Is “Experience Design” really the domain of Designers?

31 May 2009|Darrel Rhea

The business world has woken up to the need to manage their relationships with customers with a more holistic framework than “products services and brands.” And many of us in Design have long been asserting that “experience” is the way to think about and guide the organization on their value-creation journey. But many of my peers in Design and Innovation claim that design managers should be accountable for the customer experience, and I disagree.

While designers have unique skills and processes for creating and managing experience, I believe there needs to be experience principals and a defined strategy at the corporate executive level. Designers usually contribute to only a few of the touch points of experience and have limited exposure to many critical areas of influence. The Experience Component dips into too many of the operational crannies, the technology aspects, engineering, marketing, customer service, finance, etc.

So who determines what the experience is?…

— while balancing what is meaningful and desirable to target customers, with what can be authentically delivered within the competencies of the organization, and bounded by the realities of the business model?

This answer is that it should be executive management, which would imply a requirement that senior management understands: 1) who the customer is and isn’t, and how the product/service relates to the customer’s sense of meaning, 2) what experience is, 3) how it can be conceptualized in the company, 4) how it can be communicated within the culture, 5) how it can be managed in processes, 6) how it can be measured, 7) how it can increase the value of the organization.

Getting senior management to care is the first difficult step, and the recent media spotlight is helping. But now we need to get those executives to really want to be accountable for the customer experience because they see it as a critical success factor for their companies. We have been making headway on this at Cheskin, at least until the recession made cost cutting “Job One” for CEOs. I’m looking forward to leaders having the bandwidth for building (rather than just defending) their businesses.

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