While there is currently a lot of buzz around the idea of listening to, and engaging with, customers (especially with the advent of social media in the last few years), the idea that markets can be understood as conversations has been around for a while. The seminal business book The Cluetrain Manifesto explored this idea when it was published in 2000.
However, although they often pay lip service, few companies are really engaged or even understand the practice of listening to and engaging with their customers. Despite increased attention on user and customer experience in recent years, outdated and rigid organisational structures, fear of change and the failure to empower employees, all mean that dialogue with customers is not taking place.
User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) Is Not Enough
In order to better understand and interact with their customers, brands have focused on UX – user experience – in recent years. UX helps companies to consider how users and customers interact with their brands through interfaces and digital services, such as websites, apps, call centres and even physical stores. It has also brought brands closer to customers as it gives these customers the opportunity to give feedback on these products and services.
However, this has the effect that UX becomes the conversation. UX researchers, consultants and designers often act as the middle man, interpreting both the brand’s goals and its users’ expectations. While UX is undoubtedly critical in this day and age, companies are still not engaged in dialogue with their customers.
This missing exchange is crucial. It has become clear, in fact, that customers are more focused on the experiential elements of a product and a brand than the product itself and in this. As J. Pine and Gilmore put it, “An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event.” Some brands have realised this and as a result have turned their attention to ‘co-creation’, which has become key to bridging the conversation gap between companies and their customers.
Co-creation is defined as “an active, creative and social process, based on collaboration between producers and users, that is initiated by the firm to generate value for customers.” The value is in the experience: co-creation as a social, interactive, creative experience brings together brands, designers, and users to reveal what is valuable as well as meaningful. It results in experiences that create value for everyone. Combined with UX and CX, co-creation propels the conversation in revolutionary directions.
Finding The Cubed Factor For Customer Experience
The days when a brand created products and simply sold them are long gone. The product-centric approach has been replaced by a customer experience approach, where users can become partners of the organisation. This new perspective changes markets and processes, engaging users who are no longer seen as prey, but are an active part of the innovation process.
By focusing on co-creation, value creation grows exponentially and delivers valuable experiences. Co-creation takes the industrial unidirectional process and changes the rules, generating cubed, holistic experiences and conversations that benefit from all three key actors: the brand, the customers, and the designer.
By Patrizia Bertini, European Director of Research & Insights at Wipro Digital.
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