more rigid and linear journeys. Lots of organizations are experimenting with this concept. Mostly, they see it as nice to have, but I truly believe in the exponential benefit. Just take a look at the valuations of audio-based startups like Clubhouse and the Spotify-Megaphone deal. This is mainly thanks to the popularity of AirPods and smart speakers. It’s big. British catalog retailer Argos provides the possibility to shop by voice, immediately collect your product locally, receive 24/7 voice support, and track order updates via your speaker. Another great example is voice-enabled IVR (the automated telephone system that says push 1, 2, 3 etc.). It allows you to ask your question and immediately directs you to the right service.

Find more about this topic in my previous articles: ”The future of voice and how it impacts design” and “Two voice opportunities worth exploring.” If you like to explore how voice technologies can help drive growth and loyalty in your organization, check out our Voice Sprint (by EY VODW).

Question: How can you make interactions more natural using voice?

8. Hyper-personalization

Hyper-personalization ranges from segments to persona to individual targeting and servicing. Yes, it requires a hyper-intelligent data foundation (architecture, CRM) and loads of data, but the upside is enormous. These are hyper-individualized targeting, messages, and journeys. Before pursuing this perfection, there are many ways to gradually move toward this. The Miami Heat’s personalized fan experience via their team’s sports app does exactly this: mobile ticket (QR) entry followed by a personalized feed based on your preferences and location. When watching in the arena, you’ll receive location-based info and updates with a different experience compared to watching it from home. The app learns what you like and adapts updates accordingly.

Question: How does a fully-tailored user journey look like for your product?

9. Passive to proactive

From active curation to passive curation. The concept of customers doing the work of shaping something to fit their needs (filter, preselect interests, etc.) is a thing of the past. There is an overload of online options. We see decision fatigue across many digital services (music, video, recipes, etc.). Ask yourself: Which mountain of choices would your customers love your brand to sift through on their behalf? Get to know your customers with proper data to proactively propose a subset of relevant options that they can then curate accordingly. Spotify does it, Netflix will start doing it (with their programmed linear TV channel), and even CKBK (online recipes) does it. Also, Neobanks are experimenting with it using tailored and proactively proposed solutions like a quick overdraft loan when your balance is low mid-month, etc.

Question: How can you be proactively relevant for your customers?

To wrap up. Go further than just designing a good customer experience. Be bolder, take a few leaps, and experiment with a few of the ideas above. Use the questions as creative triggers. And before diving into the work, please set a proper CX vision and ambition. You don’t want to build a Swiss Army knife. Be consistent and have sporadic peaks of delightful interactions.


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