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The Intersection of User Experience, Customer Experience and Corporate Strategy: The Holy Grail for 21st Century Business?

The Intersection of UX, CX & Corporate Strategy: The Holy Grail for 21st Century Business?

By Chris Allen, CUA - HFI US Sales Director Eastern Region; Global Accounts Director

Have you ever attended an industry conference and come away with more questions than answers? Well that was my experience from attending the September 2013 UX STRAT conference in Atlanta. Over 25 top UX consultants and corporate UX practitioners shared personal experiences, philosophies and UX project case studies to make for an exciting barrage of information, inspirations, practical lessons, and strategic visioning. The schedule and the content were action-packed and lots of fun to boot!


There’s also been a pretty steady stream of posts and articles in the blogosphere from presenters and attendees commenting on key learnings and questions from the conference. The most recent article appeared in the November 1st issue of UX Matters in which presenter Jon Innes addressed the question posed to a panel focused on the question “Who owns Strategy?” Specifically, he was asked about Customer Experience vs. User Experience and whether it matters. You can see his full article at the following link:



Jon and I had a lively discussion during the conference on this topic, and I’d like to extend the conversation with insights that draw on my own 17+ years experience selling UX consulting and training services in the corporate world.


For me, the most important starting point for exploring the issues is whether or not your business leadership and key change makers are asking themselves the following question:


How do we as business leaders leverage the best techniques and outcomes of various research and design methodologies to create more rewarding, fun & useful interactions with our current and potential customers so they become loyal, repeat customers and advocates?


This question really transcends whether or not we are advocates of Customer Experience (CX), User Experience (UX), Agile, Lean, or any SDLC methodology in play today. The point is, how can we bring these different perspectives/approaches together for a common purpose, instead of building more Chinese walls or reasons why someone cannot play in someone else’s sandbox?


Let’s start with a look at common perceptions about CX and UX. My colleague Jeffrey Easton, UX Strategist with HFI and former VP of User Experience at JP Morgan Chase, summed it up in this way: “UX is generally perceived by executives as the domain of IT and concerns itself with interactions between various forms of digital technology and either internal or external users. CX on the other hand is perceived as addressing the entire experience that the customer has with their brand - from the marketing, through the sales experience, to any post sale interaction. This could be digital or otherwise.”


From Jeffrey’s view, CX would be a more holistic view of the business relationship with its market, and UX would be more focused on the technology interactions alone.


Jeffrey elaborated, however that this is perception, not reality - “UX is ALL ABOUT the entire customer experience - but the UX profession, in general, has not done a good job communicating this. We allow ourselves to be defined as 'usability testing' and 'card sorts'. We need to be seen more as 'user-ecosystems' and connect what we do with market research.”


The takeaway? UX and CX advocates and practitioners would do well to have a few beers together and explore how they can work to the common purpose of increasing customer uptake, loyalty, and advocacy across the entire ecosystem of their business’ interaction with their target market. And, senior executives need to lead that collaboration, if not mandate it. Their competitive position in the marketplace and future profitability may be at stake! (Get HFI’s White Paper on Competitive User Experience)


But wait, there must be a third element in creating a stable and sustainable structure, as we know from the field of geometry and architecture (think of triangles and tetrahedrons, which are among the strongest, most stable structures).


So, to give further stability to the CX/UX relationship we go to Leah Buley, who presented at UX Strat on an innovation initiative at Inuit. You can find her full presentation at, http://www.slideshare.net/UXSTRAT/buley-uxstrat-slides-final-copy.


Titled, “The Marriage of Corporate & UX Strategy”, Leah’s presentation told the story of potentially colliding initiatives at Intuit focused on similar innovation objectives, but owned by two completely different parts of the organization - the UX organization working under the inspiration and direction of the product and business unit and without direct visibility to the CEO; and a Corporate Strategy team with the directive coming straight from the CEO. These two initiatives were well underway before anyone realized that they were both happening simultaneously and with overlapping goals.


Even after both teams were aware of one another’s initiatives, the projects continued independently until a wise senior executive told the two project leads, “You two need to work together.” As Leah tells the story, it took several months for the two teams to synch up on how to leverage the best of their respective approaches without overlap to achieve the common goal of “Reinventing Payments”.


Two of the happy outcomes Leah identified from the UX / Corporate Strategy team partnership were: 1) the oft coveted, but seldom realized “seat at the CEO table” for the UX team, which was expected to foster better UX team involvement in future strategic initiatives, and; 2) recognition from the CEO and other leadership that, “you have taken something prosaic and made it beautiful.” How’s that for a great meme to circulate throughout the corporate culture?


Bear with me while I digress into a bit of sales philosophy before circling back to the post’s closing point…


One of my favorite quotes and inspirations for selling in the 21st Century business landscape comes from Edward Bursk, a Harvard Business Review editor and professional sales person who proposed a new model of low-pressure selling that “is not driving the prospect into a buying decision, but letting him reach the decision himself; not selling him, but letting him buy.”


Edward proposed that there is a natural desire on the part of people to engage in buying, as it gives them a sense of empowerment and freedom as well as the enjoyment for the thing they ultimately purchase. In this model, it's the job of the sales person to guide the buying process in collaboration with the customer by establishing trust and supporting the exploration of options to reach a mutually-beneficial decision.


Alas, Edward is not with us anymore, he wrote this article in 1947, and I’m not sure we have embraced the full implications of this idea, even 66 years later.


To me, it says that businesses who seek to sell a product or service must put themselves in the shoes of the buyer, see through their eyes and feel through their heart. And what better way to do this than bringing together the best of approaches and methodologies that have evolved in the fields of UX and CX (and perhaps others?) and plan a corporate strategy and the associated systems that are truly “customer-focused.” That to me could be the Holy Grail for 21st Century Business and the answer to the question of why customer experience and user experience matter.


 Chris Allen has 30+ years in sales of business services and products; 17 years consistent top performer with global, 200 employee company in sales of user-experience research and design consulting and training services to Fortune 500 companies.

Specialties: Team-based consultative selling; sales strategy & implementation; training / mentoring new sales people. Strong concentration in sales of User Experience (UX) strategy, research & design services. Industry experience includes financial, telecommunications, travel, health care industry sectors; e-Commerce, internet, Intranet, and software solution domains.


Chris Allen, CUA - Sales Director - Eastern Region / Global Accounts Director

Office: 828.645.0360 |  Email: callen@humanfactors.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisphilipallen

Twitter: @salesmystic http://twitter.com/salesmystic

Related HFI Whitepaper: http://humanfactors.com/UXResearch.asp


Leah Buley | 650-944-3147 (desk) | 415-341-4362 (mobile)
Design Strategist | Design Innovation Group

References: Harvard Business Review: “On Sales and Selling”, copyright 2008, Harvard Business Press


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