It’s a very interesting thought, that there is an important distinction between customer experience and human experience, that some of us might forget or not actually think about. We have chosen this insight for you and we hope that it might open up for new ideas on how you can market your business.
Businesses that focus only on customer experience may be missing a significant opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level.
We don’t wake up in the morning as “customers.” We don’t pour that delightful first cup of life-giving coffee and think, “I am the end user of this coffee.” So why does the business world insist on grouping—and trying to understand—people as customers when, before anything else, we are human? We are messy, inconsistent, and, perhaps most of all, emotional—and it’s time for businesses to acknowledge, respect, and account for this.
The fields of philosophy, religion, social science, psychology, biology—and yes, marketing—have spilled much ink defining what it means to be human. The expansion of the field of human-centered design brings the human into focus for many businesses at a time when the power and reach of digital technologies have been growing exponentially. Today, the rise of automated and augmented intelligence makes the question about what defines us as human—and what it means to form an experience that is human—even more urgent.
While the human experience can be difficult to articulate, it’s ultimately defined by the energy, connection, and meaning we live and breathe each day. Our best experiences are serendipitous, shared, and free. Our desire for connections with others and for meaningful experiences informs our stories, whether they are real or imagined. We tell our children stories about mythical creatures and fairies, we tell stories about what our lives mean, we tell stories of our loves and losses. These stories evoke feelings we remember long after hearing these narratives.
Creating Human Connections
Why is this relevant to today’s business leaders, and to CMOs in particular? Now more than ever, it’s critical for businesses to understand how to connect with customers by creating experiences and stories that resonate on a deeply human level. While many marketers already focus a great deal on customer experience, there is an important distinction between that and human experience.
Customer experience starts with the premise that an organization’s actions matter—that, for example, call center wait times and a product’s user interface are important. However, human experience starts with the premise that an individual’s beliefs, values, feelings, and ambitions are even more important because they form the foundation for who they are and what they want from the organizations with which they choose to engage. Human experience encompasses an organization’s workforce and partners as well. Indeed, connecting with these stakeholders on a more human level is critical to providing a better experience to customers.
While getting an entire organization to see people as humans rather than customers can be challenging, many companies are making headway. These organizations are examining their values and rethinking the ways they engage customers, employees, and partners. They are making difficult choices to place human needs at the center of everything they do, both internally and externally. And they are course-correcting when necessary, communicating with transparency if their values and actions aren’t in sync. As brand stewards, marketers have a timely opportunity—arguably, an imperative—to lead the effort to create more human experiences. Today’s technology and data can enable this at an unprecedented scale, but the shift requires organizations first to embrace a few guiding principles:
Be obsessed by all things human. Marketers can ask themselves: What will enable a connection with another individual—whether that person is a customer, employee, or partner—in this moment? What stories can we tell? What experiences can we create? What senses can we engage to evoke a feeling?
Proactively identify and understand human needs before they are expressed. Perhaps somewhat ironically, predictive analytics and AI are allowing brands to use insights to be more human and relevant in moments that matter. Augmented intelligence can allow us to show up with greater humanity at a scale never before possible.
Execute with humanity. This requires organizations to be fast and agile to meet a person at the point of need, even if the need is to slow down and build connection. Brands can’t be human if they can’t be present.
Be authentic. A human experience can’t be faked, and delivering it through a mobile phone or a chat bot can be difficult. It requires the entire organization, from front office to back office and back, to embrace the shift.
Change the world. A human experience can be transformative; it takes on a life of its own, in the same way that a smile begets a smile. That’s a high bar for marketers—but one worth striving to achieve.
Organizations that go beyond delivering on customer experience to elevating the human experience will be better positioned to create more meaningful connections, foster loyalty, and drive growth. The more we can understand what people value, the more we can engage them with the stories and experiences that will resonate most. And the more we can create connections that are meaningful and mutually valuable for the human and the organization, the better we will all be. In this frenetic, impersonal, digital age, who wouldn’t want to be treated just a little bit more like a human?
This article was originally published on The Wall Street Journal and is written by Anthony Stephan, Customer & Marketing Portfolio leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP; and Amelia Dunlop, Customer Strategy & Applied Design leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP