Delivering a great customer experience is the key that unlocks growth and profitability. Businesses in every industry – from airlines to IT service companies—succeed or fail based on one element: the customer’s experience. Thomas A. Stewart and Patricia O’Connell, leading customer experience experts and authors of the best-selling book “Woo, Wow and Win: Service Design, Strategy and the Art of Customer Delight” (HarperCollins, November 2016), say that great experience is no accident. It needs to be designed into the very fabric of a company, not slapped on as an afterthought.

Reaching this stage depends on a provider’s ability to design and deliver the experience they want customers to have, and to make it reliable, repeatable, scalable and profitable.  Companies must relentlessly find and fix the pain points customers encounter and, with equal energy, amplify the interactions that make customers glad—turning “Ows!” to “Ahhs!” and converting buyers into evangelists.

The omni-channel world and the move to digitization present a new set of challenges. Businesses must deliver a customer experience that is coherent and consistent with their value proposition, regardless of where or how it is being delivered. Stewart and O’Connell help companies apply the principles of service design to deliver empathetic, personalized experiences that delight customers while advancing their own strategic goals.

As retailers struggle to make sense of an increasingly digital world that is about both fragmentation and consolidation, they could do worse than study IKEA’s playbook.Click To Tweet

In a February 2018 blog, Stewart and O’Connell pointed to the late Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, as an example of how to digitally adapt an existing business model. IKEA, they wrote, was a quintessential experience-focused company. IKEA’s Ahh moment was in the collective experience of the store: how “rooms” were displayed so people could imagine living in them; how childcare and food options showed empathy for shoppers’ needs. So, IKEA replicated digitally what made its brand so strong in person. “Its web pages…echo the stores,” Stewart and O’Connell write. “Websites offer ‘Click and Collect’ locations where customers can pick up what they’ve ordered.” Recognizing that some people find the DIY part of IKEA daunting, the retailer partnered with the digital platform TaskRabbit to connect buyers with furniture-assembling handymen. This empathetic intersection of convenience, reliability and helpfulness allows IKEA to provide a positive experience that forges customer loyalty.

In its digital capabilities, IKEA provides a different Ahh moment, but the experience remains the same. Stewart and O’Connell help companies from a variety of industries find their own way to translate the personality and predictability of their services to the nature of the digital economy.