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What is the Human Experience? And why, as a business owner, you can’t afford to ignore it

Let me preface this by saying – take what resonates and leave what doesn’t.

No two audiences are exactly alike, much like nature’s snowflakes.

But there are aspects of the Human Experience that cannot be ignored, or pushed aside – regardless of audience.

Aspects like accessibility, inclusivity, sustainability, and respect.

And as the Pandemic showed many of us – our customers are vulnerable.

Even our workers are tired, exhausted, burnt-out, and vulnerable. But this post is going to be mainly directed towards our customers.

Whether they are homebound because they are immunocompromised, or filled with anxiety and easily overwhelmed by unnecessary steps, it is our job as business owners – in a position of power to help alleviate any needless stress they may experience when interacting with our brand.

As we quickly enter 2022, our customers – vulnerable or not – have all the power. To stay. To go. To spend money with you, or even try to cancel you.

What does the Human Experience look like from a company’s perspective?

Fallen tree blocking the main path

Whether you are a brick and mortar store, or exist in the multiverse, the key to helping your customers have a positive experience with your brand – is to eliminate as many obstacles as possible.

If there are obstacles you just can’t eliminate, it’s important to make sure you are transparent about the work around. But it’s also important to make sure those work arounds, do not place an undue burden on your customer.

Kind of like this fallen tree, where the work around was a 1.5 foot wide muddy part of the trail with a downhill ready to catch you as you slip and fall.

As you think through your customer’s journey, from the moment they first hear about your company to the moment they place an order – where are the hang-ups?

If you are a physical store, is the layout wheelchair friendly? If you close your eyes, how many unique sounds can you hear?

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Are their senses being overwhelmed when they are in your store?

If you have an online-only presence, is the navigation intuitive? If you look at your forms, are there any irrelevant questions or outdated options?

Think gender, ethnicity, income levels. Unless those options are imperative to your company’s mission – you can probably ditch them.

It’s OK to adapt to the new future that is here and now. If you don’t, you might find yourself disposable.

The Human Experience is about being able to experience a world without shutting down or being turned away.

You don’t have to do ALL the things. In fact, ALL the things that have the ability to improve the overall Human Experience – will not make sense to your company.

If you are a loud bar – you aren’t going to turn the volume down. Unless you have specific sensory-friendly hours or events.

But you might have a corner that isn’t secluded, yet gives a barrier to the sound, allowing patrons to participate without the overwhelming urge to cover their ears.

Yes. Even people with noise sensitivity should be able to go to a bar.

Why is the Human Experience so important to me?

Kid picking out a new skateboard
Customer of the future

Professionally, as a strategist, I want to see companies thrive. I want to see more people, enjoying places they never thought they could patronize before.

I want to help companies go viral for the right reasons.

Personally, I have an ulterior motive.

As a parent to two neurodivergent kids, one on Autism Spectrum and both with different sensory seeking or avoiding tendencies, I am constantly on the lookout for places that could be too exciting in terms of noise, crowded shelves, overbearing smells – because that could all lead to a sensory overload storm.

And I remember the places where kids like mine feel safe, welcome, and able to just exist without pressure.

Like Zumiez the day after Christmas when my 9yr old didn’t like the skateboard we picked out for her to open on Christmas Morning. It was the only present she asked for.

As this parent, I can never let my guard down.

So when we walked into Zumiez, where the options were endless and could have easily pushed my daughter over the edge, the Zumiez associate took the time to find every single pink skateboard they had. And she put them on the counter for her to pick from.

The Zumiez associate made what could have easily been a hard moment, an easy peazy, lemon squeeze moment that we are forever thankful for.

As a parent to kids who interact with their world differently, when I find that special company who understands that their customers come from with all different types of abilities…I don’t forget them.

I applaud them.

I know full well that one negative experience can spread like wildfire.

So when we visit a company that understands its audience on a deeper level, I will shout from the mountaintops (or from my social media feed) just how amazing our experience was.

Especially when I can feel a sliver of peace.

As a strategist, I know that my kids are going to become adults (whether I want them to grow up or not).

As a strategist, I want to help companies build a foundation that will catapult them into the future that my kids – and so many like them – will be able to thrive like their neurotypical peers.

As a parent of neurodivergent kids, that’s all we wish for. For our kids to be able to interact with their world in a way that will not cause them undue stress. In a way that will not ostracize them from society.

What exactly is the Human Experience?

Wall full of graffiti

The Human Experience isn’t isolated to just individuals with different abilities.

We are all Humans. We are all alive. And by default, we are all living our own, personal, Human Experience.

Whether you find joy from cold pitching, excitement from creating a new product, or a rush of adrenaline when you hear how a new customer found you, that is just a piece of the Human Experience.

Universally, we also feel sadness, pain, grief, and a whole range of emotions.

As business owners – it is in those negatives that we need to focus on, to make sure we aren’t triggering those emotions in our customers.

Because chances are, if they feel any sort of negative emotion when interacting with your company:

  • Frustration at the website loading time
  • Confusion over the landing page navigation
  • Pain over unresolved complaints
  • Overwhelm by the number of things being thrown at them (think over-complicated or busy product pages)
  • Boredom in lack of interesting eye-catching details

Chances are, they are going to disappear faster than they found you.

And as a business owner who relies on a profitable bottom line, you cannot afford that.

If you can – well tell me your secret. My DM’s are open.

The Human Experience is already overwhelming. Companies, brands, customer services that don’t add to that overwhelm – understand their audience.

Where to start?

Modern Wilderness

Great question.

You can start by becoming your own customer.

Honestly.

Take a step back, put yourself in your customer’s shoes, temporarily forget that you know your business in and out – and pretend you stumbled upon a random social media post that was shared by a friend (or sponsored on your newsfeed), and get to work.

Audit your processes. Honestly. Not just what you want to see.

Look at the bad and the good.

Take note of how fast your webpage is loading, or critically look at how wide your aisles are.

The moment you feel a twinge of negativity, write it down on a piece of paper or as a digital note.

Likewise, the moment you notice something working perfectly – take note.

Go so far as placing an order. Whether you place the order or not, is up to you. You are the business owner so you can cancel it afterward.

But the point of this exercise is to do every single step your customers would take.

For physical stores, park your car where your customers park. Take a similar route to your storefront, and open the door.

What do you feel the moment you open the door? Overwhelm? Warmth? Darkness? Too bright?

As business owners, we spend hours upon hours piecing everything together, hoping our customers can feel our passion.

From the storefront displays to the pictures we put on our website.

From our minds, we created masterpieces to bring our brand together.

But, it is imperative that we step back and have an honest, transparent look, at whether or not our masterpieces have holes, are overcomplicated, or just right for our audience.

Think Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Ok, then what?

Lightning Fork Tree in a Foggy Forest

Whatever you find, don’t beat yourself up. And whatever you discover, use it as a learning opportunity.

Nailing the Human Experience PERFECTLY is impossible.

And frankly, not something to be attained. That doesn’t mean to not try your best. That just means that authenticity and relatability will take you to the next level.

But we can always strive to get closer to making our customer’s experience the best it possibly can.

Because at the end of the day, if our customers do not feel welcome, trusted, heard, included even – they aren’t coming back.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, at the end of your audit, you discover that the thing that strengthens your brand, is all the little details.

From sign-offs to descriptions to conversational copy.

From packaging to conversations you have cultivated through social media or in the store.

If you need help auditing your customer’s journey, figuring out how to tie it all together, or making your customer’s Human Experience better, hit that connect button.

I am here to help you. I am invested in helping you.

In the meantime, be your customers advocate, and Adventure on with Curiosity,
-K. Steele, MBA

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