Introducing Digital Humanism into Customer Experience Design

Digital HumanismThe age of digital customer engagement is not only upon us, but it has already overtaken us, and we are firmly ensnared in its intricate web of technological complexity and social connectivity. Most people agree that there is no going back. The only choice for brands is to figure out how to simplify and maximize the customer experience going forward.

Often this idea is communicated through a concept called “omni-channel” customer engagement, which means seamlessly interacting and engaging with customers across all channels and touch points. This includes experiences that are both in-store and online, on mobile, throughout social, and more. In such a highly connected world, it is imperative that brands give consumers the power to engage where, when, and how they want.

This idea has gained a lot of traction lately, but recently another concept has been added to the mix, one that Jenny Sussin, Research Director in the ITL Enterprise Software group of Gartner Research, believes could form the foundational pillars of a highly successful customer experience.

During a session at the recent Gartner Customer 360 Summit in San Diego, Sussin discussed a concept called “Digital Humanism,” and how it can benefit brands today.

“Digital Humanism is a way of approaching our technology problems,” Sussin said. “And there are two ways we currently approach them now.”

The first way is called the “machinist way,” and it follows a step-by-step approach to methodically finding a solution. The problem here is that most people are not very methodical, nor overly logical. The other solution calls for a more “humanist way,” which basically allows people to do what they’re going to do, and just see what happens.

“People are going to do things with your technology that you never imagined they would do, and people are going to experience things in ways that you, as a customer experience designer, could never have anticipated,” Sussin said. “So the idea of a digitally humanist approach to customer experience is to simply let them.”

Sussin then went on to talk about Gartner’s “Digital Humanist Manifesto,” and the three key pillars that guide it.

The first pillar is about putting people at the center, and it gets to the intention of design. When designing a customer experience, brands must constantly ask themselves who they are designing it for, and always keep the customer’s perceptions and habits in focus.

The second pillar requires brands to embrace some degree of serendipity. Because no matter how well the customer experience is crafted and configured, customers will inevitably find different and unexpected ways to engage. And brands must not only acquiesce to this fact, they should actually embrace it. This comprises the heart of the third pillar, which is to say that creating space for the customers, to naturally interact with a brand organically, can help make the overall customer experience even better.

“If you put too many restrictions around the way you’re addressing your customer experience, it is just going to lead to frustration,” said Sussin. “It is not going to lead to an experience that can meet or exceed expectations. When a customer comes to us, they typically have an idea of what they are trying to do. And we need to be honest with ourselves about what the center of people’s worlds are.”

The basic ideal of digital humanism is that customer interactions are not robotic, they are organic, and no degree of technology will ever be able to completely transcend the human element.

“You need to allow your customers’ experiences to evolve as they want them to,” Sussin concluded. “The customer experience and customer experience design is something you can only take so far, and then you have to let your customers move and groove with it. You need to adapt to their behaviors. You need to embrace serendipity.”

About the Author: Mark Johnson

Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.

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