Experience Sequencing: Why We Analyze Customer Experiences like DNA
Why We Analyze Customer Experiences like DNA
If you are reading this article, you and I are sharing the same essential genetic makeup. Our DNA is different by only 0.1%. That might not sound like a lot, but there are in excess of 1 million places within the genome where small variations can occur, resulting in more than a billion different genetic sequence combinations. These small variations can be detected using a DNA sequencing technique that allows us to understand how the unique order of these small variations affects our physical appearances and preferences.
Imagine a world where we could diagnose and design customer experiences based on the individual genetic sequence of a customer. Although this world may seem like something out of science fiction, at Method this idea has inspired us to explore the concept of sequencing in relation to designing customer experience.
What is experience sequencing?
Experience sequencing is a form of data-driven design. At Method, our data design team has developed a sequencing technique that allows us to diagnose the health of customer interactions with a brand’s (physical and digital) channels, understand the order of events that are happening in the contextual experience – from what happened first, what happened next, and what happened that was unexpected – so that we can better arm our experience designers with more precise and actionable customer insights to improve the brand experience.
The core process involves sequencing the overall experience into two or more consecutive arrangements, fragmenting these sequences into smaller pieces, and clustering those to form distinct groups of behavior. Both the sequencing and fragmentation help us understand the unique patterns of unsuccessful and successful customer experiences. Insights from this highly specific diagnostic analysis allow us to redesign acute moments of the brand experience to prevent customer churn and improve satisfaction.
Experience sequencing and genomic sequencing are similar in two key ways. First, both genetic patterns and customer experiences have a high number of variations. Designing an experience encompasses a sequential arrangement of every scroll and click on a webpage, social media, email, or any digital technology that requires taking customers from origin to destination. As customers interact with a brand, these touchpoints create exponentially growing variations of the core experience. When a core experience is designed well, it provides flexibility and can cover many probable customer behaviors. However, if it has organically grown without intention, the variations are uncontrollable by the brand, and are often disjointed, leading to high customer churn.
Secondly, in both DNA and CX, repetition does not matter as much as the order of events. Customer experience is a collection of predefined business-triggered and customer-triggered events that happen in succession. There are some common patterns that can be observed: the same event can happen multiple times at different positions across the experience, the same event can happen twice in succession, and the order of events really matters. For example, sending an email to a customer is an event that could happen numerous times across the experience, but the exact timing and reason for that email greatly affects a customers’ experience with a brand.
What to look for when sequencing experiences
Experience sequencing allows us to predict the next event. Customer experiences consist of a list of events, impressions, and triggers that are linked by a specific logic. Commonly, this logic is associated with a series of customer needs and pain points that a business is trying to address. If we identify a pain point and map where it takes place, we can work out what should happen to address the need and what is the next event in the sequence.
We’ve used this methodology to help our clients, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. If you want to explore experience sequencing for your business or clients, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
The exact combination of the key moments that comprise a sequence matters
No matter the customer segment, certain sequence combinations lead to successful experiences. There are likely also a high number of paths that lead to churn. Identifying the successful and unsuccessful sequences is the basis for the rest of the research.
Look for the channels or transitions that seem to “make or break” the overall experience
In the recent work that we did for the largest pet products and services provider in the US, services, and particularly vet services, were associated with the most successful cross-channel transitions. However, they also accounted for the largest number of paths that led to churn.
The first point of entry is critical in projecting the rest of the sequence
It matters where customers start the journey with you, whether it is a digital or physical point of entry will determine the overall experience and dominant behavior. For the pet services provider, customers whose first interaction was with grooming/training or vet tended to continue moving among these services and physical shops, skipping over digital channels.
Watch out for the high number diversity or experience transitions within the individual sequence
Multi-channel experiences (when a customer shops from 2 or more channels), often lead to an increase in revenue per customer if the experiences are orchestrated well. If they are orchestrated poorly, however, multi-channel customers are often the first ones to churn. If this is true for the experience you’re analyzing, this is an important insight. Consider using qualitative research to understand customers’ rationale.
Engagement strategies should differ based on the last brand interaction
Track the last 2 to 4 interactions per customer, and depending on what those last interactions were (in-store or online, or with services or products), derive a relevant engagement strategy. For example, you might reactivate churned service customers through emotional appeals and reactivate churned product customers through appeals to convenience and special offers.
At Method we believe that successful brand experiences, when designed well, are orchestrated efforts that combine human empathy with digital accessibility across multiple physical and digital touchpoints. By tracking customer interactions and mapping them like DNA, we can derive actionable customer insights that enable us to define relevant, precise engagement strategies across a complex web of touchpoints.