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Customer experience planning needs discipline
This article was originally published in Self-Service World magazine. Click here for a free subscription.
 
Businesses don't try to make things difficult for their customers, but sometimes their many good intentions go awry. Forrester's research reveals that the problem stems from a lack of attention to customer experience management. While businesses have solid processes for functions like finance, engineering and human resources, they often don't follow any methodology for customer experience. As a result we find:
Poorly defined business objectives. Whenever we review a company's kiosks, we ask about business objectives. Many responses include fuzzy targets like "create a world-class experience" or "build the brand." These vague goals can't be measured, so they provide little guidance in setting priorities and keeping scope-creep at bay.
Conflicting agendas. In a typical Global 2,500 company, no one has responsibility for the customer experience delivered across interaction channels, except, perhaps, the CEO. Lacking a holistic view of what makes a great customer experience, every organization (and its executives) advocates for its own interests. This plays out in problems ranging from navigation menus turned into a confusing mess of promotions, to inconsistent cross-channel pricing that frustrates customers and drives down margins.
Self-referencing design. Businesses typically understand the demographics and purchase history of their customers but have little insight into customers' motivations, goals and channel-specific behavior. Lacking this insight, project team members assume that users' needs and preferences are just like their own. Unfortunately, the business' programmers, designers, IT staff and marketing groups aren't typically representative of its target customers. So interactions often get designed to please the wrong audience.
 
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It's time for businesses to inject some discipline into their customer experience efforts. Rather than continuing to frustrate customers — or worse yet, throwing money at ill-defined customer-facing initiatives — they can use the concept of scenario design to focus their energy on initiatives that provide ROI. The premise of scenario design, an idea Forrester originally introduced in 2000, is simple: No experience is inherently good or bad, it only can be judged based on how well it helps customers accomplish their goals. To master this framework, companies must continually ask — and answer — three basic questions:
1. Who are your target users? Businesses need to start with a clear picture of their target audience. When buying a computer, a 30-year-old design engineer who is an enthusiastic digital movie editor has different knowledge, desires and aspirations than a 65-year-old teacher who just got her first PC and spends most of her spare time with her three grandchildren. To formalize this understanding, project teams should craft personas, composite descriptions of real people who represent primary customer segments.
2. What are your key goals? When people go to a kiosk, they're trying to do something like select a gift, print photos or find help with a problem. Customer experiences should be designed to satisfy these specific accomplishments. A word of advice: Customers don't often have goals like "be exposed to brand messages" or "get cross-sold."
3. How can you help them achieve those goals? The final test of any customer interaction comes down to how well it works. Businesses must make it easy for target users to take each step on their way to their goals by designing clear paths that anticipate what users need to know and would like to do at each decision point. For kiosks, these paths refer both to the physical environment and to the software itself.
The writer is a principal analyst on Forrester's Customer Experience team. For more information, please contact cxp@forrester.com.

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