Disruptive Experience Design: how to design an Experience that disrupts your market


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In my blog What the heck is Customer Experience Management I emphasised how Customer Experience value comes from designing in a more engaging ‘process of doing business’ (e.g., ‘I use Amazon.com because its such an easy process’) and at a high end how that process can become ‘entertaining, a wow! and a reason in itself’ to engage with you in the first place (e.g., ‘I go to Lush because I love the look of all those soaps’).

This creation of Experience based value becomes particularly critical in industries where price and product innovation are easily copied (what I called in this blog traditional Marketing values). But how exactly can you create the kind of Disruptive Experience Design (DED) that puts you ahead of your competitors?

Well, firstly this is not about the Voice of the Customer alone. Disruptive Experience Design means vision not just about getting ideas from customers. That’s not to discount VOC programmes, but to paraphrase Henry Ford, ‘if I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have just said a faster horse.’ Important, yes – at least you get the principle (its speed!) – the answer, no. Of course, a few customers may also say ‘its about automobiles’, but its ultimately up to you to see the vision; see my earlier blog Manage your Creative Equity.

The second point about designing a Disruptive Experience is not to confuse it with product innovation. There is some cross-over but we are looking here at the process of doing business with you, that is our competitive differentiator.

Just as a taster here are some examples of Disruptive Experience Design to consider:

  • How SouthWest Airlines took the concept of Fun into the Experience
  • How Stew Leonards used Animatronics and themeing to differentiate their grocery experience
  • How Overbury in construction brought an almost concierge service to their on-site experience
  • How Lush turned the buying of soap into a Wow! Did you ever think soap could be so exciting!

The Beyond Philosophy Approach
Before we start creating, we need to simply understand ‘what is our Experience today?’. A question that is typically answered by creating a flow-chart or Journey Mapping your Experience.

It is important at this point to be clear, this is not a trite affair. Without a comprehensive map you risk trying to redesign ‘without understanding’: rather like getting in ‘untrained builders’ to remodel your house the results are inevitable.

No designer, whether in engineering or fashion, would start without a blueprint, neither should you.

Too often I have seen journey maps that usebroad general terms (usually with a pretty picture attached) that simply fail to map the whole Customer Experience – rational, emotional, psychological, subconscious – in a detailed step by step way: one way to test this out is to just look at the words not the pictures, if it seems a light description that does not put you into the customers mindset then that’s what it is.

To be clear, the reason for detailed mapping of the customer story as they engage with you is to create the stimuli for a redesign (Design Thinking). If we see Website on the map, that tells us nothing, if we see ‘strong negative emotion, had to enter mobile phone details into Website before I could book’ well, that says something.

From that base, we can then look for the creative changes that remove the negatives in an experience and start to question ourselves about where we could disrupt the design to create a better and differentiated Experience. For Beyond Philosophy we use consumer psychology to help in our disruptive ideas.

  • Once key touchpoints are determined for an Experience intervention, then we can communicate with a pretty pictures Map.

Through this detail we might then start identifying some ideas, here are a few of the many possible in a grocery experience:

  • Animatronics could be used e.g., Animatronics is used in Stew Leonards as a disruptive concept
  • The confectionary/ candy area could be changed to give the feel of a traditional candy store.
  • The car parking could do with some identifier poles (e.g., car park location A1).
  • The baskets should be cleaned regularly so they gleem as customers walk in.
  • The kids area should be redesigned into a specific location – not just on the side, and usually not working.
  • Perhaps we should give out product location finders on trolleys for goods
  • Perhaps we should use more theatre – cooking displays
  • How about a free branded shopping list pad
  • Etc… Etc…

And so it goes on, quick wins, disruptive ideas all generated from a detailed understanding of the experience; ideas that can also be added to from customers and, as is usual with Beyond Philosophy, through use of Customer Experience Consultants, helping to pick up game-changing ideas from other industries.

A map also has the critical function of showing the advantage of the change from ‘As Is’ to ‘To be’. Hence, reds (negative emotion moments) turn to greens (positive emotion moments) – see my blog Lovemark your Experience – and map complexity is simplified (i.e., And here we could save money! – see my blog Lean CE. Even better, we could also map competitor activity to see where disruptive change can occur.

In this way, disruption can be seen, touchpoints can be assessed for measurement – remember this is not just about points that can be targeted by software, as the examples above demonstrate, and implications in the business ajudged e.g., if we want to put in location finders, what is the internal implications.

A final point is the list of ideas that comes out can be divided in a number of ways – not just quick wins, large scale inititatives but into those that are or are not disruptive game-changers. These can likewise be assessed either through pilot or by looking at predictions of their return e.g., quantifications using techniques such as Emotional Signature. To use the Henry Ford analogy, if speed of horse drives value then that would be used as the clue for an investment in cars. ROI can then be applied as the basis for a rank order of ideas for pilot against their (a) game-changing nature and (b) ability to be executed by the organisation.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Walden
Steven Walden is Director of Customer Experience at leading CX firm TeleTech Consulting (which includes Peppers and Rogers, iKnowtion and RogenSi). Steven is instrumental in efforts to develop the CX practice promoting thought leadership and CX community engagement and IP development. Prior to TeleTech he was Director of CX at Ericsson, developing their Experience Management Centre and also Head of Research specialising in emotion and journey mapping agency side.


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