Archive for the ‘customer experience’ Category

The ACEO model of user experience research

Monday, September 1st, 2014

When designing a diary study to do ux research, user research or customer experience research, it is handy to have the ACEO model in mind as a guide.

ACEO stands for:

•    Activity – what are people doing?
•    Context – what is the context of their experience?
•    Emotion – what is the emotional impact?
•    Outcome – what is the result of the experience on the user/customer?

These are the four main elements of any individual experience. Structuring your exploration along these lines of enquiry will help you fully understand what is happening and why.

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:


Quite simply what are people doing or trying to do relating to your product or service at that moment in time? This is an easy task to start with and will form the basis for the rest of your enquiry.


What is happening at the time that might add a different meaning or interpretation to what people are doing? For example, what is their goal at that particular point? What frame of mind are they in? What other external factors are colouring their experience?


Daniel Kahneman tells us that emotional peaks are the things that stick with us most, that make an experience a memorable experience.

And research for the advertising industry shows that if people feel nothing, they do nothing. The IPA found that emotional communications are 12 times more efficient in driving market share. If it’s action we want then we have to make people feel.

So we need to ask: what emotions are people feeling? How strong are these and what is driving them?


Which leads us to our final element: outcome. We are not interested in user experiences out of idle curiosity – we need to know from a business perspective what this experience adds up to – either on its own and together with other experiences.

Only by tracking the outcome can we work out whether the experience was effective against any given goal and if and how it could be optimised.

Here we need to ask: what did people do next? Was this as a result of the experience? What was the influence of this experience on perceptions of the product / service / brand?


So there you have the ACEO modelActivity – Context – Emotion – Outcome, a four point framework for structuring your experience research diary studies.

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Capturing the real customer experience

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Yesterday I spoke at an event organised by the very nice people at Hard to Measure. Great turnout of interesting people from different backgrounds, but all interested in how we can capture the (real) customer experience.

Here’s the blurb…

In the Experience Economy, capturing the real customer experience is more important than ever. But the proliferation of digital technology has both multiplied and changed the nature of customer touchpoints, making this task more complex.

In addition, recent thinking from behavioural economics tells us it is not always straightforward to get to a true understanding of our customers’ experiences. The reasons people do things may be a mystery to themselves, let alone market researchers.

In this talk I look at the shift in the customer landscape and our understanding of ourselves, before looking at practical ways to capture the real customer experience with examples from the nativeye insight platform.

Nobody knows what they are doing

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

In marketing at least – according to Razorfish’s Clark Kokich.

He is talking about those that practice the old, “This is what we are, and how do we shine it up?” model of marketing rather than creating “brand experiences” that run deeper.

“It’s less about advertising and more about creating an experience that transforms what it means to be a customer of a brand. And that change has really caused a lot of consternation in marketing because none of us were trained to do that.”

To make this shift he praises curiosity over expertise.

“What you need more than expertise is curiosity, someone who’s interested in what’s happening, loves change, and wants to develop ideas and drive change…You’re just not relevant if you’re fighting the reality of what’s happening.”

And to know what’s happening and what opportunities are out there you have to be plugged into your audiences’ lives more than ever.

It’s the journey (or, designing for the ecosystem)

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Cindy Chastain says, “It’s the customer journey; not the persona” that matters when designing for today’s ecosystem of digital and real-world services.

She says some other smart things like:

  • Considering customer journeys is now a business strategy tool not just design
  • Within the ecosystem, marketing moves from “persuasion” to “value” (I read this as total, integrated brand utility, if you like, not just one-offs)
  • Right thing, right context
  • Iteration and constant learning are the foods that feed the ecosystem
  • Marketers shifting mindset from linear to iterative

It’s interesting to see UX principles shifting to inform the broader brand experience, not just the design of individual interfaces. And this article by Tomer Sharon is another testament to the mainstreaming of Lean UX principles, as pioneered by startups.

Research and faster horses

Friday, August 24th, 2012

I think this is the best response to the statement – “Why ask customers? They don’t know what they want.”

Steve Jobs never asked. And as we all know, Henry Ford said that if you did ask customers you wouldn’t have gotten the car, just a faster horse.

As Brian Solis writes in the linked article, sometimes customers do know what they want, sometimes they don’t. But if you don’t ask you won’t know. And if you do ask you might discover inspiration for your next innovation:

Other byproducts of good research include the ability to feel customer empathy and translate it into inspiration

Research on the ‘Perception Gap’ by Pivot reveals that 76% of marketers feel they know what their customers want yet only 34% have asked customers – giving rise to the title of the research presumably.

There’s an arrogance associated with not doing innovation research. And if you aren’t Steve Jobs (no-one is), then this arrogance will distance you from what customers want and need (whether or not they can articulate it exactly), leaving your business less relevant and competitive than it once was.

Developing an experience strategy

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

What is an experience strategy?

Experience Strategy = Business Strategy + UX Strategy*

It’s why your business is developing products and services the way it is, not just what.

Why would you need one?

