User Experience (UX): Use it or eXpect to Lose it!

Written by Professional Academy Tutor and Marketing Expert Peter Sumpton

Jan Carlzon (CEO of SAS Group 1981-1994) coined the phrase ‘moments of truth’, referring to the interactions that a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) employee has with a customer having a detrimental effect to how that customer perceives SAS and subsequently whether the customers’ expectations have been met, creating an experience that will keep them coming back. Although still relevant today, these ‘moments of truth’ are not just confined to the contact between an organisation and its customers, it has spread, wide and far, from the way employees interact with customers and the functionality of a website to the usability and quality of a product. It is all integral to creating a desired User Experience (UX).

Know Your Audience

At the heart of any UX must be the user, they are the ones that will determine the successfulness of an organisation, but how do you make sure that each and every consumer is satisfied with the type of experience they are receiving, after all we are all different with different needs, wants and expectations?

Firstly, do your research; find out what the customer wants and how many customers want that similar thing. Segmenting your customer base, categorising individuals into various groups with similar requirements can highlight what type of experiences are expected.

Take a budget airline for example, yes you can purchase a cheap seat on a plane going to your desired destination, with limited fuss, but what about those consumers who want a specific seat or want to be on the plane first, what about those who require travel insurance, a rental car, or haven’t even found a hotel yet? Well the user experience, has got this covered, or at the click of a button all those choices can be ignored and you are free to simply pay for your flight and pray that you’re not the one sat next to the screaming baby!!!

But UX isn’t simply about the usability of a product, service or website; it goes much deeper than that. Consideration has to be taken into how a user feels during an entire process. Continuing with the above example, some consumers may get frustrated with the multiple options that are presented (as discussed above), whereas other will appreciate being reminded that they require specific travel services. Both of these experiences are possible outcomes from exactly the same customer journey, it is the customers’ expectations, opinions and emotional attachment that are the differentiators. An organisation must stick to their overall business proposition and have a user experience that matches this to stand any chance of maintaining a UX that is true to them.

From a purchasing a cheap airline ticket online to an iPhone’s functionality, every step, transaction, communication, function and design is part of the UX process. This can become extremely complex for an organisation to take control of, whereas from a consumers perspective, we almost start to take some elements for granted – remember, it wasn’t that long ago that unlocking your phone with a thumb print was something you see in a Bond movie, but it has now become second nature and ergonomically more attractive. A key feature that is now commonplace in the UX of an iPhone.

What is Your Strategy?

For UX to become successful it isn’t just the end user that is taken into consideration. Internally there must be synchronisation and an understanding of the main organisational objectives. Without this, creating an experience with value becomes increasingly difficult due to the fact an ‘experience’ can be complex and ever changing alongside attitudes, opinions and developments in technology. The larger and more complex a business is or intends to be, the more important it is to make sure every department and every individual understands and is working towards a utopian UX that is fitting of the brand and its ethos.

Two different organisations highlight this very well;

Online Retailer; Imagine if Amazon didn’t have any reviews, didn’t have a one-click checkout button, didn’t have recommended products or an emailing system that tells you when your product will be delivered or an online tracking service, or an returns policy that is as easy as sticking a label on a box? What a very different experience it would be and for the worst. Amazons UX is almost tailored to individual requirements, but this is only possible if employees work together and understand what makes an excellent online shopping experience. A web coder must work in-line with the design department, who must be in sync with the distribution team, who must work with the sales and returns (all of which isn’t seen by any consumer, but is vital for producing the UX Amazon requires).

Global Hotel Chain; When operating within the service industry the experience a customer has can be even more detrimental to an organisations success. Take Hilton Hotels for example, they are not the cheapest, far from it, but this is because of the quality of their UX. Everything from the basic expectations such as the cleanliness of the rooms and a shower that works to those elements that will set a hotel apart such the use of a loyalty scheme and how easy it is to use, friendliness of staff (not just within the hotel) and the promptness of dealing with any request – large and small. These details are only turned into benefits if everyone within the organisation works together, from the front of house staff and housekeeping to the sales team and administration.

Obviously these examples are only possibilities when the three fundamentals of any strategy are taken into consideration and apportioned appropriately; resource, budget and of course time. But regardless of this, a customer’s experience can still be classed as excellent when focussing on what people want rather than anecdotal evidence. If you have an answer to the following then you are well on your way;

  • Is it Useful?
  • How Usable is it?
  • Is it Desirable?
  • Are you Findable?
  • How Accessible is it?
  • Is it Credible?

The curse of the Internet

Most of what has been discussed here focusses on what can be managed, elements that can be changed from within to assist in making a UX the best it can be, but there are elements that are uncontrollable regardless of how good your strategy is.

We live in a society where everything is content and content is everything. It is easy to find out everything about anything today and this can be a help and a hindrance where UX is concerned.

Although advances in technology have introduced elements into a UX strategy that were never previously possible, it is the mountain of information readily available that can do more harm than good. Today consumer perception can be altered without even the slightest interaction with an organisation, product or service. Take TripAdvisor for example, when looking for a place to stay you may well want to see what others have to say about a particular establishment and depending on their own UX, this opinion could be positive or negative, changing how another consumer may feel about a hotel. The issue being that one consumer may have very different expectations to what is good or bad compared to others, but now feelings have been swayed due what has been written by someone you probably don’t know and will probably never meet, thus starting another individuals UX on a negative.

If we have learnt anything from the digital age we live in, it is surely that not everything you read is true, but unfortunately it’s out there and for any organisation that relies on a solid UX to survive, it cannot be ignored.

The Truth, The Whole Truth

Jan Carlzon was right, we do need to consider every ‘moment of truth’, those interactions between employees and customers that can influence how an organisation and what they offer is perceived or even have a detrimental effect on its survival. But UX goes much further than that, it is not just a ‘moment’ it is not just a ‘truth’ it is all encompassing, stretching over every part of an organisation and its stakeholders, taking into consideration the emotional, the tangible and the experiences individual consumers have or expect to have. As the famous quote goes – You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time - But with a solid UX, you can give it a bloody good go!!!

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