What is experience ? (hint : not digital nor customer focused)

When it comes to digital, experience is a key but still poorly defined concept, quite hazy for most people. Following my previous post and before going further, let’s start with trying to find a definition of experience.

Experience must not be boiled down to customers and digital

Before anything, note that, contrary to what we can read on the matter, I did not write customer experience or digital experience. There’s a reason to that : I don’t think one can be successful in the experience economy (as a matter of fact the point is experience as the fuel of new economic models) by focusing only on customer or digital experience only.

That reminds me of this excellent post by Manuel Diaz (in french) where he said that experience had five dimensions. Customers (they are the goal of the business), partners (they are key in a networked economy), employees (following the “symmetry of attentions” rules, the limiting factor of customer experience is employee experience), life cycles (experience is not one shot by a story that’s co-writen and lived over time) and digital-physical articulation.

Let’s have a deeper look at the last point. The digital-physical articulations. The problem with experience today is not the digital part : many businesses have invested a lot in while caring less about physical experience. The problem is coherence between both : an exceptional digital experience coming with a terrible in-store experience is a disaster in terms of customer feeling. To some extent, it’s better to be good enough at each that exceptional at one and terrible at the other. The gap will be perceived as smaller. And if we consider that employee experience matters, we need to draw all the consequences from it : if a business can have a 100% digital relationship with customers it’s not possible with employees. Workplace experience can’t be overlooked.

So let’s move to defining experience. If I want to find an acceptable definition before going further that’s for some reasons. First because there are few things to be found about experience as such. Lots of things about customer experience but less about experience in general while it would be helpful to have guidelines to apply to both, and even to partners. Second because nothing I’ve read did really convince me.

Since we don’t have any generic definition, let’s have a look at what’s said in “Outside In“, the bible of anyone wanting to build and experience-based business model.

Experience is a matter of experience and interactions

“Customer experience is how your customers perceive their interactions with your company”

There are lots of things in this definition.

•It’s a matter of perception. Something that should not be overlooked. Many businesses are doing things good but don’t get any benefit because customers don’t perceive it. If experience requires some “know-how” it also requires a kind of “make it know”. Even if it makes the most rational of us uncomfortable : customers don’t value what you do but what he perceives you’re doing, what can lead to good or bad surprises.

• It’s about interactions. All interactions. No matter the channel, the person, the purpose. Hence the need for global coherence between channels, services, functions etc.

“Outside in” also tells ys what experience is not.

It’s not about postures, good intentions and being nice. It’s not about looking nice but doing things. Consequence : the need to rethink processes, a new way to work.

Experience is not about customer service either. Turning to customer services often means that a problem occurred while a good experience is supposed to be problem-free. But I don’t fully agree with this point : zero defect does not exist so service is a part of experience, but everything must be done to make it unnecessary. So I would say it in another way : “it’s not about customer service only”. On the other hand I’ve often heard that customers who experienced a problem and has it fixed were more likely to be satisfied that someone who had no problem and did not have the experience of being taken care of. I agree : when everything is streamlined, perfect, we have few occasions to feel or experience anything. The problem with perfection is that it’s often invisible.

There’s no experience without a promise

Now let’s have a look at Wikipedia

Experience is the knowledge or mastery of an subject or event gained through involvement in or exposure to it.

It’s about general experience so it goes beyond our domain but I’ll keep something from this definition : exposure or involvement. We don(t value an experience by itself but in comparison with an expectation, which comes from a promise. Brand promise, employer brand promise etc. An experience must be unique and differentiating because it depends on the enterprise DNA, culture, mission statement. Two competitors won’t have any interest in promising the same experience for these very reasons.

Putting everything together, I’d say that

“Experience is the process through which a business creates value through interactions with customers, employees and partners. Linked to the way the business states its mission and its culture, experience must be unique and differentiating. The way it’s value does not depend on what’s done but the way stakeholders perceive what’s done.

That’s nice but now we need things to drive and measure experience. In other words, what are the dimensions of a successful experience.

To be continued in a future post.


Image credit : Experience via Shutterstock

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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