Practice: connections

XII.3 May + June 2005
Page: 48
Digital Citation

More experiences

Manfred Tscheligi

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"User experience" has taken over, and with it discussions about how to deal with the term. Googling "user experience" returns hundreds of hits. Is it more than the newest catchphrase or does it reflect a change in the description of interaction systems? Sometimes "user experience" is simply used as a new word for "usability," sometimes it addresses a wider scope of factors needed for a system to be "loved" by users.

Experience is a fascinating term offering rich interpretations. I offer the following short excursions into two fields which may not initially seem connected, but have both developed expertise in delivering experiences nonetheless. It may be worth connecting to see where else the optimization of experiences is a theme.

User experience constitutes an interrelation between all the different aspects of pre-experience (whatever happened in the past), a means to facilitate motivation (e.g. a brochure trying to say something good), the immediate experience before usage (I call this the "impatience experience"), and the usage itself.

Customer Experience. Considering users as customers leads us to the world of "customer experience" (another term worth Googling) and brings us more business-oriented language (which is, by the way, much needed in our profession). The goal seems to be the same: Make customers happy, motivate them to invest a specific amount of money, and bring them back again and again. Much more than in traditional HCI, multi-channel strategies must ensure positive experiences at every contact point with the company, with its products, with its appearance, and with people talking about it.

Customer experience management (CEM) is the process of strategically managing a customer's entire experience with a product or a company. As Schmitt [1] describes it, CEM connects with the customer at every touchpoint and calls for the integration of different elements of the customer's experience. CEM is concerned with sales and brand preferences. Before and even after the sale, CEM provides value to customers by delivering information, service, and interactions that result in compelling experiences. It builds loyalty with customers, adding value to the firm. It is very interesting to see the basic steps of the CEM framework described: analyzing the experiential world of the customer, building the experiential platform, designing the brand experience, structuring the customer interface, and engaging in continuous innovation.

To take another snapshot, Carbone [2] defines the concept of "clues" that comprise experiences. Each sensation is a clue that contributes to a cumulative sense of the total experience. Carbone discusses the relationship of brand and experience and further introduces the disciplines of Experience Value Management:

  • Assessing Experiences: defining and understanding your organization's creation of experiences
  • Auditing Experiences: the ability to evaluate how randomly or haphazardly experiences happen and identifying gaps between what customers desire and what they currently experience
  • Designing Experiences: the deliberate articulation of human, mechanic, and functional clues
  • Implementing Experiences: embedding selected clues and integrated experience designs into customer experiences
  • Stewarding Experiences: managing the system by continuously monitoring the effect and refreshing the clues for maximum impact

Pine and Gilmore [3] discuss user experiences as a major economic value, often referenced by customer experience texts. They introduce the concept of experiences as a fourth economic offering, distinct from services, goods and commodities, in their Experience Economy. More or less the same thing can be developed into different forms with different levels of value. It is well argued that people (in fact the customers, our users) are much more motivated to spend more on better experiences. People will talk positively about memorable experiences, which is an enormous business value that is understated far too often. Pine and Gilmore, for another example, discuss effective ways to stage experiences, and discuss surprises as a way to do so.

The Cinematic Experience. Staging leads us to another field of experiences. What makes people thrilled by specific film scenes? What makes people watch movies more than once? Cinemas and filmmaking experts have developed their own language, or cinemagraphic codes, to engage and attract people. These codes have developed over time based on psychological principles to achieve well-defined experience goals on the viewer side, to develop specific experiences.

Developing compelling user experiences will benefit from looking into these principles more thoroughly and systematically. Isn't it an interesting challenge to develop a word-processing system that causes this "special" feeling in the pit of the stomach when it is used? This will be needed much more when we design more complex interconnected environments.

Creating total and successful experiences is the vehicle to implement sustainable relationships. Customer relationship management is a different world with its different language. Filmmaking is another different world with its different language. But the goal is definitely the same: taking people seriously either as users, as customers, or as visitors. These are only two pieces of the overall user experience mosaic. However, it is worth thinking about all the different sides of the story, in particular when creating upcoming complex interaction environments. And you can be sure that there are many other professions out there dealing with experiences.

back to top  References

1. Bernd H. Schmitt (2003). Customer Experience Management Wiley & Sons.

2. Lewis P. Carbone (2004). Clued In: How To Keep Customers Coming Back, Prentice Hall.

3. B. Joseph Pine II, James H. Gilmore (1999). The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, Harvard Business School Press

back to top  Author

Manfred Tscheligi
ICT&S, University of Salzburg

About the Author:

Manfred Tscheligi is professor of HCI & Usability at the Institute for Advanced Studies and Research in Information and Communication Technologies & Society, University of Salzburg, Austria. He is also founder and director of CURE¬óCenter for Usability Research and Engineering in Vienna, Austria and the founder and managing director of USECON, a usability and user-experience consultancy firm also in Vienna.

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