Experience Worlds - it's not only about shopping and wellness
User centred design is the key to awaken customers, to trigger their interest, to guide, motivate and inspire them and to avoid potentially negative experiences right at the beginning. "The touch points between customer and company need to create one holistically positive and memorable experience for the customer, in economic and public life", explains Markus Murtinger, Managing Consultant at USECON, an international consultancy specialized in usability, user experience, user interface design and experience management. "Moreover, the harmony of multiple channels plays an important role. Does the map on the website match reality? Are driving instructions comprehensible? Are the advertised products available? Are promises such as "only two minutes on foot from the beach" kept?
The central question is whether the real experience is equal to or exceeds the expectations created by advertisement and promotions. All touch points between a company and its customers - from information search over purchase and consumption to after-sales support - form one holistic experience in the customer's memory. Thus, positive components in all touch points are needed to create an outstanding customer experience. This ultimately leads to competitive advantage and is the basis for sustainable, long-term customer satisfaction.
User-oriented solutions for today's experience worlds - what, how and where?
"The core of our activities are the users, the customers - with all their, issues and barriers" states Michael Bechinie, Senior Consultant at USECON. "In our projects with leading companies of today's economy we have discovered some surprising situations customers are confronted with - such as the newly advertised product being unavailable or even unknown to the shop assistant or the recently implemented guidance system becoming inefficient due to parking cars blocking the view. Such incidents must be thought of already in the conception phase to be able to avoid these negative experiences."
In most cases the users face problems related to usability and user experience that are completely alien to the company. Only by means of customer and user experience research methods companies can learn about these problems and deal with them accordingly. In this research, customers' opinions, feelings and experiences are analysed. From the results one learns about the most severe usability issues and can create the respective solutions to optimize the customer experience.
In such customer experience projects, the key questions a company needs to address are: How do customers experience shopping, the atmosphere, or the efficiency of dealing with their requests? Which emotions are triggered by interior design and contact with service staff? Do customers' experiences match the business goals (e.g. does the image and brand perception fit to the reputation the company wants to create)?
"The events of searching, purchasing and consuming need to be seen and analysed from the customers' viewpoint", outlines Markus Murtinger, "only by adapting this perspective a company is able to realize the ideal customer experience which leads to long-lasting, sustainable and most importantly positive impressions with the client.
When implementing these concepts, user experience factors such as entertainment, functionality, appraisal, transparency, competences, trust and emotionality ought to be born in mind - but caution is advised with so-called "one-size-fits-all" solutions, as Murtinger emphasises: "There is no such thing as a standard solution for all companies. The prioritization of user experience factors is very personal and depends on the respective company's philosophy, business goals, target groups and product portfolio. Every company needs to identify the most important user experience factors for their individual business case, to prioritize them accordingly and to build an individual experience strategy based on these three to five factors".
The implementation of multiple interfaces (e.g. self-service terminals for ticket purchase or flight check-in) and the vast possibilities of mobile applications (e.g. payment via near field communication, mobile shopping or navigation-apps) open new opportunities: "In our projects we are often confronted with the situation that users appreciate new products, services or ideas and are anything but reluctant to new inventions - but the usability of these systems is often severely neglected", describes Michael Bechinie the most critical point. "The best service will fail on the market if users are unable to understand and operate it. That is what companies have to focus on when developing new products or services - the usability of the new invention, its potential to create remarkable experiences and to ultimately flourish. The key here is to integrate the users into the development from the beginning on to get feedback, input and a feeling for the customers' needs. Working along these lines, a company will deliver experience worlds that not only meet customers' expectations, but exceed them."
USECON - The Usability Consultants GmbH
USECON is an international consultancy based in Vienna and specialized on advisory activities in line with user centred design and creation of interactive systems. In the centre of USECON's activities are the 3 Us: usability (the ease of use of complex systems and technologies), User Experience (the users' holistic experience) and user interface design (analysis, interaction strategy, conception, prototyping, graphical design). Founded in 2001 as spin-off of the renowned research institution CURE (centre of usability research and engineering), USECON guarantees scientifically established methods in combination with state-of-the-art technical equipment and is able to draw on experience from more than 500 projects with over 300 clients from diverse industries.