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When the Experience Is the Business Strategy, Everyone Wins

Selling UX

A unique perspective on service UX

A column by Baruch Sachs
April 10, 2017

There are few hard and fast rules in consulting. Variances in our customers, projects, engagement models, and other factors all contribute to there being a significant amount of breadth and depth in what we do. This, in turn, requires us to be flexible in our methods and the deliverables we produce. But one hard and fast rule that does exist—at least in my world of consulting—is this: It does not matter if you are right. It matters that you are helpful.

As a consultant, when you ensure that everything your do for and with your clients aids them in achieving their business strategy, you also enable their providing a world-class user experience and, thus, ensure your own success. Luckily for all UX professionals and our profession, more organizations than ever are rapidly embracing the concept that the experience is the business strategy. This change is occurring because these companies are recognizing that they need to flawlessly conceive and execute their product and service experiences to solidify their place in the marketplace—whether to sustain a leadership position or move into a leadership spot.

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Identifying Companies That Place User Experience at the Core

There is a very good barometer for your knowing whether you are working with an organization that includes user experience as part of its core strategy. When you meet with stakeholders within such organizations, they will never tell you that they want an application, product, or service that is “fast, easy, and intuitive.” They will never tell you that their offering has to be “sexy.” These types of useless platitudes do not inform design and really have no place when it comes to discussing strategy. In an organization that puts user experience at its core, stakeholders will instead be very specific about what they want the outcome of a product or service offering to be. They will tell you what experience they want to provide to their customers and why, in exacting detail.

Of course, every company wants their product or service to be fast, easy to use, and easy to understand. If a company has a solid business strategy around an experience they are crafting, these outcomes occur naturally. You will also find that an experience-driven company’s concept of an experience is not limited just to an application or user interface. When the business strategy is the experience, stakeholders think about and discuss the end-to-end experience.

For example, consider the Starbucks Coffee application and its mobile-ordering concept. The experience is not just about the ordering process in the mobile app. It is about walking into a Starbucks to pick up your order as well. When designing this app experience, Starbucks made a conscious decision to emulate the physical experience of walking into a store and placing an order. The difference with the mobile-ordering process is that they have streamlined the experience while keeping the simplicity of the in-store ordering process. Again, this is about the execution of the their core business strategy around delivering a simple, fast, and easy experience for their customers.

The Best User Experiences

I find it rather ironic that the best user experiences are those that leave me alone to do what I want to do with minimal interruptions. In the world of User Experience, we spend a lot of time talking about meeting users’ needs. But in reality, for us to meet those needs, we have to leave users alone and avoid intruding on their consciousness by interrupting their tasks or frustrating their desires.

Uber, Lyft, Starbucks, Amazon, and online-banking services all provide apps that never force me to confront or interact with the annoyances of life. I can order, pay for, and pick up my order with minimal human interaction. A good friend and designer who I respect told me that one of the most beautiful parts of the ride-sharing experience from companies like Lyft or Uber is that, when you use these services, you feel as though the service were free. The user experience of both the application and the physical interactions you have with the service provider gives you the sense that you are not really paying for it. That feeling is freedom.

It is this combination of the application experience and the physical experience that highlights a successful business strategy and an amazing overall user experience. When you think about the fact that an incredible amount of research, design, and human interaction goes into creating an application that minimizes human interaction, you quickly recognize that what we do as UX professionals requires a deep sense of what motivates people—even if the goal is to allow them to act independently.

Creating Value by Meeting Customers’ Expectations

Organizations that take User Experience seriously know that they must always provide customers with a seamless, efficient, and compelling experience across all touchpoints. More than that though, successful experiences must meet customers’ expectations. If any of the examples I gave earlier in this column had provided an amazing application experience, but failed to deliver—because, for example, the car never showed up or I still had to wait in line to pick up my coffee just as I would have if I had never used the app—my experience with those organizations would fail to meet the goals of their business strategy, no matter how amazing the application experience was.

My hard and fast rule that UX consultants must first and foremost be helpful is evident in the role they play within companies that place the user experience at the center of their business. In consulting, we don’t have the luxury of not dealing with people—even when our goal is to create a user experience that lets users do exactly that. Consulting is a people-oriented business. Building relationships, understanding the objectives of both businesses and people, navigating the political climates within organizations, and ultimately, crafting experiences that really speak to the overall, core business strategy is a key part of being a successful UX consultant. Perhaps it’s even the most important part. 

Senior Director, User Experience, at Pegasystems

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Baruch SachsWith over 12 years of experience leading and participating in successful efforts to improve user experience across various industries, Baruch has a developed a wide range of skills in the areas of interaction design, user interface development, and product management. For the past 5 years, he has developed and led the global user experience team at Pegasystems and serves as the principal end-user advocate for the Pegasystems Services organization in the delivery of user interface design and user experience to customers and partners.  Read More

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