Five Surprising Ways to Unearth UX Differentiators

Living in an age of customer expectation, customer loyalty and fierce competition, unearthing UX differentiators is a valuable skill and currency in any business, writes Andy Ingle.

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Voice of the CustomerInsights

Published: September 12, 2023

Andy Ingle

Andy Ingle

Creating UX differentiators is about going beyond the ordinary – making the user journey easier to navigate, minimising complexities and adding moments of joy. Whether it’s a unique functionality, design element, or approach to solving a particular user need – CX differentiators allow businesses to be creative with their brand, gain a competitive advantage and provide a superior user experience.

From brand differentiation and customer loyalty, to cost savings and having an innovative edge, unearthing differentiators can ultimately drive growth, instil customer loyalty, and increase revenue.

Yet how exactly can businesses unearth these sought-after differentiators?

1. Sweat the data

As you might have guessed, a huge amount of what is recommended is about understanding your customers and researching methods to do this.

Regardless of how much research you do, nothing will be as accurate as real data. Having the right tracking in place and being able to visualise this will mean you’re able to identify areas in which you’re falling short and measure improvement over time.

It’s important to remember that data doesn’t come from a single source. Whilst web analytics are great for seeing the ‘what’, it’s not really going to tell you the ‘why’ – which, if you’re looking for differentiators, is what you need to know.

Web analytics are great for seeing the ‘what’, but they aren’t going to tell you the ‘why’.

In this instance, try looking at other data points: call logs, chat records, CRM systems like ZenDesk – anything that gives you a better understanding of what the challenges your customers are facing really are.

Once you have a clear idea of these challenges, you can start to imagine new experiences that address these challenges in surprising and delightful ways.

2. Know what else is out there

Customers don’t use your product or service on its own. The fact is that you are part of a much wider digital ecosystem and customers are likely using your services whilst darting about between others to complete what they need to do. This is the same for your competitors.

What’s important here is to understand that wider ecosystem. What are people doing elsewhere? How could you help your customers do more? How successful are your competitors at doing this? What are people outside your sector offering? What does that mean for people’s expectations of your brand?

All these questions can be answered through simple journey mapping exercises (based on customer research) or a regularly updated competitor review. Knowing where you fit in this ecosystem can help you to identify where to invest and grow your share of the customer journey.

3. Identify the ‘jobs to be done’

If you want to put some more rigour around the understanding of the wider ecosystem, you could use the ‘jobs to be done’ framework to put some real metrics around potential opportunities.

Start by speaking to customers to understand their ‘jobs to be done’. What are the things they need to do through their customer journey?

For example, if you’re a mortgage provider, you are part of the bigger picture of a house-buyer’s journey. Identify the ‘jobs’ people need from your service (calculating costs, applying, etc.) and the other jobs (getting a survey, tracking progress, etc.) needed to reach their desired outcome.

Once you’ve identified these jobs, you can use a survey to understand how important this job is to people and whether or not they think this job is currently well served by you or by someone else.

Finding areas of high opportunity means you can identify critical areas in which the wider CX falls short.

What you’re looking for here are areas that people feel are important but poorly served – there’s an actual equation you can put around this data to calculate an ‘opportunity score’.  Finding areas of high opportunity means you can identify critical areas in which the wider customer experience currently falls short.

4. Get under the skin of your customers

All of this research will help you to provide logical areas of opportunity. But what about how people really feel?

Consider how you can immerse yourself in your customer’s world, so you can truly understand the mental state and wider environment people are in when they’re trying to use your product.

You can use diary studies, interviews, guerrilla research, product self-evaluation – whatever it takes for you to get a greater understanding of the stress pinch points of the customers and what you can do to help navigate them smoothly through it.

5. Unravel the internal problems

Sometimes, bigger customer issues aren’t solved by developing external solutions, they’re solved by addressing internal issues.

For example, think about a supermarket delivery service. One of the major customer challenges is likely to be getting a delivery slot. This isn’t something that can be solved via an improved front-end experience; however, improving internal efficiency and better route planning could mean more delivery slots could be opened up.

Internal applications that improve organisational efficiency are often undervalued in the benefit that they bring to front-end customer experience. Putting back-end systems in place that allow you to provide a superior and more efficient front-end experience can deliver a huge differentiator between you and your competitors.

Taking on board these five differentiators will ultimately give designers leverage for their business or client. And it’s more important than ever to stay at the forefront of CX in an increasingly evolving tech world; one where customer experience plays such an integral role at a time where customer expectations are higher than ever.

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