Democratizing CX through Experience Design Principles

Photo of a journey map by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

By now you’ve likely heard your CEO repeatedly reference the importance of customer experience in delivering lasting customer, employee, and shareholder value. But whether you’re working in CX or within a company that has a CX department, it’s often unclear where the line gets drawn between what the CX function “owns” and influences relative to the rest of the business. Rather than thinking about it in terms of touch points of ownership (because no one really “owns” the customer relationship), instead, CXperts often focus efforts on how to build a more accessible and customer-focused discipline throughout the organization for every role. One of the best ways to bring CX to life in your organization? The creation of experience design principles.

What is an Experience Design Principle?

Laddered up to your company’s CX vision (ideally), brand promise, and company vision and mission, experience principles blend how your brand should show up with how experiences should feel. These principles should articulate how your brand’s products and services should be universally created and delivered, how experience owners should approach their work, and what customers should feel when interacting with your brand. In essence, experience design principles provide an outside-in articulation of what experiences — not just products and services — should feel like and embody. It’s no longer enough to just define what a product should do or look like.

Benefits of Experience Design Principles

When applied to an organization’s design processes, experience design guiding principles deliver impact in a number of ways:

* Improve clarity and decision-making. Articulated principles help align teams on what experience elements should be included, and — almost as importantly — what shouldn’t. They help inform the scope of product and service design, focusing decision-making on creating, translating, and implementing consistent experience design elements.

* Strengthen your brand position. When implemented consistently, these guiding principles bolster brand and customer loyalty by delivering on the intended brand and customer experience.

* Drive consistency and integration. By incorporating consistent design principles, customers — and teams — will feel fewer “seams” between touch points, experiences, and business silos.

* Focus on means vs. just ends. Often focused on delivering just the end solution or product, experience design principles instead drive focus to the means of delivering those experiences -incorporating the emotions and expectations of customers in experience and product design and delivery.

* Galvanize employees and stakeholders. With clarity through experience design principles (and the CX vision), teams will gain a better understanding of the role they play in delivering brand and customer value. These guiding principles help broaden employees’ perspectives beyond a single product or service, align them to a shared vision, and help to incorporate customer empathy into a product or program owners’ toolkit of skills and solutions.

Who Are Experience Design Principles Intended For?

We’ve all seen the intersecting circles of “UX” and “CX” in understanding the distinct and important role each of those function plays at influencing different altitudes of the customer experience. But the reality is that “design” is not merely in the hands of a select few in the organization. Think about your company’s marketing campaigns and landing pages; your customer service standards and training; even new employee-facing HR programs and processes. Whether focused on customers, employees, or suppliers, most individuals and teams play a key role in creating experiences for customers through various programs, platforms, processes, products, and services. Bottom line: if you’re only thinking about CX and UX with respect to “design”, you’re probably missing the lion’s share of your customer experience footprint.

What would it take to broaden the aperture on the role of design in your organization? What other stakeholders would you consider? Sample roles could include:

* UX + CX designers

* Brand and marketing managers

* Platform and product owners (within IT or Product)

* Graphic designers

* Information architects

* R&D roles

* Content owners

* Customer service and support managers

* AI/machine learning design and developer teams

* HR program managers/owners

Example of Experience Design Principles

When identifying a broader stakeholder group of ‘designers’ and their various deliverables, guiding principles should feel translatable and relevant to that team’s end user (prospect, customer/client, employee, vendor) as well as to the intended experience. A product or program owner should say to themselves, “ This experience should feel…” ( and could include principles such as):

* Easy. Things make sense and feel intuitive to the customer.

* Integrated. Customers shouldn’t see or feel “seams” in the experience — between platforms, teams, or interactions (online or offline). Experiences, while distinct, should feel unified as part of a holistic brand and CX approach.

* Familiar. Leverage a common language — verbal and visual — to build a welcoming, accessible and understanding relationship with customers.

* Motivating. Leave the customer feeling more confident and encouraged than when they started.

* Distinct. Create memorable and iconic experiences that differentiate and elevate your brand across journeys and touch points at scale.

Feeling ambitious? Beyond articulating universal experience design principles, consider creating a rubric or checklist that outlines sample questions or known experience considerations for teams thinking through how to bring these principles to life.

Where Experience Principles Meet CX Vision

If your organization has an articulated CX vision or is in the midst of the creating one, it should incorporate the essence of your experience design principles given that both are focused on how brand experiences should look and feel to customers. The CX vision, however, will often go a bit further and also include broader employee and cultural behaviors that drive customer empathy and influence an organization’s overall customer orientation. In authoring both your CX vision and experience design principles, always remember to engage customers and employees in co-creation of these attributes, and ensure that they speak authentically enough to your brand that a customer could guess the company or industry you’re in.

Sample components of a CX vision (that would be flavored to specific brand attributes): Experiences should feel…

* Easy. Things make sense and feel intuitive to the customer.

* Integrated. Customers shouldn’t see or feel “seams” in the experience — between platforms, teams, or interactions (online or offline). Experiences, while distinct, should feel unified as part of a holistic brand and CX approach.

* Familiar. Leverage a common language — verbal and visual — to build a welcoming, accessible and understanding relationship with customers.

* Motivating. Leave the customer feeling more confident and encouraged than when they started.

* Distinct. Create memorable and iconic experiences that differentiate and elevate your brand across journeys and touch points at scale.

ALL employees should…

* Be committed and trustworthy. Keep promises. Follow up as intended. Communicate authentically and transparently.

* Be empathetic. Walk in the customer’s shoes.

* Seek to know customers. Understand the key wants, needs, and intents of customers to guide focus and areas of opportunity

Measuring Success and Utilization of Experience Design & CX Vision Principles

Teams and individuals leveraging these guiding principles should be able to answer the quick “X-Y-Z” formula: “We will have accomplished [X], by doing [Y], as measured by [Z]”.

Put into practice, a product or program team could say, “Within this new release, we will have accomplished [ making the experience easy] by [ improving navigation and simplifying language] as measured by [ a reduction in customer effort in post-transactional surveys and a reduction in service calls]. This would continue for the other guiding principles, aligning with CX and operational teams on the optimal measures of success (usually some combination of experience (“X”) and operational (“O”) metrics).

Where to Start

If you don’t have already a CX vision or experience design principles at play in your organization, a good place to start is by doing focus groups with customers and employees to begin to articulate how your brand should look and feel to your customers and stakeholders. From there, translate those elements into experience design principles and standards that can be used across teams responsible for designing and delivering on various aspects of the customer experience.

Perhaps your organization already has design guiding principles in use within your UX or product functions. Start there in terms of adopting, socializing, and ultimately adapting those to a broader stakeholder group once an evolved view of “design” has been accepted amongst teams. Focus on translating those to represent an outside-in view of experience creation vs. just product development. Alternatively, host a brain trust of “designers” across the organization to uncover and understand what guidelines they currently use to prioritize and create content, product, or service features and experiential elements. Identify a common design currency across teams to ensure experience and emotional continuity throughout the customer (and employee) journey.

Finally, train. Educate. Evangelize. Test out your design principles. Invest in design thinking training for all employees as a way to boost empathy and an outside-in view to problem identification and solutioning — layering on your company’s specific experience design principles to make it distinct. Find ways to filter every customer problem through these guiding principles to ensure that your company’s purpose and values, and the needs, wants, and expectations of your customers drive your experience design process in a holistic and universal way.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

cx ninja. ultra runner. never met a carb i didn’t like.