An interview with the OutSystems Strategic Product Manager, Menno Cramer
Welcome back to our discussion about the similarities and differences between user and customer experience in the app development community. We have been talking with OutSystems Strategic Product Manager Menno Cramer. Cramer is a former entrepreneur and holds a PhD in Neuroscience and Design, so he knows a thing or two about human behavior. We’re excited to have him at OutSystems helping us make our platform more user friendly for our customers, who can then do the same for theirs.
In the first half of this two-part series, we dove into a brief history of user and customer experience, and discussed how the two terms are used interchangeably quite often. If you’d like to catch up, check out the first half of the discussion here.
With that, enjoy this second half of our interview.
Q. Are product vendors confusing the meanings of customer experience and user experience?
Cramer: The problem with “user experience” is that it’s one of the oldest terms in our field, and we have used it for a long time. It has become a catchall to include all of these psychological and physiological things that we do as humans, such as:
- How we behave
- How we interact with one another and with inanimate things
- How we react to different situations and stimuli
- What we find beautiful, fun, interesting
The sum of all of these emotions and how we react to and express them represents the customer experience when we are talking about products, services, a brand, or even another human.
A hardware company using one or both of the terms is likely talking about the “user experience” because they are all about the functionality of the product. I don’t consider my daily interaction with my fitness tracker a customer experience. Those interactions are short and confined to a very small set of activities.
On the other hand, a cellular service company sells products and services that are often intangible. You can’t physically touch 4G, but you can certainly experience faster or slower network speeds, which impact your experience as their customer.
Q. OK, so we understand the difference between a user and a customer experience from the perspective of someone using the end product. But, what about when vendors like OutSystems talk about customer experience. Are they talking about the users of their platform (i.e., developers) or are they talking about the people who will use the apps. After all, aren’t these are two completely different audiences?
Cramer: There is no difference, and here’s why. As businesses, and whether you are an upstream platform company like OutSystems or a downstream software development company of “free” apps like Fortnite, we’re all after the same thing—to sell a product. Take a company like Google. They have dozens of products and services we use every day. Do I buy anything specifically from Google? Not that I’m aware of, but they still make money off my using their services, whether I’m using their browser and they are monetizing my browsing habits or I’m purchasing an Android phone.
Google uses all of the data from their dozens of touchpoints to create a 360-degree view of customers. If the products they design for their B2B products work correctly, then those businesses do better because their customers love their products or the functionality of their applications and tools. This, in turn, makes Google’s business customers happy.
This isn’t about different types of customers as much as it’s about degrees of separation. OutSystems customers’ customers are still OutSystems customers in reality.
Q. Yes, but the motivation for, say, an IT team developing a B2E app to track time-off requests versus a large retailer designing a full-featured mobile app for shopping, loyalty, and social sharing is very different. Can OutSystems talk about both of them in the same “customer experience” breath?
Cramer: Absolutely. That is not to say their motivations are not different, but think about something like a call center CRM app.
When you are developing an internal app, traditional wisdom says it doesn’t need all the nice colors and design-thinking that the retailer needs to build into its external-facing apps. And maybe that’s true for something very simple; but, for an app that’s designed to solve a real problem, the result needs to be something that people want to use. If it’s poorly designed, adoption will suffer.
If the app is junk, if it’s slow and clunky, if the colors are off, and if features are hard to find, adoption is going to be slow and difficult. Conversely, if you design an app that is attractive, easy to use, and responsive, call center operators will be more productive and the people calling into the call center will be happier and more likely to give the company good customer satisfaction scores.
When you do UX correctly, even for employee-facing apps, the end-user can still be exposed to everything: your customer service, your marketing, pricing. End-users will still be exposed to all of these things that traditionally live in another department from product design because you designed this one other, internal-facing app.
Therefore, we can talk about customer experience and user experience together. If we create great user experiences and dev teams crank out amazing apps, their overall customer experience is good. In turn, they will do the same with the apps they develop.
Q. Let’s now pivot to how, specifically, OutSystems helps create a great customer experience.
Cramer: Customer experience is hard to tackle from a platform perspective because you can’t just change a button from red to blue and suddenly, the app’s popularity skyrockets! Something that basic might make doing a particular task simpler, but it won’t make you any happier about having completed it.
What we’ve done with the OutSystems platform from a customer experience perspective is make it easier for developers to create great user experiences faster. We have created templates and flows and use-case specific designs that serve the user’s needs.
Our philosophy for offering both our own designs that customers can use and by having the Forge that lets you use designs others have submitted is two-fold:
- There are 100 different solutions to any given problem in the world of app dev. What we want is for you to avoid wasting time on solutions 1-99. We want you to be able to develop, test, release, rinse, and repeat quickly. In the end, how you get from A to B doesn’t matter. It’s result that matters. Being able to release a good product quickly and then to iterate changes based on user feedback or changing business needs means faster start-to-finish release cycles and more satisfied users. We’re happy as long as you were able to do it quickly and efficiently, and you were able to put out a great product.
- Even fairly simple designs take time if you’re doing it from scratch. If you aren’t a trained UX or UI developer, with the OutSystems streamlined UI process, you save time by not having to ramp up on new skills. But, even if you are an experienced designer, by having a good starting point already built, something you may only need to make a few branding changes to, you can optimize your ability to prototype future experiences almost instantly.
Q. Any last words on the future of CX?
Cramer: Don’t get caught up in trying to figure out if someone’s intent is really CX or UX or even what the real difference is between the two—at least for application development. If you do or did one well, the other was probably good too. With this ability for almost anyone to develop enterprise, web, and mobile applications using low-code, I expect to see even more mixing of terminology, similar to what we see in the retail marketing world with omnichannel and multichannel.
OutSystems is focused on creating efficiency at scale, whether you’re developing apps for B2B, B2C, or B2E. Some of that efficiency comes in the form of expertly designed templates, samples, and patterns that accelerate app development and ultimately positively impact your internal and external customer experience.
If you are an enterprise with a large portfolio of internal apps and you’re on the fence about digital transformation, the OutSystems UI design capabilities can weigh heavily on the “pro” side of your decision process.
We have a great team of people devoted to the study of UI here. Take advantage of that for your organization. You will be glad you did.
Want to Find Out More?
If you would like to read more about user and customer experience and design thinking, we have published a number of blogs recently that you will find helpful:
- When Design Thinking Meets Design Doing (And When It Doesn't)
- Virtual Reality Just Might Be the Next Power User Interface
- It Takes a Product Design Team to Build a Product Users Will Love
- The User is in the Building: User Research for Enterprise Apps
- It’s All in Your Mindset: Getting Started With Design Thinking