The original version of this post was published in conjunction with an internal webinar that I co-presented to a global audience within the Mirum agency. While the webinar is only available to Mirum/JWT employees, the content below covers much of what we presented.
Digital Transformation is a hot topic these days. Too often though, that means acquiring or updating technologies with no real plan for how they will impact an actual customer’s experience with a business’ brand.
While technology is an important part of the mix for businesses to succeed today, we have to fundamentally change the way we look at products and services to make them truly effective and engaging. The key is customer centricity.
More than a device or website, “digital” today is the embodiment of the mindset and expectation — by customers — that products or services should be available and accessible in any channel, in the most appropriate form, at all times. In other words, customers do not differentiate between channels, technologies or business units. They are simply interacting with your brand.
To meet customers’ expectations, digital transformation must be seen as re-envisioning products and services from a customer’s perspective and imagining what a successful experience looks and feels like on their omnichannel journey.
To help guide clients through this visioning process, I have been defining and developing a practice of Experience Architecture, weaving elements of strategic (digital) consulting, user research, business analysis, content strategy and information architecture together in an systematic approach that prioritizes clarity and understanding.
At the heart of Experience Architecture are these three main sources of insight:
- Business Stakeholders — representing the client from an internal perspective, stakeholders hold the objectives and goals for the business. Discovering these key objectives ensures that the business is successful.
- User Research — actual users are at the heart of a customer-centric strategy and conducting research to identify top tasks, perceptions and goals is critical to delivering a product or service that engages users and keeps them returning.
- Measurement — there is no lack of data as to the value of analytics and metrics in providing “proof” for projects. We use measurement to capture subjective, objective and goal-based metrics as a foundation for a holistic customer experience engagement.
Experience Architects view our clients’ projects through the lens of a customer’s entire journey and service ecosystem and consider how content and interactions can be optimized and reused for consistency across multiple channels and campaigns. Fortunately, many of the tools and process we have used for years to design good user-centered experiences in digital environments are applicable to customer experience planning as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the key tools for building great customer experiences.
The Customer Experience Map
A customer experience map is a living document that incorporates the outputs of many activities you are probably already doing. Activities like customer research, data analysis, journey mapping, mental modeling and feature prioritization.
The purpose of this document is to paint an omnichannel picture of a customer’s interactions with your brand and to identify gaps and opportunities to improve the experience. It creates a single view of the customer experience, communicating:
- The customer’s decision path
- The role and interaction between different channel touchpoints
- Customer needs or tasks that lead to their success
- Qualitative insight into what the customer is thinking and feeling along the journey
- What content or functionality is needed to support those needs or tasks
While the basic framework provides guidelines for creating the experience map, there is ample flexibility to adjust the content to the specific needs of your client’s business. This map becomes a valuable tool to help guide customer experience initiatives across the organization and inform your conversations with your client.
Content Strategy: The Core Model
The Core Model is a user-centered approach to content strategy that focuses on the pages and content that help users complete their most important tasks on the site. When tasks are aligned with the experience map, the Core Model ensures that your content strategy supports both business opportunities and the customer journey.
A traditional approach to content development uses a top-down methodology that is based on a site’s hierarchical information architecture and usually starts with the Home page.
In contrast, the Core Model process starts with your business objectives and respective user tasks. Content and features are listed and prioritized for each core content bucket. Inward paths are identified to describe how customers will get to the content. Forward paths are documented to identify optimal next steps to move the customer along the decision process and meet business goals.
With this approach, any entry point to a core content page can be the user’s “home page”. Connecting core content buckets using the inward and forward paths, where appropriate, reveals optimal content flows through the site. If you created task-based personas (recommended!), each flow can represent an optimized experience for each customer/user persona.
Leveraging Omnichannel Opportunities
The advantage of examining customer experience as a holistic strategy — rather than project-specific deliverables — comes to life when we think about how content and interaction touchpoints can be optimized and reused across multiple service channels and campaigns.
Customers do not limit their interactions with a brand to a single channel. It is increasingly common for people to discover, explore and purchase products and services while switching between channels in the process. Using the experience map to plan for this dynamic provides greater value and consistency across all channels.
Each channel will certainly have unique needs, but anchoring them to a common strategy drives operational efficiency and brand consistency – and contributes to a seamless customer experience.
So, the next time you take on a content project, here are a few steps that will help you to develop a more comprehensive view of the customer experience and end up with a strategy that can be used for multiple channels, yielding a more consistent and more valuable customer experience.
- View digital transformation in the context of customers’ omnichannel expectations instead of internal technology initiatives
- Integrate strategy activities — stakeholder interviews, user research, data analytics and metrics — to build a core foundation of customer experience tools
- Visualize discovery outputs as an Experience Map to facilitate discussions with clients (or across your organization) and uncover additional channel opportunities
- Use business objectives and top user tasks to identify core content buckets and build a content experience based on successful task flows, not site hierarchy
- Leverage your core content strategy to build consistency between different implementations in different customer channels
Establishing a customer-centric experience architecture at the beginning of your project helps transform insight and understanding into project deliverables and ensures that content developers, interaction designers and visual designers are all working toward a common understanding of the goals and tasks that need to be met.