In my role at Essential Design, I get to talk with clients about ways they can reimagine the experiences they create for their customers. Sometimes their “customers” are individual end-users, while other times they are businesses or internal users.

Regardless of the type of customer we’re talking about, one thing remains constant:

The experience you create shapes the way your customers perceive your brand.

There’s no escaping it.

Companies that design compellingly integrated experiences for their customers are better positioned to compete and win, than those that don’t.

For illustration purposes, let’s examine a typical air travel experience.

Without making things too complex with itinerary changes, baggage checks, delays or cancellations, there were at least 9 elements of design involved in your last flight that the airline could directly control:


Reimagining the Customer Experience


Certain air carriers exemplify how companies that invest in designing amazing experiences can thrive, where those that don’t care about design either elect to (or are forced to) compete purely on price. And, those that didn’t have a compelling competitive differentiation strategy, no longer exist.

The experience challenges that airlines face in keeping their travelers happy are numerous, for sure, but two major themes stand out to me. The first is their need to make complex processes feel simple and frictionless to their customer, and the second is their need to provide travelers with just enough comfort during transit to keep us happy without spending so much that they can no longer afford to operate.


Reimagining the Customer Experience


We’ve all been on good flights and bad flights.

Think about how you perceive the airline that created the good experience for you. Would you fly them again? Would you recommend them? What about the airline that created the bad experience for you?

This is the lens we challenge our clients to look through when they’re imagining the next product or service they want to launch. Sometimes we apply this lens while facilitating client ideation sessions. Other times we’ll work to design the product or service offering itself. And typically we’ll test our concepts to gain customer insights along the way.

For us it’s critical to have defined an ideal user experience. With that in mind, we can evaluate the design of every touchpoint along the customer journey.

When working with clients we pursue questions like these:

  1. If there are physical product elements required to produce the experience, what will it look, feel and function like for the user?
  2. Is there a digital component to the experience, and what function will it serve?
  3. Are there human-touch services that need to be wrapped around the integrated experience to provide support along your customer’s journey?
  4. Do all of these elements come together to create a cohesive, logical experience that aligns with your brand?

All of these questions are equally important because remember:

You’re not creating a product or a platform or a service; you’re creating an experience

For more on mapping seamless and desirable customer experiences, see our latest thinking, “Fundamentals of Mapping Experiences” by Naz Mirzaie.

Shawn Torkelson is the Director of Business Growth at Essential Design.

Essential Design is a leading Innovation Strategy & Design consultancy. We work across the healthcare, consumer, and commercial industries, helping our clients conceive and drive to market comprehensive digital, physical, and service experiences.