Posted on 5th of November, 2019

The what, why and how of customer experience design

This month’s Think Tank Partner is a creative genius that has a passion for designing meaningful services and experiences with a human-centric approach. With collaborations on projects with Coworking and Coliving phenomenon’s such as Zoku, Vermaat and Colonies in his portfolio SALTO KS is proud to present this inspiring guest blog written by Felix Burghardt:

Hey there, I am an Amsterdam-based experience designer with a hospitality background, German roots, a problem-solving brain and an eye for detail.

My experience spans across multiple continents, cultures and industries, from luxury hospitality to cutting-edge boutique hybrid hotels, to coworking and coliving spaces but also food & beverage concepts. This has allowed me to gain valuable skills in creating and implementing meaningful services and experiences based on a human-centric approach, to increase guest satisfaction & engagement and generate sustainable business growth.

If you are not familiar with what experience design is or why it is important to your business, then keep on reading this article.

What is experience design?

According to Kaospilot, an innovative hybrid business and design school in Denmark, ‘experience design is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience.’ Experience design creates moments of memories and engagement between brands and their audiences through exceeding expectations, emotional engagement and involving the user as co-creator. It ultimately helps build your brand around your customers and what matters most to them instead of the other way around.

My very own definition and what I love most about experience design is that it is a catalyst for positive emotions, engagement and connections. Paired with a sense of purpose, this is what makes businesses thrive.

Why is it important in today’s world?

‘Customers who had the best past experience spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experiences.’ Peter Kriss, Harvard Business Review

We are currently living in an age lead by rapid innovation and digitalization, where customers increasingly look for experiences rather than just objects.

But still, a lot of brands use standardized services to stay competitive. For customers, it becomes difficult to differentiate one brand from another, and their decisions will often be based on the quality-price ratio. In their book, The Experience Economy, Pine and Gilmore call this effect commoditization. In their opinion, it is through staging memorable experiences you can create successful market differentiation and drive economic growth.

Experiences are not only important to stand out from your competitors and to level up your services, but also to create a stronger relationship with your audience and therefore increase loyalty. In the book ‘The Power of Moments’ Chip and Dan Heath explain that to create fans you need the remarkable and that requires peaks. Peaks don’t emerge naturally. They must be built. So instead of only focusing on building a complaint-free service, it is necessary to include moments of surprise and delight to create a memorable customer experience.

Well-Designed customer experience makes your audience feel that you care about them and that they are more than just part of a process. It’s one of the most effective marketing tools as people love to share stories of their experiences with their friends and family, online as well as offline. Or as Forbes calls it, customer experience is ‘the new brand’.

4 tips on how to design a great customer experience:

Apply human-centric research

An essential part of how I approach projects and create experiences is to first understand more about the client and their customers. Having a good understanding of what your customers desire and what the drivers of their actions are is key to exceed their expectations. Therefore, for me, the first step is always gaining empathy and putting myself in the shoes of the users. In order to get these insights, it helps to start interacting with your customers whenever possible. Use something as simple as elevator rides to find out more about them. Conduct interviews asking a series of ‘why’ questions. Start to observe their behaviour and how they interact with your online & offline community.

Define a high concept

In order to create a cohesive experience that involves many different points of interaction, and to structure its concept and design process, it is essential to define a guiding premise at the beginning of the process. The high concept is a clear statement that explains the core meaning you will create for your users with your future experience and aims to create guidance, excitement and engagement internally. In order to come up with a high concept ask ‘What if …’ questions and reframe it as a statement.

Design for memory

Experiences are not always about the beginning but also about how they end. According to Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and economist Daniel Khaneman, two things have a big influence on what we remember of a past experience. According to him, it’s about how we felt at the peak (good or bad) and at the end of an experience (peak-end rule). In order to design for memory, make sure to have a closer look at how you can implement peaks and unexpected changes into your customer journey as well as a happy end. This doesn’t mean that all other parts of experience don’t matter. But it’s definitely worth to keep the end in mind when designing an experience.

Balance technology with humanity

Great customer experiences revolve around your audience and ultimately help them reach their goals. Technology can assist to reach these goals faster and in a more convenient way. Technology should focus on solving a problem and not necessarily be implemented just for the sake of innovation. It should not distract from the real human experimentation of the experience, but be used to surprise, delight and enable a frictionless and personalized journey.

Final takeaway

There are obviously many more things to take into consideration when designing a memorable and engaging customer experience. These can range from creating excitement before the experience starts to define what you want your audience to feel and think during the experience, to deciding how you can extend the process and align and organize all stages within a customer journey. But these tips will definitely help to understand your audience better and create something that adds value to their experience and to your brand.

For more tips on how to enhance your customer experience journey, have a look at another recent article of mine here.

If you want to work together or have any questions, feel free to get in touch via and stop by at to learn more about what I do. Always happy to help.

Good luck out there!

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