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Friday, November 13, 2020

Becoming an Experience-led Company: Part 3

Co-authored by Jason Cimino, Jon Green, Ben Johnson, Justin Kaufman, and Ben Wakeman

This is part three of our four-part series for how to transform your business to thrive in the Experience Economy.

Thought: Becoming an Experience-led Company: Part 3
Becoming an Experience-led Company: Part 3Head of Strategic Growth — Jason Cimino
Thought: Becoming an Experience-led Company: Part 3

Transforming your organization at the DNA level can seem like a daunting task. The good news is that you don’t have to do everything at once. Becoming experience-led is not an all-or-nothing proposition. In fact, it’s very easy—even advisable—to kick off your transformation with a single action.

Becoming an Experience-led Business

The truth is, you already have the resources you need, you just need to use them differently. Becoming experience-led isn’t about tearing everything down and starting from scratch. It’s about looking at challenges and opportunities from a different perspective, applying experience methodology to age-old problems, and then finding new ways to refocus efforts, collaborate, and solve those problems.

The process of transitioning to an experience-led approach is simple:

  • Identify a problem

  • Look at that problem through the lens of empathy

  • Determine how to take action in a way that solves the problem empathetically

In short, start any problem-solving endeavor by thinking first about the experience of the person at the end of the process. What does that person want, need, expect? What would delight that person? You still need to build your solution within existing constraints and ensure that it serves business needs but looking at things through the eyes of the end user helps you maintain focus on the experience.

The beauty is that this approach can be applied to any type of issue — large or small, customer facing or internal, top of funnel or retention focused. And the solutions can be simple niceties that contribute to the experience on an aesthetic or “delight” level, or they can include more complex functionality that drives specific business outcomes.

The Delight Factor

Mailchimp: When they first launched their “Freddie high five” animation, Mailchimp called it “one of the most satisfying pieces of the Mailchimp experience.” Mailchimp wanted to help small business owners celebrate the small victory of completing the lengthy process of creating an email campaign. They wanted people to feel good about what they had accomplished. The playful Freddie high five animation was a small design lift, but is a consistent and often commented on source of delight for Mailchimp customers.

B&H Photo: B&H Photo created a similar moment of delight when they enhanced their e-commerce app with a conveyor-belt-to-shopping-cart animation that pays homage to the superstore’s one-of-a-kind, conveyor belt delivery system that transports products from their retail locations to checkout. Initially, the animation was designed to fill in the wait time created by some technical deficiencies. While the animation was originally implemented to reduce customer frustration, it ultimately provided even more value by creating a delightful moment. App reviewers actually called the animation out as a highlight. It made their day.

Empathetic Functionality

B&H Photo: B&H’s app also included some heavy-hitting features designed to keep customers engaged beyond purchase. The app used incredibly high-quality product images to replicate the in-person experience of handling the product. It also included downloadable digital product manuals so that customers had the option to view the manual through the app or view a hard copy and continue shopping in the app.

Quick-service Restaurant: When one of the global leaders in the fast-food industry rolled out their mobile ordering capability, their biggest concern was ensuring that customers’ food was hot when they picked it up. After a tremendous amount of development and testing, they delivered a solution that used geo-fencing and geo-location technologies to ensure their fries would always be served hot and delicious. The app automatically scheduled the order to be processed based on when the customer crosses a geofence to ensure the food is at peak quality when the customer pulls into the designated pick-up parking spot.

Wherever you start, keep reminding yourself that transformation isn’t about doing everything at once. You can start with a single action, and often that first action unlocks another opportunity, which uncovers other possibilities, and suddenly you see your customers and your business in a whole new light. The idea that, in an experience-led company, everything is connected is not just lip service. It’s reality.

You can set yourself up to take full advantage of this reality and all the opportunities it holds by addressing four key areas: mindset, company structure, people, and technology.

Cultivate the Right Company Mindset

Experience is all about how you make people feel, so you can’t approach it solely through the lens of revenue, profits, or technology. Experience is bigger than that. 

Experience is the “channel” via which you build a relationship with customers, employees, and partners—anyone who interacts with your business. And just like human-to-human relationships, experience is always evolving and adapting. It’s not something you can cross off a to-do list. It’s something you need to cultivate, iterate on, and improve over time. Some things you do will earn you gold stars. Other times, you will screw up. In either case, there’s always something to learn.

A great experience proves that you care. It shows that you are willing to look at the world through someone else’s eyes and do everything you can to help them solve their problems in a way that works for them, not you. 

This mindset—considering everything you do as being “in service of” the overall experience—is the key to customer experience success. And the keys to bringing this mindset to life are empathy and authenticity.


Empathy is something that tends to get more lip service than actual play, but it’s a crucial ingredient of all great experiences. Merriam-Webster defines empathy as, “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” In other words, empathy is understanding someone’s feelings and needs without having to be told. 

Obviously, developing true empathy requires that you really get to know your customers, employees, and partners. That almost goes without saying, except that sometimes we fall into the trap of making assumptions about what we think we know. Best practice is to use a rigorous blend of qualitative and quantitative research to get the facts. Persona development can be helpful, but don’t discount the value of individual stories to help you shape and refine your understanding of the different people you serve and work with.

And don’t be afraid to take a no-punches-pulled look at how you are and are not living up to the goal of being empathetic. You may find that some areas—customer support, for example—may already be predisposed to demonstrate empathy while others may need to work a little harder to shift their perspective and performance. Having those difficult conversations is all part of becoming experience-led.


Being authentic starts with knowing who you are. You can’t be true to something unless you can clearly define what that something is. Business authenticity starts with a deep dive on why you got into business to begin with. What problem are you trying to solve? Whom do you serve? What makes you different? Why do you care?

Authentic companies are committed to the things they believe in:

  • Zappos is passionate about wowing customers with over-the-top customer service including unlimited call times, no scripts, and no phone trees.

  • Warby Parker is bringing designer eyewear to the masses at reasonable prices and ensuring, through their buy-one-give-one program, that more people who need glasses have them.

  • Biolite is working to use advanced technologies and sustainable business practices to create safe, affordable energy for those in need alongside outdoor cooking products for commercial markets. 

The Next Step

Think about how to align everyone in your company and everything they do around staying true to your business purpose and mission. This may sound like company culture 101, but when it’s done right and in the context of creating a better customer experience, it can be transformative. The process needs to touch every area of your business and involve everyone. Because designing a winning customer experience is an entirely holistic endeavor, you have to get all the different pieces working together in harmony.

Download our POV to learn how to become a company that is able to envision and execute exceptional digital experiences.