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User Experience and Customer Experience are the Same Thing

The X-Factor: Seven Rules for a World Class UX

Written By:
Bart Lorang

Very few companies can master all three X’s:

UX = User Experience.  CX = Customer Experience.  BX = Brand Experience.

One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs is:

You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.

I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Often, I think software engineering companies forget about this because we’re so obsessed with conquering difficult technology problems.

FullContact is no stranger to this phenomenon – I wrote openly about our struggles here.

As a result, the past few months I’ve been obsessed with everything UX. I’ve read 6 books on the topic and I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of UX candidates. We’re currently hiring a Director of UX and I feel this new role will be vital to future success at FullContact.

Along the way, I met with Brian Baker and Michael Pastko from The First User. Brian’s firm has been around since 1994 and he’s a renowned UX expert.

Brian recently posted about Four Rules for World Class UX. Please go read it. This blog post will be here when you get back.

I’ve been thinking deeply about these rules in the context of my own thinking about the topic. Here are my thoughts and some expansions on Brian’s ideas:

1. Name a UX Champion for every product you build.

Currently at FullContact, we don’t have a UX Champion. This is what started our search for a Director of UX. Brad Feld pointed this out during a board meeting and wrote about it in this blog post. When Brad asked everyone at FullContact: “Who absolutely owns FullContact’s UX Philosophy?” – nobody’s hand came up.

I am no UX expert. Plus, I’m a big fan of firing myself at every opportunity.

And sure, we had a few people that thought they could own it, but at the end of the day, my gut told me that we didn’t have a killer person who was really schooled in the art and science of UX.

My subsequent search for a killer UX person and exposure to people like Brian and Michael have only reinforced and confirmed this belief.

As a result, we decided to hire a UX Champion.

2. Put the UX Champion in the right spot in your organization

Brian argues that this person should be either be a) on the executive team or b) a stakeholder with an executive mandate.

This is something I’ve been thinking deeply about for a few months. Does it really make sense for the UX person to be in Product? In Sales? In Support? In Marketing? In Engineering?

I don’t think UX truly ‘belongs’ in any of these departments. Perhaps from an HR perspective, Product makes the most sense, but a UX person should be given broad latitude to help improve the customer’s experience.

This UX Champion acts as an advisor, a coach, an internal consultant – fiercely loyal to the company’s mission and the keeper of the brand – with the full weight of the executive team behind them. This doesn’t mean the UX Champion can tell everyone what to do – but they should have strong influence and help align everyone towards the same mission.

A user’s experience is about every single touchpoint. From target identification, to first exposure, to lead capture, to customer conversion, to product usage, to support, to upgrade, to referral, to retention, to downgrade or cancellation.

UX encompasses the entire user lifecycle and thus encompasses the entire organization.

But I’ll even take it a step further than Brian: it’s about more than users; it’s about anyone who interacts with your brand.

It’s the overall Brand Experience, or BX.

This includes job applicants, vendors, partners and the media.

I truly believe in the power of BX: See Exhibit A and Exhibit B and pay close attention to the comments.

You never know where the next customer is going to come from. UX, BX – they should both be holistic, cross-organizational and baked into the DNA of a company – it shouldn’t be relegated to a single functional silo.

My household has some unusually strong opinions on this topic. My wife Sarah helps companies with their CX. I’ve started thinking that “CX” and “UX” and “BX” are close to the same thing, so I’ll use UX, CX and BX interchangeably.

Sarah is a CX and service branding queen with over 15 years of 5-star service operational experience. She has a highly regimented 1,800 point checklist (yep, that’s right) for delivering a killer customer experience. Great experience is not an accident or just a function of hiring “nice people.” Like UX, CX is an absolute science and an organizational discipline.

However, many companies Sarah works with try to lump her into the Customer Service organization and use “Customer Experience” as a fancy phrase for “Support.”

Those companies are doing it wrong.

The companies where Sarah is most successful at improving CX allow her to roam between Sales, Support, Product, Engineering, Accounting, Marketing and most importantly – the Exec team and the Board.

All of those departments are usually initially resistant to change (“We’re already doing it great – we don’t need improvement – blah blah blah”) and it requires an Executive mandate to make changes.

