I want you to try something. Close your eyes and remember one of your favorite experiences. Pick anything. Really focus on it. What was it that you love about it? What sights, sounds and smells do you remember? How did it make you feel?
Done? OK, great. Now ask yourself: "How would I deliver that for someone else?"
That's what customer experience is all about. What do you want your customer to think, feel, do and aspire to?
Customer experience is everything. Don't believe me? Well, consider this: 90 percent of U.S. consumers are willing to spend more money with companies that offer them a positive experience.
If you're not in control of your experiences, then they will control you. Simple as that.
I recently spoke to Brian Solis, best-selling author of X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, about this very subject. Solis is the founder of FutureWorks, a digital marketing agency that successfully delivered experimental online strategies for global brands like Cisco, Conde Nast, Stella Artois and Swarovski.
Here are seven great takeaways I gained from our conversation:
1. Marry technology with human emotion
Think about today's biggest tech companies: Facebook, Google, Uber, Tinder, Airbnb. Each relies on technology at the most basic level, but it's the experience that ultimately separates them from their competitors.
That tacit level of human connection--whether it's an Uber driver offering you a bottle of ice cold water in the scorching hot summer or your best friend sending you a picture of his or her wedding via Facebook--is how you define great experience.
2. Command and control mentality
Many companies are too presumptuous when it comes to experience. They think that designing a great product or website will bring them all the customers they need.
Sorry! That doesn't work anymore.
We spend so much time on brand architecture that we forget to acknowledge how customers think and feel. If you have a mission statement, for example, that's great--but is it actually transitioning to your customers?
You can apply this by first honing in on what your customer wants. Persona and empathy maps can help you figure that out.
Next, try walking your purchasing journey from the perspective of your customer. What emotions do you feel? Be honest.
It's amazing how often we become blinded by our own belief and perception--so much that we forget how others might not see or feel the same way.
3. Digital-first world
Ten years ago, the iPhone didn't even exist in the public domain. Now, look around the next time you take the train. Nearly every single person will be looking down at a screen.
"Uberization" will happen across all industries. If I can easily book a cab and have a great experience, why can't I use my phone to have a great experience with my bank? Or my health insurance provider?
The more resistant you are to change, the easier it is to break. Great experience means adapting with the times.
4. Reconsider your assumptions
Here's an example:
Assumption: Our audience is a mobile audience.
Decision: Let's build a mobile-friendly website to solve the problem.
This doesn't factor in--or understand the intent and context of--who your customers are, why they're on mobile devices and what they do on a daily basis.
Airbnb was able to finally take off after bringing in a Pixar animator to storyboard their entire customer experience process. At the time, they were four years old--and hadn't really made it big yet.
The result? Airbnb now has over 100 million active users.
5. Re-think stereotypes
How long have we been sold this "Millennial" vs. "Baby-Boomer" vs. "Gen X" stereotype? Truth is, technology has changed all this. 55-year-olds buy smartphones from their iPads, just like 25-year-olds.
Don't generalize exclusively based on age. Experience transcends this.
6. Don't worry about CTRL+ALT+DEL
Don't get overwhelmed and think you suddenly need to re-build your entire customer experience. Fixing the little problems can get you headed on the right path.
Often, it's the small frictions that build up and stop your customers from experiencing that seamless journey you'd hoped for.
Maybe sharing your content at the optimal time on social media will rocket your traffic. Maybe some audience research could make a big difference.
A small tweak, but a potentially massive result.
7. Experience flow
If you're running or starting a business for the first time, you'll find it invaluable to map your customer journey from start to finish. Doing this honestly will let you see the weak spots in your experience--what I like to call the "moments between the moments."
If you have trouble doing this, ask your customers for feedback and listen to it. Only when you're aware of the current state of affairs can you begin to make real changes for the future.