The “you” in UX

Whether B2C or B2B, user experience (UX) is about building the customer-brand relationship

By Jomar Reyes

We’re not robots. When receiving a service, or using a product or a system, we don’t just interact – we can connect. The experience people have with a product or service can even become more important than the product and service itself. It’s all about the emotions.

Moments of truth

When tied to a brand, a positive user experience can build a strong relationship. The user experience often consists of a sequence or combination of brand interactions. In a book by former SAS CEO and President Jan Carlzon, these experiences were coined “Moments of Truth.”

First published in 1985, Carlzon’s book was later heralded by the American Management Association as “one of the most important developments in management of the twentieth century.” Every little engagement point between the airline and the customer, he wrote, was a moment of truth for the brand. It takes many positive “moments” to build a strong overall experience, but it will take only one to destroy the entire relationship. User experience, he argued, must be engineered and nurtured from all angles – from booking and check in, to in-flight and arrival.

Carlzon’s ideologies have been credited for SAS being awarded Airline of the Year by industry magazine Air Transport World. But, they don’t just apply to the airline industry.

The coup felt ’round the world

In a more recent example of the power of the user experience, we can look at Steve Jobs’ engineering of the iPad. Based on its specifications alone, many thought that it was destined to fail. The iPad was missing many of the technological features that were standard to computers – like a filing system and USB port – and it was nowhere near the most powerful mobile computing device on the market.

But here was an opportunity that no other company had successfully tapped into: the experience of computing in the human environment. The iPad is a small device, with no moving parts; the fact that it cradles nicely in your arms, or can be effectively used while standing and moving, has opened up new opportunities for the user, developers and Apple itself. For the domestic user, the iPad blends well into the home environment – even better than the traditional computer – while performing many of the same popular functions. For users, the device has nearly become an extension of the self.

Steve Jobs understood something that we did not: the beauty of the iPad is almost entirely in the user experience – one that is elegant, subtle and at the same time, practical and adaptable.

Personal validation

Another brand that has brilliantly redefined user experience is Nespresso. The capsule-based espresso coffee system has practically automated the home “café.” It has managed to take the mess out of it without compromising a whit of style and sophistication.

The experience goes well beyond the coffee making process, however. Ordering capsules online or walking into one of their sleek and well-staffed “boutiques” is an informative, efficient and effective process – customers are virtually pampered. Even the company’s website is elegant yet knowledgeable. Users don’t just “log in,” they are “validated.”

Like Apple, Nespresso creates an entire culture around its products, helping (often very average) customers feel like “artists” and connoisseurs. In this case, the product is basically something you can get on any street corner; it’s the experience that has added to the exponential success of the Nespresso brand.

They’re going to talk about you

Essentially, no matter what your product or service – whether B2C or B2B – it’s clearly worthwhile to celebrate the user experience. It can be done online through a corporate website or blog, or in the traditional mediums such as brochures, custom magazines or even video. Businesses don’t need a store to create an experience that will make customers come back.

Whether good or bad, however, customer experiences – these “moments of truth” –  are worth sharing. And, in today’s socially connected age, both will be – with fellow customers, suppliers, stakeholders… and the world beyond.


Jomar Reyes is the community manager for the Think International Forum. You can follow him on twitter @jomarreyes

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