Let's say you and your friends want to go to dinner. Typically, one of you would browse through a list of restaurants and look for new or familiar options as suggestions for the group. You would send that list out. Then you would discuss those options with those who are going to dinner to decide what to do.
Some of the group would look at Yelp, Zagat, restaurant reviews, or the restaurant Web sites to get more information before making the decision, "Where do we go to dinner?" In this process, the list may get more focused and include fewer options, or expand to include more options.
Many times, some of the group may want to broaden his or her research and talk to colleagues and friends who aren't invited about about the choices in the list, asking them to share opinions and experiences. You may use online chat to virtually discuss reviews and options. You may text others in the group about their thoughts. In these discussions, you may even chat about the best way to get the decision made - use online voting or possibly a group chat.
After some time, the restaurant decision is made, and someone makes reservations online or on the phone.
At the restaurant, everyone in your group looks over the menu and decides what to eat. Some may have reviewed the menus before dinner. Either way, everyone discusses the options. There may even be a discussion about how the dinner will go - group apps and shared dinners or individual entrees.
When the waiter comes everyone makes a decision and then waits for it to be delivered.
The group experiences:
- the research process
- the conversations before going to the restaurant
- the menu (another decision)
- the food
- the decor
- the conversation with others at the table
- the wait staff and service
All 5 senses would be engaged. I forgot to include - there may even be entertainment - a 4-piece band, jazz or blues, dancing.
Most of the dining experience was spent making decisions. And there was an experience to make the decisions.
Each time you visit a restaurant, you may notice that the process of the experience is the same all the time:
- You inform/educate yourself about the options available
- You communicate with others about what decision to make
- You decide and experience your decision
This process applies to most decisions.
Let's say you are contemplating how to make a word bold in Word. Ok, maybe you don't call people to discuss that decision, but you may have had a conversation with someone about how to use that feature long ago, or you read help documentation to figure it out. Now you know how to use it and it becomes a tool in your back pocket. You only decide to experience the feature when you need it.
You could also apply this process to making a decision to travel - you may decide to stay in one hotel versus another, or take the museum tour rather than the walking tour because it is summer. You make decisions that will define your experience, and the experience making decisions is almost part of your trip.
Decisions and experiences go hand in hand.
The 3-Step Process
Step 1: Inform/Educate
Goal: research to understand what's you are considering doing and consider all the possible options
We need information to understand the decision we will (or will not) be making:
- what the decision really is
- pros and cons
- expectations we should or shouldn't have about it
- what else should we expect from that decision
Usually we want to know what we are getting ourselves into, and sometimes we want to do this alone. We want to read or watch a video or two to understand what options we have available and what's possible.
Who creates the content:
Primarily the company or organization offering a product or service. However, one could also read content generated by users of the product/service, or third-parties.
What is this content:
It ranges from brochures to videos to white papers to instruction manuals. It could be FAQs or support forums. It could be reviews that live on a third-party web site. Basically, it's information related to what you are looking to do.
Where it "lives"?
It can be printed or online at:
- The company's Web site
- A blog
- A forum
- A review site
- An online magazine
- Social media
Emotions it can raise to the user:
Anticipation, excitement for what is to come
Step 2: Communicate
Goal: Listen to others' experience of what you are planning to do. Hear the thoughts, opinions and experiences of others and learn how their experience applies to what you want to do. Discuss options in your frame of reference.
We never make decisions alone. We talk to others about their experiences and what they learned. We exchange information, hear opinions, listen to stories about other's experiences. Most decisions include a component where there is a conversation, but the conversation is based on how their experience could be similar and compared to yours.
Conversations also make an idea "real." By verbalizing what you are considering, you are taking a step towards making a final decision. Until you talk about what you are considering, your idea that you are researching is a passing thought and fantasy. However, when you start talking about it and give it more attention, you are bringing your idea to life - it is becoming a possibility for action.
Who participates in these conversations:
The company, current customers, people who experienced what you are looking to experience recently.
What are these conversations:
These conversations are usually specific to your situation - what exactly are you looking for? Will this product or service or experience meet your needs?
Where it happens?
- In person
- On the phone
- Online chat
Emotions it can raise to the user:
Anticipation, excitement for what is to come
Step 3: Act
Goal: Take the plunge and live the experience.
We feel that we have enough information to make a decision and take action. This step includes the experience of the app or event or restaurant or whatnot - and it includes support and service that comes with that item. So for an online app, it includes the experience of the app and support or help text. For a trip, it may include conversations with the concierge or help from the front desk regarding bags, parking, etc. For a restaurant, it includes interactions with the host or hostess, owner, wait staff, bartender, etc.
And during the experience, you may need to make other decisions and experience this process again.
Looking at the process to make a decision - to use an app, experience a new place or food, etc. - most of someone's time is spent figuring out if the decision is right for him or her. Typically, we leave those interactions to marketing and support teams, and have UX focused on the app experience itself. However, I believe we need to merge UX and CX together to create an experience process that bridges the gap between marketing and product/service.
A user's experience of an app is no longer limited to being in the app itself.
- The content about an app that a user reads or watches before using it contributes to the app experience.
- As does the conversations he has about it on social media.
- As does the live conversations about it with friends.
- As does reading reviews and forums about it.
- As does the conversations with support before and after purchase of the product.
Today, users experience an app as soon as they start considering using it. This is why an app is as strong as its community's experience - from what they learn about it to how they talk about it to how they use it. Users connect with others through forums and reviews and share these experiences. It's no longer company to user communication, or pure marketing.
Further, the user understands the sales process and using the product as an entire experience - he doesn't necessarily separate the experience as we do in companies by department, marketing and product (ux).
Neither should we as UX/CX professionals. We need to unite our experiences.