Increased options and heightened expectations caused by the splinternet—an explosion of digital touchpoints across an array of platforms—has made delivering digital experiences more important than ever. It’s also made managing them more difficult than ever.

In Forrester’s Digital Customer Experience Improvement Playbook, my colleagues and I maintain that as customers increasingly engage with brands across multiple channels, firms must adopt a disciplined approach to building effective and unified experiences. The core concept is called scenario design—a practice that focuses on creating a clear understanding of customers’ behaviors and goals, and designing the right experiences and touch-points to help them accomplish those goals.

To master scenario design, firms must continuously answer three fundamental questions: Who are your customers? What are their goals? How can you help them accomplish these goals?

1. Who are your customers?

When brands try to be all things to all people, they rarely end up satisfying anyone. Companies need to focus on developing a deep understanding of their customers’ motivations, needs, and behaviors. How? The best way is by …


  • Talking to real people. Databases and spreadsheets don’t buy products, people do. That’s why firms need qualitative information about what motivates people, what’s important to them, and how they behave. Methods such as ethnography and open-ended interviews provide key insights about what affects people’s thoughts and behaviors. Without this insight, firms simply won’t understand the complex needs of the people they are trying to serve.

  • Creating and prioritizing personas. Firms should distill the rich data they gather through qualitative research into design personas—descriptions of individuals who represent primary customer archetypes. When used throughout the design process, these rich, narrative descriptions of customers’ relevant behaviors, motivations, and emotions keeps designers and executives focused on who they are designing for and increases the likelihood that the initial design will resonate with their target audience.

2. What are their goals?

Satisfying customers requires understanding their motivations and their end-goals. No customer wakes up in the morning looking to build your brand for you, or wanting to increase your profits. And ultimately, customers will be turned off when bombarded with irrelevant marketing messages that assume they do. When identifying goals and deciding which ones to support, companies should first map their business objectives to related customer goals, and then:


  • Focus on specific goals, not the tasks involved to get there. A customer trying to buy a big-screen TV does not approach a website looking to use specific search or comparison tools. Rather, they are looking for the best way to select a television that fits their needs and budget. Companies must focus on identifying the actual results users want to achieve, versus specifying a design solution or technological innovation too early in the process.

  • Put the goals in broad context. A customer’s immediate needs are often driven by deep-seated motivations that are hard for a firm to understand and quantify. Aspirational goals, such as those of an individual who wants to feel in control of the buying process for a new phone, can lead a customer on a journey that may begin long before they hit a provider’s website. Companies need to understand and remain sensitive to these deep-seated motivations and how they affect the overall experience. That’s where customer journey maps come in. These tools plot out all of the steps in a process such as researching and buying a product or getting support and show which parts of the user’s overall goal they are most important to focus on improving.

3. How can you help them accomplish these goals?

As customers work toward a goal, each step contributes to a sense that their efforts are taking them in the right—or wrong—direction. Incremental successes within and across various touch-points can give users confidence that their process is working. To support customers’ goal oriented behavior:


  • Provide direct paths to user goals. Once you’ve identified key goals to serve, make it easy for customers to accomplish them. That means providing the right tools to match user context. For example, Pizza Pizza, one of Canada’s largest pizza chains, created a highly successful mobile app with a streamlined ordering process to meet the needs of its increasingly mobile customer base. A mortgage management company’s IVR automatically asks, “Are you calling to make a payment?” when a customer’s bill is past due. If he says yes, the customer is transferred to the payments system. If he says no, he’s automatically transferred to an accounts-payable agent who can get more information.

  • Make content useful, usable, and engaging. Once a firm has identified key goals to serve, the next step is making it easy for users to accomplish them. To keep customers on track, content must deliver value while simultaneously reinforcing a company’s brand positioning, consistent with other media. For example, brands should avoid marketing jargon in favor of language that is easy for any customer to understand. For example, Lexus’ copy consists of compelling terms like “unprecedented,” “distinctive,” and “exclusive,” evoking brand attributes of quality, luxury, and superior satisfaction.

Today’s customers interact with businesses through websites, mobile applications, social sites, communities, and more. As channels proliferate and customer expectations grow, it’s tempting to approach each new touch-point separately. Scenario design helps companies focus on what really matters—understanding user goals and satisfying them across the touch-points that matter most to them.


Splintered glass photo courtesy of Shutterstock