Experience Innovation vs. Product Innovation

What’s up with all that “User Experience” talk, you ask?

Customer Experience
Customer Experience (image source)

So, what do you do?

Sometimes people ask. And usually I reply “Well, I’m a UX designer.” The most common replies are:
– Oh… That’s nice…
– Ah, web design!
– Is that like User Interface?
– What is that?

Usually, UX design is confined to IT space; colloquially, it does include software UI. Frequently, people neglect workflow design and almost always overlook the “experience” part of it.

However, that’s where things spill over the borders of IT and overflow into Customer Experience territory.

User Experience is essentially Customer Experience within the confines of a software product or service

Customer Experience is a journey – from the first encounter with a product or service, up to the last interaction. It’s precisely the experience of that journey that UX/CX designers work on. It’s what a customer perceives, feels, goes through and, ultimately, remembers afterwards.

Once you sell a product, it’s up to the experience to keep the ball rolling. Once a customer accesses a service, it’s the experience that steps into the spotlight.

When a room is not a room

Well, a room is a room, just as much as a ride is a ride. After all, it’s not a product that sets Airbnb apart from a hotel; nor is it a product that distinguishes Uber from a cab company.

It’s the experience.

Much of recent growth – and excitement – is largely due to the evolution of customer experience, rather than to the invention of new products and services. Naturally, we cannot ignore the development of novel healthcare products (e.g. Google’s Smart Contact Lens), alternative interpretations of existing paradigms (Halfbike), or the brave hearts who hack a rigid system (TransferWise), but the numbers pale in comparison to the myriad innovations in usability, convenience, practicality… CX is all over the place!

Moving beyond the “What”

Many Whats have been answered – a “What” being an existing problem (remember needs and wants?), looking for an answer. Also, as new Whats are identified (or created – yay, marketing!), they are quickly offered solutions; vacuum doesn’t survive long in a free market.

The reason we’ve been seeing so much UX/CX/Design Thinking/User-Centered and Human-Centered Design talk recently lies in the “How” – as experiences evolve, improving existing solutions in order to make them more enjoyable and more efficient.

Ultimately, it’s not so much Product Innovation that we’ve been witnessing; its Customer Experience Innovation.

Service Design and Customer Experience (including UX) Design – closely overlapping fields – are going through a growth spurt. We will start seeing more and more Chief Experience Officers, Service Design Teams, Experience Improvement Programs, and so on, and so forth.

Customer-Centered will become the de facto Design paradigm, as older products and services upgrade, in order to fit in and to successfully compete against newcomers (we have already witnessed taxi companies introducing Uber-like models).

Next up – Human Experience Design

Service Design has always existed; it’s just that it has always gone the way of least resistance for the Service Provider – the abstract entity that is a company or an institution. It is shifting to User-Centered Service Design, where it is the end-users, as beneficiaries, who are being courted.

That, however, is just part of the road. It is highly likely that we will witness a further shift of focus, where all stakeholders are taken into consideration. This includes the following groups:

Investors/owners (as it always has) – in that businesses will aim for returns;
Customers (as we just covered) – in that businesses will provide the best possible customer experience;
Employees (as can be seen in some startup and tech companies) – in that the experience within the company will be optimized in order to create a progressive culture and sustain a positive medium;
Community (as companies with strong CSR programs demonstrate) – in that the social and natural environment will be nurtured, as much as possible.

Maybe the next steps will include advanced levels of product and service design, where not only the current stakeholders will benefit, but also future generations? The common pattern is definitely increasing levels of responsibility. What comes after Human Experience Design?

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