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  • Steve Monaghan


Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Shortly after his return to Apple, Steve Jobs famously said “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology”. Steve was right. Steve Jobs obsessed over design. His legacy is obvious.

What makes for a great customer experience?

Customers want to emotionally engage with a brand, make their decision to buy with the right information and execute their decision with as little friction as possible. We want the same things from a company perspective.

ESE- Experience / Simple / Easy

‘Why we buy’ has been well researched. We make our decisions based on Emotion. We justify with logic. We take action when it is easy. I love Tesla, it’s great for the environment and I can order online. I love Amazon, I can research to find the right product and one click checkout. I love Nespresso, it’s so simple to make the perfect coffee for me and it cleans itself.

If we translate this into design principles: User Experience (UX) creates emotional engagement; Simple is cognitive (understanding) and Ease is effort. ESE. It feels good. I understand it. I can buy it now.

The diamond company DeBeers understood these principles well. They created the emotional connection to diamonds. Diamonds last forever like true love. Just ‘three months salary for a lifetime of bliss’. Available anywhere, it easy to buy your dream. Inspiration, aspiration and commitment. ESE.

So how do companies go wrong with design?

Too many equate design with aesthetics. Form over function. Form over friction. Aesthetics generates anticipation. ESE generates sales. The only question is: are you in the business of anticipation or selling?

As the esteemed Harvard Business Professor Michael Porter elegantly defined, there are two types of strategy in business. Differentiation or Cost Leadership. In the physical world, they were viewed as mutually exclusive. In the digital world, design unifies strategy. Good design is differentiation. Great design is differentiation and cost leadership. Why be good when you can be great!

The way forward.

As we design digital businesses, we need to take these principles to heart. In practical terms, create UX that creates the emotional connection between your brand and your customer. Design information to enable customers to reach their logical decision as quickly as possible. And minimize effort in swipes, wipes and types.

As with most innovation, diversity creates magic. Designers no longer have exclusivity over creative capacity. Sales no longer has exclusivity over the customer relationship. Business no longer has exclusivity over insight. Our opportunity as leaders is to bring together our teams to create those magical intersections of creativity, customer and insight.

We know great design drives revenue, reduces cost and increases customer satisfaction. But investing in design takes courage. It is difficult to calculate an ROI on design up front. But difficult decisions are what distinguish us as leaders.

Having spoken with leaders of many of the world’s most disruptive digital startups, one consistent theme holds true. They invest a lot of money in design, a lot in engineering and relatively little in sales and support. Simply, they design products that sell. They make them ESE.

Don’t dabble in design. Invest in aligning the talent of your organization behind the customer to make their relationship with you ESE.

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