Cross-Channel Service Experience Design: Foundational Model

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Executive Summary

Building Blocks of Business Value:
Consistency and continuity are the building blocks in creating a coherent cross-channel service experience. Coherent cross-channel service experiences ensure multiple compositions are coherent by delivering consistency and continuity, give customers the service and experience they want, and in doing so create value.

PART I: THE NEED

Introduction:

Cross-channel service experiences are not new. Airline bookings and catalog shopping have been cross-channel for years, but their pervasiveness has risen as more and more functionality has become available on mobile devices. Remember Apple’s “There’s an app for that” advertisements? The long standing trend has been not only toward supporting user’s functional needs but also their situational needs which has meant delivering communications and capabilities across multiple distribution channels, multiple electronic devices, and divers media. Connecting them all has multiplied the number and diversity of user situations to be considered when creating service experiences. There’s not only an “app for that,” there’s a web site, printed material, a call center, local offices, a national brand, and logistics to be coordinated for that.

Theres An App For That | src: stacysrandomthoughts.com

There's more than an app for that. [0

A Brief History of User Experience Design:

Traditionally, design has focused on projects that compose solutions in order to solve a problem. These compositions have often taken the form of a poster, website, mobile application, brand strategy, or even call center script.

Such component compositions have been the synthesis of business goals, constraints, requirements, features, benefits, and an array of media. More recently user needs have also been included. An example of this might be a website where company XYZ wants to sell branded widgets along side technical specifications in three languages.

Two Barriers:

The two primary barriers to cross-channel success is complexity of customer experience and organizational structure [1][2].

One Solution:

I’ve seen these barriers first hand, and a model for describing a means of creating cross-channel service experiences is needed to foster organizational focus and will to produce the experiences customers expect. Below is the beginning of such a model. Focusing on individual compositions is no longer enough.

PART II: THE MODEL

 

At their core, cross-channel service experiences must be coherent.

Coherence:

Coherence can be defined as logically or aesthetically ordered or integrated [3]. Experiences need to make sense, or as Jakob Nielsen would say “Follow real-world conventions,” [4]. ‘It just has to work,’ and when people say ‘work’ they usually mean that something needs to function as expected, most often talking about consistency, continuity, or both which align with Jesse James Garrett’s dual nature of the Web ‘information distribution and retrieval’ and ‘application design’ respectively as described in his seminal book The Elements of User Experience [5]. If you’ve not internalized the diagram and the book, please do so before you finish reading this article.

The Elements of User Experience - Jessie James Garret

consistency : information : : continuity : application

Cross-channel service experiences achieve coherence when they are consistent and contiguous.

Consistency:

Consistency is defined as “agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole : correspondence; specifically : ability to be asserted together without contradiction,” [3]. An example of this would be a brand or even just content that remains common (although not necessarily exactly the same)[6] across a company’s website, mobile application, printed material, and service representative interactions.

Continuity:

Continuity is defined as “uninterrupted duration or continuation especially without essential change,” [3]. The example here is being able to start or stop an interaction in one place (i.e. a particular distribution channel or electronic device) and pick it up in another place in the same condition. This interaction could include reading, listening, watching, talking, playing, transacting, or managing with a system or other people.

consistency-coherence-continuity

This is a foundational model to build on.

Building Blocks of Business Value:

Consistency and continuity are the building blocks in creating a coherent cross-channel service experience. Coherent cross-channel service experiences ensure multiple compositions are coherent by delivering consistency and continuity, give customers the service and experience they want, and in doing so create value.

PART III: THE DETAILS

On Others’ Shoulders:

Jesse James Garrett, Peter Morville[7], Samantha Starmer[8], Tyler Tate, and Cross-Platform Service User Experience: A Field Study and an Initial Framework have all been formative in how I think about cross-channel service experience design.

My cross-channel work at Nationwide Insurance’s User Experience Design Group has been an incredible education as well.

Morville proposed his cross-channel crystal in September 2011. It got me thinking. I have been thinking, sketching and writing since. Thank you for getting me started Mr. Morville.

More to Say:

Coherent is the most concise criteria I have found in describing the core of what a cross-channel service experience should be. There are additional concepts I would like to explore more in developing the model. They include:

  • components vs compositions,
  • contextual aspects,
  • user and creator communication,
  • potential conflicts,
  • emotional vs rational characteristics,
  • task and activity groupings,
  • connections between components,
  • cross-channel project process and
  • other cross-channel models to name a few.

Please post comments, checkout the references, and share additional links as you like. Thanks for reading.

References:

[0] There’s an app for that - image - stacysrandomthoughts.com

[1] Econsultancy and Foviance – Multichannel Customer Experience Report - econsultancy.com.

[2] Tate, Tyler - The Rise of Cross-Channel UX Design - UXmatters.com.

[3] Merriam-Webster - coherenceconsistencycontinuity - Merriam-Webster.com.

[4] Nielsen, Jakob - Ten Usability Heuristics - useit.com.

[5] Garrett, Jesse James - Experience design and information architecture resources - jjg.net.

[6] Wäljas, Segerståhl, Väänänen-Vainio-Mattila,Oinas-Kukkonen - Cross-Platform Service User Experience: A Field Study and an Initial Framework - acm.org.

[7] Morville, Peter – Cross-Channel Strategy - findability.org.

[8] Starmer, Samantha – Design for Cross-Channel Experiences - SlideShare.com.

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