1. Helps you evaluate new products and features in light of the goals of your business as well as the value to the user.

The strategy that you develop for your product ought not evolve in isolation. Even though the value of user experience is clear, your over-arching reasons for providing something should be considered with equal weight.

Mental Models, Indi Young

2. Bridge the gap between brand promise and experience 


3. “The experience is the product”

It’s simply how you succeed in today’s experience economy

How do you develop one?

Start with the customer perspective. As we can see from the 7 dimensions of customer experience, this really is a business-wide challenge. Strating with customer perspective helps take out office politics and focus different departments on a common goal.

You may want to develop a mental model. As Indi Young points out:

A mental model helps you visualize how your business strategy looks compared to the existing user experience. Thus, it is a diagram that can support your experience strategy.

While technology and operating conditions might change quickly, mental models change slowly (providing a welcome anchor in a hectic world).

Map business goals and strategy against user mental models to see how they compare.


*Jesse James Garrett, “Experience Strategies — The Key to Long-term Design Value.”

Mapping the Whole Experience

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Have been revisiting Indi Young’s Mental Models recently. In one section she urges readers to ‘Pay attention to the whole experience’ when building up a model of user experience.

The “whole experience” includes all the ways an organization interacts with its users: stores, account statements, customer service calls, product ordering web sites, packaging, and so forth.

The reason to do this is to gain competitive advantage:

Businesses that pay attention to the entire spectrum of customer interaction, and get it right most of the time, win attention and loyalty. Because the mental model depicts the whole of the user’s environment—it is not focused on one aspect, service, or tool—it represents the user’s perspective of the whole experience.

This echoes the call to pay attention to the 7 dimensions of branded customer experience that bridge the gap between brand promise and experience.

One of the applications of nativeye is to map all the points customers experience your product, service or brand – helping you to build user mental model based on real user data.

7 dimensions of the branded customer experience

Monday, August 6th, 2012

We’ve talked before about the challenge of bridging the gap between brand promise and experience. Here’s some more from the CIM report about the 7 areas that need to be aligned.

From Maz Iqbal:

According to the CIM: “Over the last fifteen years, the concept of branding has evolved from merely a design and communications-led ideal to one which runs far deeper into the DNA of an organisation. Today’s CMO has little choice but to acknowledge that whilst brands are built on promises, it’s the experience delivered that makes the difference between a myth and a reality.”  So how are marketers and the organisations they work for/within getting on in making this shift?

According to the research/report put out by CIM there are 7 key dimensions at the heart of the branded customer experience: strategic vision, leadership, customer-centricity, culture, operations, measurement and marketing clout. 

Read more about each of these 7 dimensions here

Brand promise, customer experience and everything in between

Friday, July 20th, 2012

This article calls on marketers to fix the disconnect between the promises brands make and the actual experience customers receive.

“Essentially, brands are built on promises but it’s the experience you have of an organisation that constitutes reality.” Thomas Brown, head of insights at the CIM

It suggests marketers are falling into the trap of claiming more and more about their brand in order to cut through in the crowded marketplace, but without backing it up in practice.

Is lack of customer insight to blame? Perhaps only on the part of senior marketers:

The CIM report found that while customer insight and research are being shared across business units, and senior leaders, it rarely permeates the ranks of the organisation. Only 14 per cent of the marketers surveyed said it was the main driver of decision making.

Not that this insight should be applied in a uniform way. An advertising campaign can be outrageous and not based in reality as long is this is understood by the audience not to be an actual product claim. Good brand communication and good customer experience can look very different – as long as they both deliver on their respective briefs.

But it may be that when it comes to customer experience, useful trumps engaging. For Google at least:

Google’s problem is also the challenge that many brands now face- given the complexity of media fragmentation, brands want to try and create deeper engagement through social media channels with their creative assets, but there’s a big danger here; brands need to be providing things that are ultimately useful to consumers.


Too specific a focus on communication engagement might lead brands to take their eye of the ball and not continue to innovate their product portfolio, falsely believing that engaging communication is a substitute.

Brand Utility anyone?


Happy to help?

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Great customer service happens at an individual level – when you deal with a rep or customer assistant – but is enabled by the overall company culture, tools and happiness of that company’s employees.

Happy staff

It’s obvious when someone is not happy, and when it’s customer-facing staff this unhappiness spreads like a malevolent virus making for an uncomfortable customer experience. So we need happy staff. But what else?

A customer-centred culture

Great customer service is embedded in a company culture. It’s written in the manuals but more importantly it’s evidenced in everyday practices – the visible ‘what we do around here’, and managers lead by example. Organisations with customer-centred cultured plan and invest with the end customer in mind and train, equip and reward their staff to act in a customer-centred way.

Empowering staff

One of the most important tools is giving staff the discretion to act as they see fit on the ground. How many times have you phoned up a customer service line and had to be referred to the rep’s line manager? Contrary to what you might think, the first person couldn’t deal with your enquiry or request because they were a moron, but because they had clear areas of power to act that they are not allowed to exceed.


Coming soon – PART II Monitoring the employee experience

See also: Are you being served? nativeye’s experiment tracking the best and worst customer service out there