The experience is the differentiator

May 17, 2017 / By Andy Vitale

By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. This is due, largely in part, to the fact that the role of the customer has changed from isolated to connected, from unaware to informed, from passive to active. Customers have access to unprecedented amounts of information, often at their fingertips, allowing them to make more informed decisions. They are more open to sharing ideas than ever before, without worrying about social or geographic barriers.

This is especially true in health care and as a result, more companies are focusing on the user experience of their products. The user experience is not just how the product looks, but more about the satisfaction, or delight, users have when performing necessary tasks. It’s not about a single task or touchpoint. The overall experience encompasses all aspects of the user’s interaction with a company and its products and services.

When it comes to the user experience, design and technology are equally important. While the experience is a blend of interacting with design and technology, first impressions are 94 percent design related. When a product is difficult to use, or doesn’t allow tasks to be completed easily, it is considered poorly designed, or a bad experience. The marriage of technology and design allows users to not just complete tasks, but to enjoy doing so.

In order to create an emotional experience, there needs to be a solid relationship with users to understand their pain points and desired results, both articulated and unarticulated. User Experience (UX) Designers are specialists who build and cultivate relationships between the business and its customers through trust and empathy. UX Designers spend time with users, observing their workflow and asking questions to understand their mental model. Through contextual inquiry, empathy mapping, journey mapping, and other tools in the UX Designer’s toolkit, they confront the realities of customer emotions—be that happiness, joy, anger, or frustration—and the motivations behind their behavior. UX Designers continue to work closely with the users to validate solutions and continually improve the product experience.

In health care, creating an optimal experience for users—whether patients, providers or payers—has a much larger impact than being a better product than the competition. Completing tasks more efficiently allows users to focus more on their actual work rather than taking time to figure out how to change their workflow to fit the workflow of the product. Ensuring accuracy and compliance will result in less time spent in audits and reviews, freeing up time to focus on processes and other improvements around quality of care. Reducing and preventing errors not only has financial and clinical impact, but in some instances, can be the difference between life and death. When the stakes are as high as they are in health care, the experience of allowing users to achieve their goals and solve their problems truly makes a difference.

Andy Vitale is a UX design principal at 3M Health Care.