Building an experience business : lessons from the Adobe Summit

In the middle of may I had the chance to attend the Adobe Summit.Without any surprise the main word of this 2016 edition was “experience” and main idea was to explain attendees why and how becoming an “experience driven business”.

Experience, experience. Everybody’s talking about what and most people consider that digital transformation is about nothing but customer experience. Future will tell if they’re right or wrong. Meanwhile maybe people should focus on knowing what an experience is since I don’t remember having seen a clear and workable definition of it. So experience has become a catch-all word with the risk of losing its sense to become one more buzzword. When marketing happens to the detriment of sense, some good ideas sometimes lose their way and don’t have the success they deserve. But that’s another story;

However, instead of a definition Adobe shared its vision of the characteristics of an experience-driven company. That’s a pretty good thing since the challenge for businesses is to know what to do to move forward. To some extent, even with a vague definition, businesses that know what to achieve will end  doing the right thing even unconsciously.

Here are the capabilities Adobe considers as the pillars of an experience driven business and what they inspire me.

1°) Being able to know the client and show him respect.

In the age of markets of one and of personalized experiences, nothing is possible without customer understanding. As I often wrote that’s a real issue because contrary to what they think most of them don’t know their clients as much as their clients expect them to. Don’t expect to solve this problem by simply buying the right solution. If technology contributes to customer knowledge since it helps to analyze data at a scale humans can’t, there’s still an organizational problem to fix.

If each person owning customers data in the company keeps the data for himself without sharing it with his colleague in charge of others touchpoints of the customer journey, technology won’t help in any way. Hence the need for a cross-functional management of the customer journey and for breaking data silos.

Showing respect is a matter of ethics. Today, customer trust is earned through a transparent and respectful use of data. The data economy won’t exist without data ethics and the software needing an upgrade is the human one.

2°) Being able to speak with a single voice.

Businesses know how to speak. Even too much sometimes. But as the number of media and touchpoints is multiplying, the soft voice of the brand becomes a deafening cacophony that makes the customer’s ears bleed. Hence the need to speak with a single voice. Here again, the best marketing solution won’t be of any help if

• each touchpoint tries to speak louder than the others

• everyone does not have the same information about the client

• no one knows what initiatives/campaigns others are working on

• there is no coordination, no consistency of the message and no management of the marketing pressure.

I’ll add another point. Brands like to talk, to occupy any available field. But they forgot to listen over time. Brands are not listening anymore and that prevents them from being able to establish a sustainable and fruitful relationship with their customers, it prevents them from being good at market intelligence and understanding, it prevents them to be perceived as being close to their customers.

3°) Being able to make technology transparent

As I often say, digital transformation is about making things simpler, easier. Making technology transparent is part it. First point : don’t let IT deal with this matter alone become – even it that’s less and less true – they will want technology to be visible to make their work visible.

It also implies a new approach to experience design, most of all in digital where too many businesses think in terms of functionalities and start by saying “my site must do this and this so I need such functionalities”.

Your customer does not come to use a site or a functionality but to do something. Start from this something and make the work back to technology.

One more thing. Most of times, what technology supports is the visible part of a process. If your process is complicated don’t expect technology to simplify it and become transparent. In such a case people will blame technology while it has nothing to do with the root problem which is the process. I heard to often that “X solution sucks” while the product was in fact very good. It was just used to run a process, a workflow with a terrible design, or designed with a philosophy that is opposite to what you want to achieve through customer experience.

No need to add one more paragraph on silos… I think that you must have got it now.

Just keep in mind that the way people perceive technology reflects the internal reality of your business. Your customers don’t care about your complicatedness, slowness etc… That’s not your customer problem but yours and saying  technology is responsible for a poor experience is just like being in denial.

4°) Being able to delight at any time.

That’s certainly the hardest point to understand. Business should avoid rushing into an endless quest of the Wow effect what will result in a big mess. The biggest opportunity with digital is that it creates an infinity of possible touchpoints and ways to interact with the customer. It’s also it’s biggest risk. Trying to occupy an infinite playground make brands run out of good ideas and ultimately become irrelevant. The challenge is to identify the right opportunities and accept to not exploit all of them.

Back to the main idea, I think that what matters here is to surprise people, what implies non-linear processes that may not be consistent with the will of automation and rationalization most businesses have. When a surprise is predictable it’s not a surprise anymore. Let’s consider airlines and hotels : an upgrade is always a nice news but when it becomes predictable and systematic the absence of upgrade (hotel or plane full) becomes deceptive and  the the system counterproductive.

As we can see, being successful online means a lot internally. The good news is that businesses and vendors are aware of it. They learnt a lot from their first attempts and the internal side is more in more important in their speech.


Photo credit : Under Construction by Darren Whittingham via Shutterstock

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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