While the maxim “The customer is always right” doesn’t have a clear source, the idea seems to date back at least 100 years, when hotelier César Ritz lived by the slogan “le client n’a jamais tort” (the customer is never wrong). This line of thinking might be the scourge of waiters worldwide, but some of the basic tenets of experience design have clearly descended from the sentiment.
Practitioners take a much more sophisticated view of customer experience these days, employing tactics ranging from combing through big data to conducting one-on-one user testing as we craft experiences that reward customers and keep them coming back for more, but the basic idea remains the same. Of course, whether or not what the customer or user is expressing is actually right or wrong isn’t the point, it’s all about creating an experience that makes them feel right.
For a lush and modern example of this kind of design thinking in action, look no further than Workshop Cafe, the winner of the Design for Experience award for Complete Customer Experience. This is a unique co-working environment that combines the strengths of an up-to-date office (widescreen monitors, printing and scanning, fast Wi-Fi, and plenty of power outlets) with the best parts of a café experience (a bustling, community atmosphere with great coffee—they’ve partnered with Stumptown Coffee Roasters and built a “bomb” coffee program).
Customers here are able to reserve their seats using a custom mobile app and can order food using SMS, email, or voicemail, eliminating the need to wait in line or compete for seating. Concierges are on-hand to check people in and accommodate user needs—everything from grabbing lunch from the food truck down the street to a finding a charger for an electronic device. Workshop Cafe opened in 2013, but the physical space and customer experience are continually evolving based on user feedback.
“Since we applied for the award, we’ve changed a lot, but I think the most requested service was a social element to our app,” says General Manager Thomas Koff. “We had always intended to launch a social page but the overwhelming customer feedback pushed us to focus on it sooner. Now we have a community page that allows people to post a little bit about themselves and what they’re working on. It’s a perfect icebreaker and a great tool for networking in the space.”
As their community of customers continues to grow, expansion is on the table, but the focus is currently on running experiments, changing layouts and operations, and gathering feedback in order to perfect the customer experience. Koff says the team at Workshop Cafe has learned a lot by keeping the space modular and flexible.
“Very little is tied down at Workshop Cafe and that allows us to change the space as needed, whether it’s to accommodate a special event or because we think a different layout will create a better flow. Having a great framework and modular furniture allows us to adapt and iterate at a rate not typically found in brick and mortar establishments.”
An Experience Good Enough to Eat
An online grocer that delivers fresh, organic, natural, and local food directly to homes, offices, and schools throughout the West, Midwest, and East Coast, Door to Door Organics, a finalist in this category, used the redesign of its online presence as an opportunity to work directly with customers to improve and enrich their experience.
“We do everything in our power to earn and keep our customer’s trust,” says Interactive Designer Juli Duffer. “At the warehouses, the packers are trained to ask themselves: ‘Would I give this apple to my grandmother?’ If the answer is no, the apple goes into a discard bin that we later donate to local charities or compost.”
Duffer notes that an online grocery faces different challenges than other e-commerce sites, due, in-part, to the frequency of purchases, repeat buying behavior for consumable products, and the relatively large number of items purchased in one trip.
“The average number of items purchased when checking out with Amazon is 1.5,” she says. “The average number of items purchased on the ‘routine’ trip to the store is 16. On top of that, sometimes our customers are open to being inspired by new food and shopping around … To accommodate this uniqueness of the grocery trip, we built [an experience] that is delightful and exploratory when you have the time (highlighting interesting new items, recipe suggestions for products, etc.), but very efficient when you want to be in-and-out (letting you shop your frequent purchases in our ‘Restock’ section, standing orders, etc.).”
Since the launch on their new site, DTDO has rolled out numerous improvements and features, including giving users the easier access to the Sale and Restock sections that they requested. “Next we’ll be rolling out nutritional information, as requested by our customers,” Duffer says.
Sending Customers a Clear Message
“We make a point to be open with each other and our customers,” says Kate Kiefer Lee, a writer and editor at MailChimp. the other finalist in the Complete Customer Experience category. “There’s a lot of collaboration across departments, and all our teams share the same values. We also share writing principles and guidelines, so we can be sure our communication is consistent and friendly across the board.”
Anyone who has used the email marketing service knows that the company has gone to great lengths to create a dialogue with users that is frank, personable, and engaging, something Gora describes in more detail. “The way we communicate depends on the situation, but no matter what we’re writing, we strive for clarity. We want to write clear, useful, and friendly content that anyone can understand. Our team members are trained to communicate with people who have different needs, experience levels, and situations.”
All for the Customer
There were other notable applications in the contest from agency teams that demonstrated different approaches to crafting the customer experience:
A privately held wireless communications company, is based in Ridgeland, Miss., C Spire developed an in-house rewards and loyalty program, PERCS, which allows customers to collect points by interacting with the company’s social forum and taking steps to personalize their wireless experience. Charged with developing a CX strategy in the space of week, the UX team at Dell arrived at a four-pronged approach that relies on increasing agility, delivering value quickly, driving creativity, and promoting clarity. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has recently taken a number of steps to improve their customer experience, including a new mobile site, the “My Stays” experience that offers personalization and enhanced integration with Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s third-party booking engine, and adding Arabic and Russian to their online experience, providing support for right-to-left languages. Lightricks brought the tenets of good customer experience to the bootstrap testing of their FaceTune app—encouraging consistent feedback with users as they fine-tuned the product and maintainingan ongoing dialogue after it was released.