It is without a doubt that today’s hottest companies – the likes of Google, Apple, Uber and Airbnb – have risen to their status because of the way they deliver one thing well: customer experience.
Whether it’s through technology, or design, or both – they design an experience that is simple, accessible and convenient for users that the experience of dealing with the products created by these companies become the product itself.
Why do these companies prevail while others lag?
I have a few reasons in mind:
Good design elevates workaday, ordinary human experiences. Day to day life is inherently boring and tedious. Waking up to go through a set of routines to prepare yourself for the day, the logistics of transit to get to your destination, the hours spent at work being pulled in seemingly endless meetings and sitting down for hours to actually do work, then after work it’s a charade of figuring out how to best unwind, where to go for happy hour, only to come back home and do a set of routines again to prepare yourself for bed… needless to say, there’s nothing special about it.
Until, of course, you believe there is. And these companies are in the business of designing that quality of specialness that makes our days less tedious. Uber helps you grab a car with a few taps on a phone. Airbnb helps you book interesting lodging that stray away from conventional, monotonous hotel accommodations. Apple designs products that feel good to use that doing work on your computer or phone becomes easy, so you can be more productive. Google makes looking for things – even the most obscure, under wraps, seemingly hidden information – discoverable online in a fool-proof way.
This is why we are drawn to these companies. They introduce something so simple – design, access, technology – and it changes our experience completely.
Technology is a crucial aspect of delivering new experiences. Technology allows us to do many things. One of its most useful feature is the way it connects things, people, entities. Whether it’s chatting with friends on Skype of Telegram, or receiving promos from in-app notifications, or a reminder to track expenses or calories for the day – technology is an important channel to deliver new information and product features, creating new experiences for the user who’s always on mobile nowadays. Companies who use technology are not only able to deliver products and communications well, but they also do so with such effectiveness. Particularly when these products and communications need to be delivered at scale to many, many digital users. Today’s successful companies have cracked the code to engage their customers, and it starts with communication.
Designing experiences with technology becomes part of the brand promise. Decades ago, who could’ve ever dreamt that you can book someone else’s car with a few clicks on a mobile phone? Who could’ve thought that you’ll find your grade school classmates class online especially if you’ve lost touch with them since you went to school abroad? Or to hire a decent stranger to deliver the standard items on your grocery list? But these experiences are now the new norm. And these ideas started in someone’s mind, but was designed, built and launched via technology. These are the kinds of ideas that will win in the digital age – the kind of concepts that introduce interesting experiences, that are executed well harnessing the power of technology – and the culmination of these become the brand promise. The consumer marketplace is cluttered with so many brands to choose from, and most customers can’t differentiate anymore what makes a good brand better than the other. Brands have become commodity, and to respond means a journey back to the essence of a brand – this means creating experiences that communicate what the brand is about – its core values, personality, positioning, that special thing it brings forth that is different from the rest. The very method that brands engage with customers now is a reflection of the brand. The medium is the message, if you will. And that medium is now technology-driven.
What fascinates me about these companies is not only how they use design and technology to create delightful experiences, but they also impact our lives and thus, influence culture. And as they influence culture, they shift it. And that shift in turn permeates many things – how we perceive the world, what new products companies make in the future, what products become available, what becomes important to us, what new policies are created.
Imagine if you could develop a simple concept, build it into a product, deliver it to people, change lives, and thus change society in the process? That is powerful.