The Meaning of Customer Experience

using laptop while sitting

Pat Morrell

  • Reading Time  Min Read
  • Publish Date July 19, 2013

Why Do Companies Routinely Build Software That People Don’t Like To Use?

I joined 1,000+/- seasoned heads of marketing, innovation, technology, and customer experience (CX) in NY to discuss a simple, but shockingly pervasive and revenue-threatening question: "Why do companies routinely build software that: 1) people don’t like to use; and 2) doesn’t actually solve a problem?"

Filtering this through the lens of our real-world tech innovation experience here at Skookum, I’ve arrived at what I believe to be the five core elements of a gold-standard digital customer experience.

  1. People.  Who are you building this technology experience for?  How will it actually make their lives/jobs easier?  When, why, and how will they use it?

    • Forrester Forum Case Study: Military Airplane Pilot      USAA’s customers are active-duty and retired members of the armed services. USAA customers deployed abroad had little access to traditional internet services and very little free-time, making the important task of managing personal finances extremely difficult. Understanding their customers’ unique needs and conditions, the USAA digital innovation team built a hybrid mobile app to operate in those disconnected environments.
  2. Problem. What is the business problem you need to solve, or the change you need to enable?

    • Forrester Forum Case Study:  Smartphone app scanning pill bottle Walgreens had a customer health and revenue problem. Customers regularly neglected to refill prescriptions, leading to recurring illnesses and uncollected pharmacy revenue. Realizing the neglect to be rooted in an onerous refill process, Walgreens released a mobile app that enables customers to scan prescription barcodes and auto-alert pharmacists for refills. They’re now refilling 100k+ mobile prescriptions, daily.
  3. Process. How do you go about building an app that people will actually use? How do you know what problems to solve first? Where do you start?

    • Forum Take-Away + Skookum Best Practice: Engineering Schematic It’s not enough to have a big budget, a technologically-advanced team, or even an appetite for risk and executive buy-in on the value of innovation. To build a great digital customer experience,  you need a process that considers all the elements of your "people" and your "problem," and which provides a step-by-step roadmap for how your team and/or your innovation partner will conceptualize a technology solution. Whether you call it journey-mapping, engineering, or blueprinting, just make sure the results of this effort are things like user personas, use cases, need statements, wire-frames, clickable prototypes… all the elements of digital product development that should precede code-writing.
  4. Prototype.  How do you know that the first thing you build is what people actually want?  

    • Forum Take-Away + Skookm Best Practice: Custom Event App Building custom software is risky. Your long-term success is predicated on user adoption and feedback on the pros and cons, i.e. the overall usefulness, of your new software.  One way to significantly mitigate this risk is to build low-fi prototypes — can range from clickable digital wireframes to yellow sticky-notes on a whiteboard — and get real-world feedback from people on how the prototype flows, functions, and solves (or doesn’t solve), your problem.  **The best way to ensure you build a great customer experience is to get feedback on the experience from actual customers.**
  5. Proof. How do you know, quantitatively, that you succeeded? What is a successful digital customer experience worth to your business?

    • Forum Take-Away + Skookum Best Practice: Yeah, yeah — you want to build a badass, super-progressive, no-one-has-ever-seen-this-before digital opus. But how will you know you succeeded? More to the point for many heads of innovation and CX, how will you demonstrate to your boss and the board — the keepers of the budget — they you’re creating actual business value and are therefor worthy of having future projects bankrolled. Craft apps for your customers, generate business proof for you and your innovation team.


In short: Customer Experience means the right combination of People, Problem, Process, Prototype, and Proof.

But there’s only so much you can learn/use from a blog. Like anything strategically worthwhile — and therefor challenging — details, expertise, and experience separate digital innovation successes from failures.

If you’re bought in on the strategic value of investing time and resources to build great digital user experiences, but you’re having a tough time with the execution, drop us a line and we can help.

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