In the ideal situation, the whole company obsesses about CX and the CEO is obsessed with the product and how customers and users experience it.

Great examples of CEOs that obsess about customer experience are Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.

Brian told me about his first job at Disney. His ENTIRE job was to watch the audience and log the results. He’d log if they were laughing, clapping, yawning, picking their nose – and at what time and at what frame. Disney would do this obsessively and collect data throughout the pre-production and post-production process.

Steve Jobs used to hide in the bushes near his local Cupertino Apple Store and watch customers in the store interact with iMacs, iPhones and iPads. He collected the data directly and that’s what allowed him to obtain keen insights about user and customer behavior.

My friend Yoav Lurie of Simple Energy says one of his jobs as CEO is to “Violently Defend Our Users.” I think that’s appropriate for a CEO to do. I’ve heard too many people say things like “Dumb Users” or “Idiot Users” or “They just don’t know what they’re doing” rather than admit fault with their own creations and look inward for improvement opportunities.

The bottom line is – the UX Champion has to have an executive mandate to align each business area and identify opportunities for improvement. Otherwise, it simply won’t happen.

3. Keep your UX Champion out of daily development

Brian believes that a weekly or bi-weekly iteration is too fast for real meaningful UX work to get done as part of an agile sprint. UX people need to conduct experiments. They need to conduct usability testing. They need to talk (in person) with users. They need to collect data, gather the results, and make improvements.

More importantly, UX people need to step back from the day-to-day building of the product to have an objective view. They can’t be too close to the actual development activities. If they’re doubling as a developer, chances are they’re missing something.

Writers have Editors for this reason.

4. The UX Champion works the entire product lifecycle

Somewhat related to point #3, Brian believes that UX should be part of the holistic product management and development process.

Mediocre companies don’t treat UX holistically. They treat it as a ‘product’ thing. I’ll use another Apple example to illustrate this:

A few years back I ordered an Apple iMac and an HP Printer. Both arrived on the same day. The Apple iMac’s packaging was sublime. It was a perfect ‘open the box’ experience and gorgeous.

The HP Printer? Well, there was noisy styrofoam, styrofoam peanuts and a hard-to-open box with crappy plastic tape. That was followed by instructions that made my head hurt and plastic stickers that I needed to tear off everywhere.

I’ve never seen a better UX juxtaposition than those two products, shipped side by side.

Great companies don’t settle for a great product only during usage. They involve packaging, shipping, logistics, retail and the entire product lifecycle from beginning to end.

The UX Champion needs to follow and be ever present in this product lifecycle.

5. No matter how good you are at UX, always get a fresh set of eyes on the problem.

Always get a fresh set of eyes as a sanity check.

Most psychologists have their own psychologists for a reason: to make sure they have sound mental health.

Great CX companies pay mystery shoppers handsomely for this task.

With UX, make sure you budget for external UX consultants as a final sanity check. You may have a brilliant UX Champion, but there’s nothing wrong with a fresh set of eyes to spot a few minor flaws.

6. Track Every Nosepick

As I mentioned earlier, Walt Disney would literally log every nosepick, tear and laugh by observing the audience.   Data is vitally important to the process.

Ignore the data at your own peril. At the end of the day, through interviews and usability tests, you’ll collect a ton of data about your UX. As a product manager sincerely interested in improving your UX, you can’t ignore it based on your gut feel and your own personal biases.

Don’t dismiss the data as ‘Those stupid users – they just don’t know what they are doing’ – there’s something to be learned from every single user.

Watch the patterns of data. Collect data via automated systems like KISSMetrics.  Also collect qualitative data with usability tests and UserTesting.com. Patterns will emerge and you need to act on them.

7. Always perform ‘the Drunk Usability Test’

This is one of my favorite rules to follow, especially at bars. Go visit threesheetresearch.com for some awesome examples.

In summary, these 7 rules should get you well on your way to building a world class CX and UX organization. If you need help getting started, I recommend contacting the guys at The First User. They know their stuff.

I’m also interested in discussing new and innovative approaches to UX and CX. Feel free to comment below to continue the discussion!

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