Co-creating Experiences Fit for Customers


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Customer loyalty is the consequence of providing a superior customer experience in ways that matter to the customer. That create value for the customer. Value includes cognitive elements (so beloved of the B-school crowd), emotional elements, aesthetic elements and others elements too. Only the customer decides what is of value. If we want loyal customers, we must concentrate on building a customer experience that delivers superior value, on customers’ terms. Not just on the company’s (or the brand’s) terms.

But this is not as straight forward as it sounds.

Vargo & Lusch’s new thinking around service-dominant logic shows us that value is co-created with customers at the point of use. This is a radical departure from today’s business thinking, which sees value as having been delivered at the point of sale. The auto dealer is happy at the moment you buy the car. But you are cumulatively much more happy after many years of trouble-free motoring. If you are really happy you go back and buy another car from the same dealer. If value is co-created at the point of use in this way, then customer experiences need to be designed as flexible platforms that allow the customer to create value in their own way. A car is not just a means of transport, it is a status symbol, a lifestyle statement, a safe place, a creator of happy family memories and so much more. So the car experience platform should be much more than just the car itself, financing and insurance. It should also about lifestyle events, roadside help when you need it and so many more things. That doesn’t mean the customer experience shouldn’t express the brand’s values, just that the they shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of co-creating value for customers.

Perhaps the biggest change in designing customer experiences on customers’ terms is in thinking through what customers are trying to achieve at critical moments in the customer experience. This means moving beyond just looking at what customers do (which itself is limited by what customers are allowed to do), towards looking at the jobs customers are trying to do and the outcomes they are trying to achieve by doing them. If we understand the jobs that customers are trying to do, and struggling with, we can innovate to provide better touchpoints and thus, a superior customer experience.

As my knowledge, skills and experience has evolved over the years, I see myself today as more of a design thinker than a ‘customer-centric innovator’ or ‘customer value manager’ that my business cards describe me as. I see the broad range of disciplines that merge together in design thinking as the ideal toolkit to sense the world through the eyes of the customer, to know how they are trying to do jobs, to think how value can be co-created with them, to build experience platforms that enable co-creation and to act in a more customer-centric way. Customer-centricity is co-creating value with customers at the end of the day. Customers and companies both benefit from co-creation.

The British economist John Kay talks about ‘Obliquity’; the idea that you only achieve what you want by focussing on the things that enable it, not by focussing on the result itself. Never was this more true than in creating loyal customers. To misquote Bill Clinton, “It’s the customer experience stupid!”. And we design thinkers know that really, the customer experience is all about co-creating value with customers.

What do you think? Is co-creation the way forward for customer experience design? Or is your customer experience still stuck in a corporate branded mind-set?

Graham Hill
Customer-Centric Innovator, Customer Value Manager, or simply, Design Thinker
Follow me on Twitter

Further Reading:

Reinartz & Kumar, The Mismanagement of Customer Loyalty

Bernd Schmitt, Customer Experience Management

Vargo & Lusch, Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing

Mertz, Yi & Vargo, The Evolving Brand Logic: a Service-dominant Logic Perspective

Ulwick & Bettencourt, The Customer-centred Innovation Map

John Kay, Obliquity

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


  1. Graham,

    I guess this is a very great summarization of things that will sweep the CRM landscape, even may be change it for good. But for poor folks like me, is there a HowTo somewhere? 🙂 I am sold on the ideas & want to try them out for one of our customers.


    I tweet as @prem_k.

  2. Prem

    From my blog post on ‘CEX: Goodbye Process-Thinking. Hello Design-Thinking’.

    “If I was advising a client today on who are the best CEX designers, I would be pointing them to design agencies like Design Thinkers, live|work or Engine Service Design, not to the CEX consultancies that I might have used only a few years ago.”

    Take a look at the many examples on their websites to get a good feel for how CEX2.0 is done properly and the tools they use to do it. Or ask @designthinkers from Design Thinkers.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator, Customer Value Manager, or simply, Design Thinker
    Follow me on Twitter

    Further Reading:

    Design Thinkers


    Engine Service Design

    Journey to the Interface

  3. Ed

    Thanks for your comment. It is much appreciated

    I read George Colony’s earlier piece on Social Sigma with some interest. Although too many so-called analysts believe their own breathless hype, George is much more down to earth.

    I think George is right when he suggests that companies wil involve their customers more and more in innovating new products, services and experiences. Indeed, I wrote about How Customers Drive Innovation at P&G in a recent blog post. But this isn’t new. It is just another example of Open Innovation.

    But the open innovation that George talks about has a serious flaw too. Experience shows that just gathering ideas from customers does not necessarily lead to winning innovations in the market. That doesn’t mean that customer ideas are useless, just that they need to put into the context of what is most valuable to customers and then used as a catalyst for more creative thinking about potential solutions. The problem with ulfiltered customer ideas is that although customers do know what they want, they tend to think only in terms of solutions that they already know, rather than the much larger range of solutions that the company could potentially deliver.

    The answer to this problem is to study the jobs customers are trying to do and the outcomes they are trying to achieve by doing them, and to use these insights to filter customer ideas. And then to use these insights as a catalyst to take the ideas and to look for even better solutions, taking into account the company’s full delivery capabilities. This can be done by returning the best filtered ideas as bounded problems to e.g. lead customers for further work, or internally through a structured design process. This is similar to how P&G and all the other open innovators make sense of customer ideas.

    Customers are a great source of ideas and we definately need to encourage more engagement with them. But ideas by themselves are unlikely to be useful without a structured innovation and design process to filter them, improve them and design market-winning innovations.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

    Further Reading:

    George Colony, Social Sigma

    Graham Hill, How Customers Drive Innovation at P&G

    Graham Hill, Harnessing Customers to Drive Innovation

    Lance Bettencourt, Debunking Myths About Customer Needs

    Tony Ulwick, Turn Customer Input into Innovation


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