Designing distinctive customer experiences: 3 toolkits

Rufus Leonard on the tools brands can adopt to ensure marketers stay ahead of their competition

Customer experience (CX) can be a competitive advantage for businesses. According to Accenture, 77% of chief executive officers plan to fundamentally change the way their brand interacts with customers. But bridging the gap between transformative ambitions and digital experiences customers will love is difficult. Cierra Dobson, strategy director at Rufus Leonard, explores three tools to create distinctive, competitive CX.

Any business looking to transform digital CX will start with the basics: updating legacy systems, removing friction, personalization. But what about experiences that position your brand as unique and shareworthy?

Consider Vitality Health. Their focus on supporting and rewarding healthy behaviors is refreshingly unique. Members accrue in-app rewards based on their physical activity and are prompted to discover their ‘Vitality Age’ with a lifestyle quiz. Vitality makes health insurance fun using their vibrant, life-affirming brand identity as a North Star for a truly differentiating digital experience.

But genuinely differentiating experiences are hard to come by. These three toolkits are a starting point for organizations looking to invest in a digital CX that will help them stand out.

1. Brainstorm using the five facets of brand experience

Start with your purpose, ambition or positioning – whatever best describes what your brand is all about. This is your promise to customers. Then consider each facet of brand experience to brainstorm new ways your brand might engage with customers. What are the ways in which you might deliver on that promise?

  1. Think: what could we offer that helps customers explore, learn and make sense of the world?

  2. Feel: what do we want our customers to feel when interacting with us?

  3. Do: what could we help our customers do that makes our brand valuable or essential to their lives?

  4. Sense: what sensory experiences will bring our brand to life and delight our customers?

  5. Connect: what sense of belonging/community will people get from us?

We developed this brand experience framework to systematically draw out ideas based on brand identity without the typical channel siloes. It’s an inward-looking process, where you focus on what’s meaningful and unique about your brand, generating ideas that go beyond responding to customer needs alone.

2. Prioritize based on expected business benefit and feasibility

With hundreds of ideas on the table, leaders can disagree on where to invest and CX transformations quickly lose momentum, resulting in an array of small improvements to business-as-usual.

To get consensus on a path forward, consider a prioritization workshop where leaders agree to business benefit and feasibility criteria beforehand. In the workshop, score each idea based on its expected impact on KPIs and feasibility (usually a combination of costs and organizational readiness).

With a score for each, plot the ideas on an X-Y graph, where the top-right quadrant represents ideas that are both easy to implement and have a high expected business benefit. Ideas in the top-left quadrant represent quick wins, and those in the bottom-right might be long-term priorities. Those with low business benefit and low feasibility scores reconsider altogether.

While a cost-benefit analysis is nothing new, applying objective assessment to CX ideas – involving passionate champions and detractors across your organization – is essential to push brilliant ideas forward, while letting less worthy ones die with dignity.

3. Frame ideas based on their roles

With a prioritized set of experiences, the next hurdle is buy-in. CX innovation can be expensive and risky; decision-makers can feel overwhelmed by a long list of implementation priorities.

Consider using a pyramid framework, with three layers each representing a role:

  • Top: Category-defining experiences – create a meaningful experience that delivers on brand promises and distinguishes from competitors

  • Middle: Transformational experiences – add customer value and drive business growth

  • Base: Trust-building experiences – help the business keep pace with industry standards and address existing customer pain points

The power of this simple framework is that it communicates how experiences can play different roles while strategically building on each other. It can help decision-makers see the big picture and how each experience or workstream contributes.

Forrester research shows brands with leading CX grow revenue faster, cut costs, reduce risk and can charge more for their products than those that don’t invest in innovation. The opportunities are huge, but finding the time and space to be visionary can be daunting.

Used together, these toolkits can help you take stock of what you’ve got and lift your gaze to the horizon – to brainstorm, prioritize and communicate a visionary CX strategy that will set you apart from the competition.