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Human experience – what is it and why does it matter?

Authentic human connections are essential to life, and business is no exception. Here’s how to enhance, scale and optimize the human experience in your organization.

What is human experience (HX)?

Human experience describes the business interactions that happen between human beings. It’s distinct from interactions between human beings and technological interfaces.

As digital technology advances further into the areas of life previously handled by human labor, it seems the qualities only human beings can provide are fast becoming a scarce resource. We do more of our everyday tasks using self-service tools online, and we’re less likely to enter premises and meet with human beings.

Human beings need to connect with one another in order to thrive, and elements like eye contact, facial expressions, shared experiences and common ground can only be achieved through person-to-person interaction. Without them, people are at risk of becoming “isolated, underrepresented and unfulfilled,” according to Deloitte.

This isn’t just a shift in social or cultural norms. It has a direct effect on how businesses fare, too.

With the number of human-to-human touchpoints decreasing thanks to automation, business leaders are rushing to identify and conserve the interactions where human agency is not only appropriate, but crucial.

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Combining human experience and technological opportunity

None of this means that technological advances are unwelcome. Indeed, they’re indispensable, and the levels of service and experience we enjoy today wouldn’t exist without them.

The challenge for today’s leaders is to find the sweet spot where human empathy, intuition, and creativity meet the speed, scale, accuracy and efficiency provided by technology. Which tasks can be divested to machines, and which ones are indispensably human? Can people and tech work in synergy to provide a hybrid experience that combines the best of both worlds?

Absolutely – and we’re already making it happen.

Bringing human experience into your business

Enhancing human experience (HX) in business has two natural starting-points – customer experience (CX), and employee experience (EX).

In both cases, the essential principle is the same. Rather than viewing customers and employees primarily via the roles they play in business, human experience management demands that we view them first and foremost as people, with goals, ethics, emotions, and every other facet of human nature.

Integrating this human-first perspective naturally leads in a positive direction, whether you’re increasing the empathy between customers and front-line employees, or coaching people more effectively to achieve their career goals.

Improving human experience in CX

While consumers have embraced the autonomy and convenience of self-service, online tools and AI assistants, they are equally attached to human connections – especially when the stakes are high.

Our research has shown that in cases where information is sensitive or complex, such as receiving medical advice (82%), resolving a billing issue (72%), buying a new TV (67%) and getting technical support (72%), a strong majority of consumers preferred human interaction to self-service.

These figures indicate the aspects of customer experience where human agents can provide a better understanding of what the customer needs than any machine. That need extends beyond information and convenience, and hits on emotional requirements like empathy and trust.

The power of emotion

XM Institute research shows that emotions significantly influence human decision-making. We use the fast, automatic intuitive thinking, as opposed to the more effortful and logical rational thinking, when making the lion’s share of our decisions (which number as many as 35,000 per day).

What’s more, emotions are the most important driver of loyalty – an ingredient that’s key to both employee and customer relationships.

What can be done to promote positive emotion and meaningful connections when people interact with your business, whether as customers, employees or simply as fellow human beings?

Driving human experience in digital interactions

Designing for human expectations is a useful first principle, given that humans tend to relate to their interactions with apps, chatbots, websites and smartphones in the same way as they would when engaging with other people. You can drive better experiences through design, and listen, act and iterate to improve human experience in a continuous way.

The good news is that although technology is progressing all the time, the way our brains operate hasn’t changed much throughout human existence. Customer needs may be changing rapidly, but the psychology that drives them is largely the same. As a result, investments and improvements that are designed around the human condition are likely to stand the test of time.

  • Using UX (user experience) testing and user-centered design is a valuable way to enhance the human experience – and learn a thing or two about your customers at the same time.
  • Observing established digital patterns – including things like where the search button is placed on an app or what happens when you select underlined text – help people feel at home and reduce their effort and frustration.
  • Personalizing content and communications shows a customer that you recognize their preferences and value their business. It’s also relatively easy to automate.
  • Providing space to receive contextual feedback helps customers to feel seen and heard during a digital interaction. Intercepts can be useful (although not if they interrupt what the user is doing).
  • If it’s feasible, give the customer a clear route to move from automated interactions to human ones – they can bail out to a human agent when necessary.
  • Express your mission, vision and values consistently – and stick to them. Customers who know what you stand for, and receive experiences that back this perception up, are more likely to feel that they can trust you.

Front-line human experience

Of course, it’s not just digital contexts where emotional success comes into play. Call center agents, customer service professionals, and other front-line staff are all integral to customer relationships. They also have emotional lives of their own, and their human experience is pivotal to the success of your business.

We’ve found that one of the biggest drivers of customer satisfaction is empathy between customer-facing employees and the customers they assist. In order to achieve empathy, an agent needs to be empowered to use their own human intuition during the conversation. This natural ability can be hampered by time pressure, or the need to secure a positive review from the customer.

It also requires the right level of deep knowledge to be able to solve the customer’s problem. Here’s where the power of technology can be combined with the human touch, putting the right information at the agent’s fingertips at the right moment during the conversation.

Agent experience, as well as the human experience of customers, is better when the agent feels empowered, both during individual interactions and within their role overall. Agents who feel heard and valued, and who can see opportunities to progress and contribute to the wider organization, are more likely to enjoy their work and to be engaged.

Measuring emotion in human experience

In order to track improvements, you need to know how you’re doing now. But how can you measure success when it comes to emotionally satisfying your customers and employees? What does success look like?

We found that just 28% of large companies say they are ‘good’ at measuring customer emotions during interactions. It’s little wonder – when you compare it to numerical metrics like NPS, first call resolution or customer rating, emotion is much more nebulous and subjective.

Fortunately, the answer to understanding emotions is the same in business as it is in interpersonal relationships – you listen.

Doing this at scale and in a consistent, measurable way requires some technological assistance. You can use sentiment analysis to process unstructured data such as customer reviews, voice data, and social media content, at speed and at scale. Technologies like TextiQ can provide you with an overview of what people are thinking and feeling about your products, services and brand. They can also track this data over time, allowing you to assess trends and improvements.

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