Before you continue reading: For the sake of simplicity, in this article we’ll be using the term machine as an all-inclusive representation of innovative technology that is readily available to customers and companies—from Internet of Things (IoT), mobile devices, Artificial Intelligence (AI), voice-command, etc.—and that influences the customer experience.
One day, when I was out for lunch, I watched as the woman at the table next to me started looking around frantically. “Where’s Bella?” She asked.
She started looking under the table, in her handbag, then finally under her napkin on the table, which revealed a shiny mobile phone in a pink rhinestone-encrusted case. “Phew!” She exclaimed as she hugged her mobile phone in a gesture of ultimate relief.
Yes, that’s right, Bella was the name she had granted her phone.
I bet you can relate to this sense of loss, panic and ultimately relief. The phobia of being without one’s phone even has a name: Nomophobia.
This level of attachment to our devices can lead to a feeling that machines are not separate from us or even a distinct place in the customer journey. As customers, we rely on machines to provide us the right experience in the right moment and in the right way.
And the best customer experiences deliver these “human and machine” moments so well, the customer doesn’t recognize it as a separate part of the journey.
But of course, the simplest experiences can often take the most complex planning.
Have you considered all the ways devices are part of your customer’s journey?
Let’s start with the most ubiquitous and personal item most humans now carry around–their mobile phone.
Mobile technology can mean a few things to customer experience design.
1. Mobile-first design
Mobile-first sounds like putting the machine first. But the best design is always about the customer.
Customers may not be looking for the same information from mobile to desktop experiences.
Starting with the mobile experience in your design still dovetails with knowing your customers and respecting their journey. The mobile experience is part of it.
Let’s say your customer is using their mobile phone to search—on their mobile browsers—for a salon. What would they be searching for? Reviews might be a decision factor for them. After picking a salon and deciding to try it, the customer will then want to book an appointment.
Is it obvious on the mobile experience if booking online is an option? Is there a click-to-call phone number?
These are specific needs that can be made easier with mobile-first design. Designing for a desktop experience on a mobile phone allows for more real estate and finer navigation points that can be steered with a mouse.
2. Mobile apps
There was a time when it felt like every brand had to create an app.
Customers learned quickly how many of those apps were not useful. They didn’t have the functionality that they really wanted.
Apps need to address micro-engagements. These are specific needs the app can address in a better, faster way for customers. A pizza brand app would clearly provide in-app ordering for delivery front and center.
Customers who interact with the app for delivery successfully will be disappointed if the delivery of the pizza is not up to their expectations. If the app experience is designed without considering the entire journey, including what happens when the restaurant has a busy dine-in night, then the app experience won’t mean much. A late, soggy pizza delivery is a disappointment no matter how it’s ordered!
Cracker Barrel, the down-home restaurant chain with in-location retail stores and rocking chairs on the front porch, created an app that addressed another specific customer need. Their app, which is consistently given 4-star reviews from customers, provides a set of games to play. This means patrons waiting for a table or waiting on an order of biscuits and gravy have a way to spend time.
Many apps are designed with the application in mind, but not necessarily the customer. The best apps are designed around the needs of the customer and based on data.
If you’re considering an app for your brand. Ask yourself:
What’s the most requested action on the website?
What’s a repeated action customers might take with your brand?
How can an app customize the experience around those types of on-demand and repeated actions?
Remember, what are your customers trying to do? And how are they trying to do it? The correct answer is never “They’re using our app to interact with our brand.”
3. Personalized and touchless mobile experiences
Mobile phones will serve an important purpose moving into the post-COVID era. Instead of using a touchscreen after several other people, mobile phones will allow us to import that experience to our personal devices.
Shared menus at restaurants, in-store touchscreens, and information kiosks will be transformed to allow customers to use their own devices. Restaurant patrons might see a QR code on the table to scan for the menu. Hotel guests will be prompted to register their mobile phone for notifications. Codes on specific products will allow customers to experience trying on that pair of shoes with augmented reality.
These mobile devices, already so personal and connected to the human experience, will become even greater parts of the customer journey.
“Siri, play my Monday morning playlist!”
Customers call out their questions and demands. Their smart digital assistant, like Alexa, Siri or Google, answers with the customized playlist, current temperature, or recipe for cooking the perfect hard-boiled eggs.
These machines respond to our voice in natural conversation. Although the understanding is not with 100% accuracy, due to misunderstood voices or mistaken words.
Designing for voice-controlled experiences means thinking through exactly why, when, and how customers will use them. Humans can only process so much information at a time, so consider what micro-engagements are best suited for these platforms.
It’s best to keep it simple. Customers might not use complete sentences, and instead ask for information using a single word, like “Weather,” What your brand delivers via voice should be accessible in small, quick interactions.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Customers will be accessing personal information, brand experiences and more through machines that are going to be introduced in the next few years. Some of these devices might become as vital to the experience as the mobile phone is today.
The Internet of Things (IoT) devices are creating smarter homes, offices and vehicles. Many families already rely on their robot vacuum cleaners to automatically take care of the floors. Smart appliances inform shoppers when the milk is running low. Thermostats set and adjust themselves.
These devices are helpful with the customer experience they provide, but they are not perfect. Experience design now must consider factors of data and network security, as well as how to allow for updates, software bugs, and more.
Tomorrow, expect to see smart mirrors, smart cabinets, and more. Innovation around these smart products continues at a rapid pace.
Customer experiences are mobile and changing
Your customers are looking for how these devices will actually add to their lives. They aren’t looking for the next gadget, but for what that gadget will do for them.
Devices are here to stay, but their place in your customer’s journey is not necessarily static. Watch for innovation around the machines and the evolution of your customer experience.
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About the guest author
Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CEO, Experience Investigators™ by 360Connext
Jeannie Walters is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and is CEO of Experience Investigators. She is a customer experience speaker, writer, and consultant with more than 20 years of experience in assisting all types of companies, including Fortune 500. Specialties include in-depth customer experience evaluations, customer journey mapping, user experience analysis, and leading workshops and training programs. Her mission is: To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers.™ Connect with her: experienceinvestigators.com | @jeanniecw