I hadn't been to the dentist in quite some time - lets not dwell on the number of years. I had all those "great" memories - the awful tasting gum number, the sound of the drill, the scraping noise... and so the wonderful sound bank continues. Yet, somehow I just came back from my first appointment after all that time feeling compelled to write about the UX teachings that people could take away from this experience.
Yes, I have been told many times that I see the world in an extremely curious manner, always wondering how and why things are the way they are. Slightly odd I know, but this time it allowed me to really think through why, against all expectations, I had a really good dentist experience. So much so that I have already made 3 successful referrals.
Here, are 5 Key Experience factors you can leverage when thinking through the Customer Experience your solution provides based on, of all things, a visit to the dentist.
1: Experience is about Human Feeling and Emotion
User experience goes far beyond the surface; it penetrates deep into your emotional being. Designing a customer experience is categorically about how your solution, service or product makes people feel. What emotion did it elicit?
In the dentist chair there certainly were moments of discomfort. But now, less than an hour later, that discomfort is a mere distant memory. I know it was there, but the feeling I associated to it at the time is not. In fact, all I remember now is that the experience with this dentist was good. So why is this?
Well, every interaction I had before the visit, such as booking the appointment, the pre-clean etc. had all been great. They also made me feel very comfortable, so as a result I had expanded my focus of attention. When this happens, these little bumps in the experience can go almost un-noticed. On the flipside, when one is frustrated or angered the mind narrows and things that may have gone unnoticed, or that might have been easily forgiven during a good experience, become a highlight and the object of extreme focus.
In fact, taking this to the human impact on design, "by giving human qualities to non-human things (in fancy language = anthropomorphism) we can give life and emotions to what we make, which then evokes emotions from our audience."
You know when a loved one does something annoying, then the next little annoying thing they do makes you blow up... Now you know why! It's all because your mind was already narrowed in focus.
2: Removal of Pain Points Provides Memorable Value
The reason the experience was so good was because the pain points I had as a customer were alleviated or improved. When you truly solve a pain for someone, it weighs heavily on how they feel about you. The same is true for a product. When a product or service really and truly solves a pain point, you experience a connection with the brand and develop a trust in the value they have provided you with - making you a loyal brand advocate.
Back in the dentist chair - what had this provider done to remove my pain points? Well, a massive reason people hate the dentist is actually the sound of the tools. Again related to the fact you are already anxious, your senses are heightened so this sticks in your memory. This dentist had Netflix hooked up to a TV on the ceiling and headphones for me to watch it with - hugely minimizing the noise factor. That thoughtfulness added memorable value to my experience.
3: The Power of Social Connection
When I needed to find a dentist I asked friends and searched online. At the end of the day, I trusted the people I had spoken to and went with their referral because I really liked the story they told me. Of course, I validated this by looking online at reviews. The result of my referral from trusted friends combined with my wonderful experience meant I told many other people about the experience - which led to a few appointments being made for new clients.
The truth is word of mouth is not new. It is a human instinct to tell people of their experiences, their news and what is going on in their lives. In fact, it has been found that 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
Nowadays though, word of mouth travels far and wide thanks to social media, reaching people both known and unknown by the customer. You can leave a review online for anyone to check, you can call your friends, text them, mention it in a call, at a happy hour...so many avenues, so many people, so quick and easy to spread. Do not underestimate the power a customer's emotional connection with an experience can have on its marketing value.
4: Moments to Delight
After a bad experience, or in that moment in which a user expects something won't be good, you have an opportunity to delight them. Their expectation is already low giving you the advantage of lower barriers to their delight and less chance of disappointing them further - so go ahead, go above and beyond!
Think about the support experience. If you had a bad time with a product, but the support engineer was knowledgeable, fixed your problem fast and was nice, then included a personalized message on your problem and solution - you almost forget the bad product and are delighted with the experience overall. Then you will go on to tell everyone what a great experience you had. In that moment, you were already disappointed and the service provider seized the opportunity to delight you.
Here, I had low expectations of the experience and, therefore, was delighted by the service level and the above and beyond thoughtfulness that made me feel they not just cared about me as a customer, but that they truly understood me.
5: Linking the Ecosystem
This provider had managed to make one of the most feared experiences a good enough one for me to remember, value and recommend. They really focused on the end to end interaction - from booking being simple, to confirmation and reminders efficiently on the phone, to the moment of interaction being pleasing, to the service after and comfort level that they were there should I need anything post-treatment.
Linking the full ecosystem is the true power of Experience Design. When it comes to Customer Experience, it is all the interactions points that will formulate the user's emotional connection with you, the product and company.
How User Experience can Help
Experience thinking can help you truly understand your customers and think through and identify the right interaction points that will elicit the emotional response you need. It provides a way to look holistically at the ecosystem and bring the experience together in a natural, cohesive way. The power of design thinking is that it allows you to orchestrate your arena, including the digital, physical and services, all together into an experience that your customer will talk about and come back to.
The dentist experience was a true blend of a physical experience, with digital experience via entertainment streaming, tools and mobile reminders and appointments, combined with the service experience of the practitioners. Putting it all together in such a way requires a specific way of thinking - the way of thinking provided by Experience Design.
Lastly, remember that the 5 points above are all linked. Delight your customer, show true care and understanding of them and take away their pain to provide memorable value that they will then share socially to potential new clients.