I’ve been doing some research for an article I’m writing about the importance of breaking down the barriers that exist between user experience practitioners and marketing researchers, and I’ve come to an important realization.
As much as the experts rail on about the importance of making “customer experience” a core competency within organizations, things are not going to change until the stakeholders force a change in the “frame.”
I’m not talking about HTML frames. I’m talking about frames as they are used in langauge. According to George Lakoff, professor of Linguistics at UCLA, Berkeley and founder of the the Rockridge Institute,
“a frame is a conceptual structure used in thinking.”
Rakoff goes on to say …
“reframing is telling the truth as we see it – telling it forcefully, straightforwardly, articulately, with moral conviction and without hesitation. “
Some examples that Republicans have used to reframe issues in their favor (with the help of the much maligned GOP researcher Frank Luntz) include:
Tax cut Tax relief
Estate tax Death tax
Global warming Climate change
Logging/Clear cutting Healthy forests initiative
Although Lakoff’s and his progressive institute’s main concerns are the framing of political language, particularly that used by Democrats to counter the Republican successes of the past eight years, framing can be used by anyone to score points for their side.
Like the Democrats, most of the folks on “usability” or development teams have been using the wrong language to make their case, ignoring the power of framing when they speak to management. When it comes time to ask for funds for ”usability testing,” managers from the various business units who otherwise claim dedication to “usability” often come up short when it’s time to commit dollars.
I have a suggestion: instead of asking to fund “usability,” practitioners should reframe the issue by asking managers to support and enhance the ongoing satisfaction of the customer experience. If a product developer asked a manager in one of big three car companies for money to improve the stabilization system in their best selling car in order to improve the driving experience wouldn’t she get the funds? When film directors ask producers for more money to blow stuff up in their movies to improve the viewing experience don’t they usually get it?
Those involved in creating online customer experiences have to start talking about the funding of their goals in broader terms. They have to emphasize the importance of creating satisfying customer experience across all touch points with their customer, with the online experience as an essential piece that helps drive a stronger relationship with the brand. And, as with successes seen in the political realm, this reframing has to be consistent and persistent. That means using this new language in every piece of written communication and every interaction with stakeholders.
Reframing the issue in this way may go a long way to increased understanding of the importance of creating usable and persuasive interfaces for customers.
View the excellent PBS “Persuaders” series: a must see for anyone communicating within organizations …
George Lakoff’s lecture on “Moral Politics” and language targeted to values rather than issues: