Industry Voices—Designing for the digital customer experience: Identifying and optimizing the experiences that matter most

There is an adage that says people won’t always remember what you say or do, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.

This philosophy certainly applies to health care experience design, where engagement is made up of a series of moments and interactions, increasingly digital in nature, that have the power to influence the trajectory of someone’s health and well-being. 

During the pandemic, we all have relied on digital channels to bridge social distance gaps and help us stay engaged with our health. Now more than ever—especially when digital is doing more of life’s heavy lifting—experience must be at the center of digital product development and design.  

Avoiding the ‘Pontiac Aztek effect’ 

Without a customer-focused approach, large organizations can risk losing sight of what’s most important. This famously happened with the Pontiac Aztek, a perennial entrant on “ugliest cars ever” lists. The Aztek had great engineering, amazing innovations for its cargo space, and pioneered the mid-size crossover vehicle category. But ultimately, the Aztek answered questions no one was asking, and it was overshadowed by its own poor stylistic design. 

I refer to this phenomenon as the “Pontiac Aztek Effect”: Sometimes large organizations filled with incredibly smart, experienced people can end up releasing a product that nine out of 10 people would give a small chance of success, simply because it isn’t what people want. 

RELATED: Industry Voices—Striking the balance of cybersecurity, interoperability and digital health

Lessons like these shouldn’t go unnoticed. Digital health tools shouldn’t be created in a vacuum, and customer feedback must guide every step of the way.  

Discover what matters, then perfect it 

Customer experience is the single most important driver of digital adoption and loyalty. Over the last few years, numerous surveys indicate that experience drives loyalty more than price, or even the product itself.  

In the U.S., 59% of consumers will walk away from a company or product they love after several bad experiences, with 17% walking away after just one. And the stakes of having a customer-centric experience couldn’t be higher than in today’s environment. For example, today’s vaccine scheduling systems are important to get right from a design perspective—people are anxious, stakes are high, and a friction-free experience is crucial.  

Principles of consumer-focused experience design

For any organization that has a digital component, there are a few guiding principles to keep customers at the center of your experience design. 

  • Prioritize the experiences that matter the most. Just because you have a shiny new technology wrinkle you could roll out, doesn’t mean you have to. Test it with customers to make sure it’s something they value, need, and truly want, and in a format and design they prefer. A related concept is to look at the end-to-end experience, and not just certain components. 
  • Assign clear responsibility to small, focused teams. This will make development agile as possible, while also allowing teams to constantly iterate and move on from false starts when they occasionally happen. 
  • Put CX in the C-suite. Customer experience (CX) demands support and recognition at the highest levels, with 76% of executives saying that improving CX is a high or critical priority, Forrester reports. Companies should consider making a commitment to the customer experience at the highest level by establishing C-level positions dedicated to the cause.   
  • Use both qualitative and quantitative consumer feedback data to develop and refine the experience. While it’s important to know what the bulk of survey respondents feel about a particular digital experience to make sure a team is on track, looking at individual comments will uncover specific areas that need improvement. 
  • Keep the end-goal in mind. In the end, nobody cares about how many meetings companies have, what process they run, or how individual software components work together. And nor should they, because what really matters are the experiences that we put into the hands of the people we serve. 

The user experience—and the memory that sticks with the end user—must be the cornerstone of digital design. By taking this approach we are truly designing the experiences that matter most.  

Firdaus Bhathena is the chief digital officer of CVS Health. 

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