Introducing People-Centric Experience Design (PCxD)

Six out of ten large companies want to be customer experience leaders, but only 5% of organizations earned excellent ratings in the 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings. What makes it so hard to deliver great customer experience? People.

Experiences are all about people, the customers who interact with your organization and the employees who shape those interactions. Most approaches to customer experience, from voice of the customer programs to customer journey mapping, deal with the logical, left-brain elements of customer experience. But they often fall short on the right-brain, emotional side.

To better understand the human dynamics of customer experience, we examined research across a diverse set of disciplines such as leadership, design, organizational dynamics, and behavioral psychology. The analysis uncovered three core insights:

  • Individuals (customers and employees) want to affiliate with organizations that have a purpose they understand and believe in.
  • Employees inherently want to please customers, but organizations tend to neutralize this empathy and reinforce self-centered tendencies.
  • Customers’ loyalty is defined based on how they remember interactions, not on how they actually experience them.

Building upon these findings, we developed a concept for enlisting the support of employees that uncovers and fulfills the needs of customers that we call People-Centric Experience Design (PCxD).


We define PCxD as:

Fostering an environment that creates positive, memorable human encounters

To achieve PCxD, organizations must master three principles:

  1. Align through Purpose. Just about every large organization has vision and mission statements floating around their hallways. But when it comes to making decisions on a day-to-day basis, these documents are nowhere to be found. They play NO ROLE in how the company is actually run. But things are different within customer experience leaders. They create and sustain a clear sense of purpose that inspires loyalty from customers and alignment from employees.
  2. Guide with Empathy. As we discuss in the Six Laws of Customer Experience, people are instinctively self-centered. Most employees have a desire to be empathetic, but their personal biases and organizational dynamics get in the way. While a typical customer interaction cuts across many functional groups (a single purchase, for instance, may include contact with decisions by product management, sales, marketing, accounts payable, and legal organizations), companies push employees to stay focused on their functional areas. This myopic view is often reinforced by incentives focused on narrow domains, which creates a chasm between empathy and personal success. Companies must reinforce human empathy by sharing a deeper understanding of customers and their needs.
  3. Design for Memories. When it comes to loyalty, customer experience isn’t very important. That’s right, customer experience isn’t very important. What is important? Memories. People make decisions based on how they remember experiences, not on how they actually experience them. This distinction is important because people don’t remember experiences the way they actually occur. Memories are constructed as stories people create in their minds based on fragments of their actual experiences. By understanding how people remember things, you can focus on designing the most important moments.

I will explore each of thee principles of PCxD in more depth in future posts.

The bottom line: Tap into the power of purpose, empathy, and memories.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

3 Responses to Introducing People-Centric Experience Design (PCxD)

  1. Very interesting overview, Bruce. Looking forward to the drill-down on the three principles in the coming weeks.

  2. Bruce, there’s no question that emotion has always played an important role in ensuring an excellent customer experience. If you look at the Hallmark Value Star (gee I think that was published in 2000), they talk about the equity the company builds with the customer’s history (or memories as you say), the energy that the company provides and the overall experience that the customer has with that company. I like your addition of purpose…I think it’s a good one. I have long shared with my clients the value of aligning their operations to their brand promise to their customers. Their brand promise is really a set of promises they make about the type of company they want to be…it’s their purpose. So Bruce, you and I are aligned in our thinking.

  3. I like this blog and I am UX analyst and fond of philosophy. As going back to history once philosopher named Protagoras said “Human is the Measure of All Things” . The fundamental of understanding is to understand ourselves is a basic principle of learning that reflects the outcome of things on what we produce.

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