texting on a bicycle
While some in the C-Suite deride design as superficial, design isn’t just the way something looks PHOTO: Mo Riza

Companies know that at scale, small details can make a big difference. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the realm of design. 

While some in the C-Suite deride design as superficial, design isn’t just the way something looks. Design dictates the way we do our jobs, build our businesses and live our lives. 

For design skeptics, there’s plenty of data to back up these claims. A study by DMI and Motiv Strategies reported that between 2005 and 2015 design-led companies — those “committed to design as an integral part of their business strategy” — outperformed the S&P 500 by a whopping 211 percent. 

Investing in Experience Results in Robust Returns

Enterprise design often means user experience (UX): the way a user interacts with your website, app, software or product. And guess what? Companies that invest in customer experience also outpace the market. 

According to Group XP (pdf), the 30 brands offering the best customer experience outperformed the S&P by over 50 percent between 2013 and 2016. 

Companies like Netflix and Amazon have famously crushed their competition by offering a smoother, more streamlined user experience. Netflix essentially buried Blockbuster by reinventing how customers experience and pay for movies. Amazon Prime’s two-day free shipping tops every other major retailer’s delivery practices, giving shoppers a headache-free, frictionless buying process. 

Why Experience Matters for Enterprises. And Employees

Enterprises see UX as a key to attracting customers. But UX can also play a vital part in reaching employees. 

As younger employees enter the workforce, they bring with them a higher standard for UX. Consumer apps have created a comfort level and an expectation among employees for the apps and software the business provides. It can be a real challenge to go from an easy, intuitive app on Sunday evening to a clunky, confusing UX on Monday morning. 

BYOD (bring your own device) policies are on the rise for good reason: from apps to instantly book an office conference room to attachments which replace dedicated handhelds in the field, mobile devices can make it much easier for employees to do their job. 

In an economy increasingly reliant on a remote, part-time, dynamic workforce access to information and the ability to collaborate online have never been more important. Enterprises are turning to solutions like Slack, Yammer and Trello — all notable for their simple, user-friendly interfaces — to connect and share information online. 

Internal administrative services like human resources and finance are finding new ways to make things easier for employees. From tracking billable hours to approving expenses on the go, allowing employees to complete mundane tasks in fewer steps and on their phone saves time and headaches, making enterprises far more productive. 

Better UX design and smarter workflows allow workers to handle things on their own, without needing to wait for someone else. In the old days, it might take several calls to the IT team to reset your password. Today, all it takes are a few clicks on a smartphone. 

With new platforms like conversational applications on the horizon, employees should be able to do more than ever in a few years, like asking a bot about the status of a request or an employee’s vacation days — and getting an instant response. 

All of this sounds great in theory. But how should your enterprise go about reimagining its UX? 

How to Create Micro-Experiences to Drive Your Enterprise

Micro-experiences are defined as those moments when technology perfectly anticipates the user’s needs, sometimes before the user even realizes it. 

When your traffic app alerts you of an accident 10 miles ahead, or your support software automatically pulls up a customer’s past tickets: those powerful micro-experiences can make a major difference. 

Strong micro-experiences work both passively and actively by meeting expectations and delighting the user. First, do no harm: at a bare minimum, your UX should behave as the user anticipates, or they may abandon it. Second, memorable micro-experiences can charm users to return more often. 

To find places where you can introduce delightful micro-experiences, break down the user journey into seven or eight moments when the customer or employee interacts with your system for a given task (e.g., making a purchase or closing a sale). Don't limit this exercise to a single platform. Consider how they’ll act across smartphone apps, tablets, desktop software, web applications, digital assistants, messaging platforms, smartwatches, wearables and more. 

Also consider the user’s context (i.e., time, place) to determine their needs. If they’re opening the Starbucks app at their hometown location, they’re probably trying to pay. If they’re opening it in a new area far from a Starbucks, they’re probably trying to find the closest location. 

Next, brainstorm how you could make their journey easier and more seamless, even if it’s as simple as pre-populating a form they need to fill out. 

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel or create a grandiose new interface. Micro-experiences are all about small, incremental changes that improve the overall UX one stage at a time. 

As we enter the “Age of Experience,” the quality of your UX can make or break the success of your enterprise. It’s time to rethink how you can improve your experience — before a competitor beats you to it.