A Holistic Customer Experience Design

We encourage organizations to take a holistic approach when designing their customers end-to-end experience. When we approach a project in a holistic way we are attempting to understand every factor that could potentially affect a customers perception of the experience.

To help illustrate the concept of designing holistically, let's take a look at some elements of the customer journey:

  • Time
  • Space
  • Senses
  • Culture

Customers and service providers can have a very different understanding of time. The customers direct interaction with a company may be a short part of a larger experience. For example, before contacting technical support a customer may attempt to solve the problem themselves, call a friend for advice, look for the technical support contact information, then finally call technical support. After the call to support they may spend time implementing the solution that was provided. From the companies perspective the support call was brief and effective. From the customers perspective the support experience includes the time it took to complete all steps, which could seem excessive to them.

Space, like time, is very different from the customers perspective than the companies. Even spaces that seem to be unconnected entirely, like travel, can impact the customer perception of the experience. For example, a company may consider their storefront to be the beginning of the customer experience and the customer may consider travel to the store and the parking lot to be part of the overall journey. Seemingly unrelated spaces and partners can affect of perceptions as well. Digital experiences are impacted by the customers ISP or device, airports affect our experience with airlines and restaurants can affect our perception of a wine.

Although nearly every company understands the importance of visual impact on a customers experience, only a few companies are placing equal importance on touch, sound and taste. The patient experience is affected by the sounds of sick or injured patients, the smells of cleaning chemicals and the taste of medicines. Patients may also feel more anxious as hospital staff cheerfully joke about a recent basketball game. Even if staff are not involved in the treatment of the patient the cheerful sound does not match the patients perception of the gravity of the moment.

A customer journey must also be aligned with the corporate identity, culture and character. Many companies assume adding more high-touch interactions will result in happier customers. However, delivering a high touch experience doesn't fit with the culture and brand promise if the brand based on speed or convenience (i.e. Ruth’s Chris experience at McDonalds). Companies must design customer experiences that are in touch with brand character across every touchpoint in the customers end-to-end journey.

The impact of your product or service on a customers health and well-being, on society in general and on the environment are factors that must be considered as part of a holistic customer experience design as well. Is a great customer experience that comes at the cost of the future of humanity truly a great customer experience? 

These are just a few examples of the myriad aspects of a holistic customer journey. There are of course many more factors in play as well as variations of the standard customer journey. While it is impossible to manage every fact of the experience -especially those pieces that are out of your control- it can be beneficial to be aware that they will have an impact on the overall customer experience.