Designing for Happiness

Last week, I visited several design agencies in conjunction with the IXDA Helsinki Open Studios 2016 event. The most important takeaway of this event, in addition to making new friends, was to visit the various agencies in the field of digital service design, see what they are working on, and how. I met many interesting people, while getting insight on the latest developments in this field by Solita, Fjord, Futurice and Reaktor.

Digital agencies are more and more design-driven, which is excellent. We ultimately need better products and services, and this is why design should be deeply integrated into digital strategy, and not function merely as a subset of other functions. In many organizations, design is still considered a separate silo. Design is increasingly applied, but it seems to me we have yet to reach design-driven maturity.

Nevertheless, it seems there is also a lot of hype involved. As more and more companies start investing in design, and while many happily outsource these functions, it is crucial to keep being focused on the customer experience, and not overlook getting insight on their behavior through proper research and analytics. Getting the relevant analytics and research together must precede the design process.

It is tempting to manage the customer experience based on what is already known about the current customer behavior and the current analytics, but what we don’t know about customers and what we think we know about customers is important as well. Thinking about these other two factors, it is paramount to define the strategic target. Focusing on a specific strategic target in relation to the specific customer profiles and segments is what makes all the difference here.

After gathering the data, I think it is best to start out by asking, how to make this customer happy?

Once the analytics and research is sufficient to answer the three questions listed above, it should be relatively easy to identify the touchpoints that matter most. I dislike the term “moments of truth”, but the key takeaway here is to identify when customers pause for a moment, evaluate the experience, and make crucial decisions. Addressing the customer’s needs on such touchpoints and investing on augmenting and delivering an emotion-based experience on each touchpoint of this type makes for an engaged customer.

The strongest emotion-based experiences often take place when the needs of the customer are not met. Then, the customer has a problem. The pain points, however, should be viewed as key opportunities to create an outstanding customer experience. The customer may be confused, or having negative emotions. To give a prime example of such a touchpoint, this is when they contact the company’s customer service.

Making this kind of “moments of truth” a competitive advantage should be set as one of the goals of customer journey mapping. We have all had experiences such as this, with different outcomes.

Customer experience management taken to the next level, however, for me, is all about designing for innovations. Customer journey mapping, for example, may generate many new ideas and concepts. The key here is to involve the customers in the design process, and getting together the relevant people in the organization to envision the ideal journey of the customer.

I personally prefer to have a workshop or a series of workshops based on analytics and in-depth research.

As a final touch, turning customer experience management into compelling materials for the rest of the organization should not be overlooked. To give an example, the customer journey map may be turned into a compelling visual story. How the results are communicated within the organization matters.

Many large companies are now sporting internal innovation labs, while many others still have to outsource design thinking. Nevertheless, there is a whole new paradigm: a design-driven “experience economy”. Flipping through annual trend reports for any business, this shift is evident. The Fjord Trend Report 2016, for example, states that “design is making huge strides”. Furthermore, it states that “– We’re seeing the largest companies bring the practice of design in-house.” But what I like best, is the statement that “designing for happiness resonates at the core of many of our trends”.

Happiness. It is sometimes hard to measure, yet it seems to me as the most relevant goal of design. In addition to being what is trending now, it is what will trend in the future too. Ultimately, it all comes down to the question – what is it that your company doing in order to make the world a better place?

I think here Stephen Anderson’s User Experience Hierarchy of Needs is a prime reference here. The products and services that make people happy must be functional, reliable, and usable, but moreover, they must be convenient, pleasurable and meaningful.

And the most meaningful things in life are, of course, the things we love – the things that make us happy.

See Stephen Anderon’s User Experience Hierarchy of Needs: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/8a/2e/4a/8a2e4ae07d445e94c00df25cfa4c5ea4.jpg

Space for an Engaging Experience

Click, click, click. Your brand, company or organization may attract one million or more visitors to its website annually, but how do these visits eventually turn into revenue?

I think that conducting quantitative or qualitative research on customer experience is a fundamentally critical factor in turning the organization’s website visitors – be they passers-by or returning – into customers and later on into brand advocates.

Using this approach has the benefit of being able to better anticipate customer needs and desires and adopt to the mindset of the customer. Customer experience, in short, is the cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints over the customer journey, which result in an emotion-based relationship feeling, or lack of it. Now that the numerous different digital services have multiplied the potential touchpoints, lack of proper customer experience management may have disastrous results for the brand.

“Customer experience … is a fundamental dimension of how a company competes”, says Joseph Pine, who has coined the term in 1999 in his book entitled “The Experience Economy”, co-authored by James Gilmore. Pine underlines the importance of the shift from service economy into experience economy. This shift may be as remarkable as or even more important than the shift from selling commodities to making and marketing goods.

The importance of research cannot be overrated here. It is precisely getting to know your customers and having a discussion with them that helps you better understand their journey.

Once you have the results from the research, be it extensive quantitative material or in-depth interviews with selected few, it is possible to start mapping and managing the customer experience.

This can be done, for example, by creating customer profiles. The customer profiles may help in identifying the customer journeys that really matter, and vice versa.

Creating a customer journey canvas can also be a useful tool here.

What the customer of the 21st century expects now when purchasing a product or using a service, is, most of all, to have an engaging experience.

I think that creating this kind of emotion-based experiences should be the main area of expertise in the Museum Industry for these institutions to keep attracting customers in the future. Most major art institutions have indeed been very successful in creating an environment where this kind of engaging experiences take place. However, when it comes to their online services, not so many museums seem to have put so much effort in creating a space for exceptional engagement.

How to make the magic happen online?

I have no easy solution for this one, but creating digital customer profiles based on extensive research may be the best starting point in creating a composed customer experience. Having a streamlined digital strategy and implementing it throughout the organization is also needed.