I just got back from this year’s MX Conference, a gathering of user experience professionals put on by Adaptive Path. Overall it was a great conference, there was a variety of talks ranging from the truly inspirational – why user and customer experience is so important, how culture and sociology relates to how we perceive experiences – to more tactical advice like what values to look for when building your team and how to create customer journey maps to weave a narrative across your project’s overall experience strategy.
There were, of course, some highlights.
Genevieve Bell, the keynote speaker, started off the conference on the perfect tone. Her story seems an unlikely tale. How does someone with a background in anthropology and sociology end up working and thriving at a company like Intel? She brought us along her journey, from her initial task upon joining Intel of helping to “understand all women” to eventually creating an interactive and experience research lab with 100 people over 13 years later. Along the way, Genevieve and her team helped to imbue a sense of how important user experience can be to growing a relationship with customers. Through her tenure there, Intel has shifted focus on how it perceives its main contributions to society. Years ago Intel saw its unrelenting engineering focus on Moore’s law as the end goal. Now they understand that what matters are the products and experiences that Moore’s law enables. Genevieve’s story was certainly inspiring, and reaffirmed that focusing on great experiences has the power to benefit not only products and services but society as a whole.
Melissa Matross of Hotwire, however, gave us an interesting anecdote from her career on how focusing on customer experience helps in a very real, concrete case: bolstering the bottom line. When she started at Hotwire, she absolutely despised the banner ads that would appear at the top of every page on the site. They detracted from the focus of the page and would distract the person trying to accomplish their task of finding the best price available for their travel needs. Unfortunately at the time it was a necessary evil, in order for the banners to be removed the resulting loss of revenue would have to be replaced. Melissa took that as a challenge and went to work focusing on what would make a better experience for the user. The result was a shopping comparison with their competitors. Hotwire added an easy way for people to view what they were searching for on competing sites like Expedia or Travelocity. This boosted confidence in their customers that Hotwire actually had the best price available, and if they wanted to check anyway, Hotwire would be paid for each search a person would make on a competing site. Not only did this strategy replace the lost revenue of banner ads, it resulted in a 2000% jump in the bottom line from increased sales and new search revenue.
The takeaway from the conference is that the importance of customer experience is undeniable. A person’s experience with your product, website, or customer service is intertwined with how they perceive your brand. In fact, a devotion to providing great experiences for your customers is an easy way to become a brand steward. In a world where products and feature sets are increasingly converging, a major differentiator is how great your customer experience can be. It just makes sense: if you delight people you will be rewarded with loyalty to your brand. Make things simpler, make them faster, relate to your customers rather than just simply interact with them. As the stories above illustrate, this strategy works.
Thanks to the crew at Adaptive Path for a wonderful conference and renewing our resolve to make better things.