Pomeranian dog touching a smartphone in female hands.

As customers online, we’ve grown to expect seamless, intuitive experiences when interacting with a company online or in an app. Designing easy-to-use platforms, though, takes intention and consideration.

“It’s easy to make an experience that is complicated and robust. It’s hard to make an experience that is simple and intuitive, but that’s what we’re trying to design for,” said James Kim, managing director of design at Concentrix.

Concentrix is an IT service management and business services company specializing in customer engagement and business performance. They’re also a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s recent Digital Experience Summit. To follow up on the Concentrix session, SMG spoke with James about the digital economy and how it disrupted customer experience.

New Norms for a New Digital World

Simpler Media Group: What are some of the biggest ways the digital economy has impacted customer experiences?

James Kim: Historically, we talk a lot about shifting consumer expectations or shifting the expectations of people. Technology has impacted the way we do things. As simple as the way we get information, the way we buy things and the way that we interact with each other.

The ways of living have evolved quite a bit, too, which are where we choose to live, how we choose to live and how we choose to break down our time. We learned a ton of hard lessons — and accelerated through the pandemic — things like the ability to more flexibly live the way we want to live and also achieve perhaps more personal ambitions or goals along with work ambitions.

In the not-so-distant past, it was a Catch-22 of focusing on work or home and not being able to bridge those two things. One of the silver linings is that we’ve found pockets of time that we can use differently. We can use it for ourselves, for our family or for work. That’s new and different.

For me, I feel like the digital economy has impacted that and created new brands to grow. We’ve seen a lot of new experiences, new brands coming into the world that are helping us live differently, helping us do things differently and helping us in our lives.

SMG: Are there any aspects of the customer experience that companies often overlook?

Kim: I think companies often overlook all of the experiences, which is to say that because people’s lives are changing, ways we work are changing, ways how we live are changing, a lot of companies just aren’t keeping up. They’re not keeping up with the expectations that people are bringing to their world. It’s really easy for brands to still talk about their competitive set, or their competition with other brands that are similar. And companies still overlook that expectations are created by leading brands, brands that are doing things exceptionally well. We all want the world to work like Uber or Spotify or Netflix or Amazon, and the bar is quite high there.

When we think about what parts of the experience that companies overlook, I think a lot of companies are focused on holding onto the business they have, and not the opportunities that are created by these changes in expectations.

What we see most is companies shifting to talking about outcomes. Outcomes matter and drive the bottom line and change consumer behaviors. Concentrix plays a role in bridging a really big gap: the customer experience is really about the experience of using the thing or engaging with the brand. The other part of the experience that we at Concentrix focus on is the moments where customers need help.

Getting to Human-Centered Design

SMG: How can the customer experience remain human-centric even as so much of the customer journey has moved online?

Kim: The area of the company I lead is design. We’re very human-centered in our design. A few things that it means: We care a lot about making sure that experiences feel intuitive, that they are useful, that they fill a missing void and that they matter to people.

Especially with technology in this online experience, it’s easy to design too much. It’s easy to make an experience that is complicated and robust. It’s hard to make an experience that is simple and intuitive, but that’s what we’re trying to design for.

When we talk about digital experiences, it’s easy to lose sight of what it means. I’ll go back to some design basics. It’s like asking us to design you a chair. We’ll ask you, “Why a chair?” Obviously to sit in it. “Where will it go?” Well, the dining room. “OK! We’ve learned something. We’ve learned the use case of it. Do you care what it looks like?” It needs to fit the style of our home.

The request seems pretty innocuous and pretty straightforward until you get into it. Design problems are naturally these kinds of things where context matters, use cases matter and the people using it matter.

Graphic with "DX Leaders" and James Kim's headshot to the left, and "James Kim Concentrix" to top right and “The customer experience is really about the experience of using the thing or engaging with the brand” quote on bottom right.

Personalizing Our Futures

SMG: How will new technologies like AI, VR, etc., further change the relationships between companies and customers?

Kim: This is really an exciting place of thought and experimentation for us. We have a group called Studio 1010, we have an edge computing team, we have folks who are focused on experiments and the implications of these technologies on not just experiences but also society.

One of our principles at Studio 1010 is that it’s not about the technology; it’s about making sure that ordinary people care. We want to bring that human-centered lens into this new wave of technologies, which we generally think of as Web3.

Some of the places where we’re doing a lot of exploration are around technologies like blockchain, smart contracts, NFTs and wallets. We think these will change the relationship between brands and people. And we think it will change in a few ways.

The personalization will be quite different. One of the driving forces in Web3 is this idea of decentralization of control. Personalization won’t be governed by brands targeting me. Personalization will be governed by brands knowing me better. That might seem like mincing words, but as a person, I expect you to remember me the next time we meet. So decentralization with me as a consumer has a little more control over personalization. It will have to be more relevant or more thoughtful. 

SMG: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Kim: People would tell you that James rides a bike and commutes to work on a bike and always talks about Peloton. I’m a sort of superfan of Peloton. It’s a great brand and the value and experience that they have brought to so many people is incredible. They've managed to do what lots of brands before them haven’t been able to do, which is help people be passionate about being a better you and providing tools and an ecosystem that can do that. 

I live in Seattle and started to commute by bike. I’ve learned to love riding in the rain. And I’ve learned to love riding hills, even though I’m not good at it. I like to sign up for rides where you do a challenging route. Anyone can do it, but it takes a certain kind of self-hatred to say, “I’m going to sign up to ride up 5,000 feet!”

And I love dogs. I spend time with the family and our dogs, Sammy and Louie.

Watch the Digital Experience Summit session from Concentrix on-demand here.