Right now at H-E-B Digital, we have an entire team focused exclusively on the digital experience that supports receiving your groceries via Curbside pickup or home delivery. That team, Cart to Home, is working across the organization, talking to H-E-B Partners who shop for your orders, teams that manage the order retrieval experience and logistics of getting your order ready, and every person who makes sure the groceries get to your home.
As we're working through improving every step of this process, we need to collectively define what makes a good, if not great, experience and hold each other accountable for aligning to it.
So what's "good?"
In this context, good can be very subjective. "Good" is the barometer that helps us choose which ideas and solutions will reflect our customers’ needs and achieve our goals. Each touchpoint (the moments we connect with our customers) needs to be "good" and harmonize with the other touchpoints our users experience to create an orchestrated system.
Defining good, in this way, provides common constraints to reduce arbitrary decisions and nudge everyone in the same direction. How do you align an organization to work collectively toward the same definition of good?
Here at H-E-B Digital, we start with some common guidelines called experience principles.
Experience principles are a set of guidelines that an organization commits to and follows, from strategy through delivery, to produce differentiated and delightful customer experiences. Experience principles represent the alignment of brand aspirations and customer needs. You find them by understanding your customers.
Experience principles should be grounded in customer needs—that way they keep collaborators focused on the why, what, and how of creating engaging products and services. They keep critical insights and intentions top of mind, like:
Mental Models: How an experience matches what a user expects (their mental model)
Emotions: How part of an experience should support the customer's feelings or directly address their motivations
Behaviors: How part of an experience should enable someone to do something they set out to do better.
Target: What characteristics you want the overall experience to have
Impact: The outcomes and qualities the user or customer should feel thereafter
Principles specific to your customers' needs provide contextual guidelines for strategy and design decisions. They help everyone focus on what’s appropriate to specific customers with a unique set of needs. If you stay true to these needs, you can create a truly differentiated product or service.
Because these constraints align your aspirations and your customers' desires, it's easier to filter out ideas or solutions that don't reinforce them. Used consistently, experience principles reduce ambiguity and the ensuing churn as you determine what concepts should move forward and how best to design them. Through the execution lifecycle, experience principles can be used to critique touchpoint designs (i.e., the parts) to ensure that they align to the greater experience (i.e., the whole). And, best of all, these principles can be very effective to help sparking new ideas—that you can be confident will map back to customer needs.
No experience principle is an island. Each should be understandable and useful on its own, but together your principles should form a system. Your principles should be complementary and reinforce each other. They should be able to be applied across channels and throughout your product or service development process.
Below are a few experience principles our Cart to Home team worked with based on reflective insight of our specific customer needs, motivations, and behavior, framed in a way that gives forward-looking guidance on future feature and service improvements. These are our guiding lights as we make service-optimization decisions for the Curbside and home delivery experience.
We set expectations so customers are confident they know what will happen, when it will happen, and why it's happening—the good and the bad. As a principle, our communication and feedback loops should ensure customers aren’t wondering about anything.
Sometimes things go wrong. We act quickly to make things right, and maybe even exceed expectations. As a principle, the experience should give customers a sense that when something isn’t right, we’re on it, without prodding, and are happily making things right.
Make tasks feel simple and magical by hiding logistical and technical complexity. As a principle, the experience should match the customers' mental model and hide any system model complexity.
Let customers know they're interacting with real people, not robots. Since it's so commonplace, customers often assume they’re interacting with machines, so we need to remind them actual people power our work. As a principle, communication and interactions should feel like it's connecting customers to the humans who are happily providing the shopping and delivery service.
Design for real life: Be flexible enough to adapt to customers' changing needs and plans. As a principle, the experience should feel like it can flex as needed to accommodate customers.
Treat customers' orders like they're our own orders—and make sure they're just right every time. As a principle, the experience should feel like we care about each item in the cart as much as the customer does.
Let customers participate in their shopping experience as little or as much as they want. As a principle, the experience should allow customers to feel like they are still in control even when someone else is doing a task for them.
When we work with our Partners across the organization to deliver the best pickup and home delivery service in the state of Texas, we keep these principles front and center. It's our job to ensure anything we design and deliver to our customers feels like the H-E-B service that has made us Texas' most beloved grocery store for nearly 115 years. That is what we consider "good."
Chris Risdon is a Principal Designer. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.
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