How Startups Can Design Exceptional Customer Experiences

Startups increasingly face rising customer expectations for immediate, personalized and convenient experiences. As digital disruption gets mature and more and more companies venture out to enhance the experiences they offer both online and offline, it can get hard to think of yet newer ways to achieve an edge in the marketplace.

Design-led product development and ideation to the rescue. Here are a few design-based principles and steps that startups can take to ensure that the experiences they offer are truly outstanding.

  1. Identify and research end users

Companies often make presumptions about the solution they are aiming for, the technology that will go into it and what the innovation will mean for the business. However, to do innovation right, it must start with the end user in mind. Starting from a people perspective can make an experience truly customer-focused right from the start.

Startups can identify and factor in their customers’ perspectives by asking fundamental questions such as –

  • What does the customer desire and aspire to?
  • What kinds of consumer behaviors can be linked to this solution?
  • What are our target customers’ unmet needs that we can fulfill through innovation and digitization?

Factoring in the customer right at the outset can make the final solution that much customer-oriented.

  1. Draw inspiration from other industries

Creativity and inspiration can become original when existing ideas are put in a completely new context. For that reason, startup founders can look beyond their industry boundaries to find new ideas that can then fit into a new context.

An instance could be a hotel company drawing inspiration from executive assistants who proactively fulfill the needs of their executives by anticipating them. When a hotel company applies that to their services, you get an exceptional customer experience where even first-time visitors feel seen and heard when their needs are met before they have to voice them.

  1. Define the problem you’re solving

Use the research from step no. 1 to ensure that you’re setting out to solve a problem that your ideal customers actually care about. Reframe what you are building from the customers’ perspective to get insight into how your end users feel and act.

You may also assign weightage in terms of cost to each problem surrounding and closely related to the one you’re aiming to solve. That will help you further determine which of the problems is the costliest one that your end users are willing to pay you to solve.

That way, the customer experience you offer will be centered on a really expensive problem and may or may not happen to solve other less costly issues.

  1. Co-create with end users

Develop quick and low-budget prototypes for your ideas in the form of storyboards and sketches. Don’t get tricked by perfectionism. What you want to achieve is fast failures and many iterations so that you arrive at the right solution quicker, with the help of your end users.

Get target customers involved in the process early and often. Designing standout experiences can become rather easy when you have the end users directly telling what they do and don’t want in a solution.

Startups are uniquely positioned to successfully execute this step as they are not bogged down by an existing operational system or technology and are free to experiment and steer the wheel as per frequent feedback from customers.

  1. Prototype experiences and business models

Besides prototyping the solution or service, also spend time prototyping the customer experience and the related business model. An experience can be prototyped using cardboard models or role-playing. 

Alternative business model prototyping can lead to insight into value addition, cost-cutting, efficiency improvements and new revenue development. Prototyping business models and experiences can be done in an agile fashion with frequent feedback from the end users.

  1. Design an integrated customer experience

Combine convenience, personalization and quick servicing to design an integrated and exceptional experience for your users. Design-led product development allows you to integrate the experience across digital and physical touchpoints.

Moreover, an integrated customer experience across channels can remind your customers of your brand values, message and core principles no matter how they choose to interact with your brand.

  1. Blur boundaries between products, services and environments 

As startups set out to take on giants in delivering exceptional experiences, there’s a need to realize that the boundaries between products, services and environments continue to blur in order to form an amalgamation to create an experience that’s truly holistic.

Consider Amazon- Amazon Echo provides quick access to the company’s services for a smooth and connected experience across all its offerings. And Amazon also opened up physical stores to create yet another touchpoint for its customers.

Traditional product companies now venture into the ecosystem space by emphasizing the services they offer instead of the product. Service companies integrate physical products and experiences into their offerings. And companies create environments to go along with their products and augment the experience.

As startups think about newer ways to set themselves apart in the market in not just their own industry, these design-led tips to tailor customer experiences can come in handy. Startups need to balance agile, design-focused development with continual refinement of the customer journey.

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