Nintendo: The tech company with CX at its gaming core

Nintendo: The tech company with CX at its gaming core

This article was originally published on the CX Network, a leading platform for senior CX and Marketing leaders.

From the first portable controller to a touchscreen before the iPhone, what you can learn from Nintendo’s experience design.

People tend to forget it, but customer experience (CX) is not a trend, a nice to have or doing the right thing. It is a business strategy. One that drives revenue through a focus on customer value, enriching relationships and reducing price sensitivity and churn rates.

Jeanne Bliss, a CX thought leader, puts forward three fundamental truths on CX strategy:

  1. Customers are assets, not costs
  2. Customer experience professionals need to earn the right to do the work (i.e. deliver results and demonstrate the value they bring)
  3. Most importantly, it unlocks customer-driven growth

The financial returns of customer experience have been quantified by Forrester and the internet is full of other statistics on the benefits earned from truly great experiences.

I, however, cannot help but feel that our industry has kept confidential one of the greatest success story of this strategy.

Great fun meets excellent experience design

Home devices are where Nintendo’s forward-thinking shines.

Nintendo, the Japanese video games giant, is among the greatest in customer-centric business strategies.

They launched the Game Boy in 1989, the first genuine portable console, long before mobile phones were a thing. They understood there was a desire for consumers not to be house-bound to play games. Identifying this as a significant customer pain point, they filled the gap and went on to sell more than 100 million devices. People still play these classic games with Fileproto emulators to this day.

The Nintendo DS launched in 2004 as a device with two complementary screens, one of which is a touchscreen (three years before the iPhone). It stood out thanks to a more immersive and involving experience, harnessing the possibilities brought by the dual screen technology. It is the genesis of second screen in TV: accessing related content on a different screen for a more holistic experience.

This device sold 154 million units. It is the world’s bestselling handheld device and Nintendo’s bestselling product.

But home devices are where Nintendo’s forward-thinking shines. While the market consistently works towards making more powerful devices and better looking games, Nintendo reinvents its approach to experience: each new home device brought meaningful change from its predecessor.

Let’s analyse how Nintendo masterfully harnessed customer-centric strategies and design through the examples of the Wii and the Switch.

Nintendo Wii: Immersive gaming made real

Launched in 2006, the Wii aimed to expand the gaming market to a larger and more mainstream audience while catering to its historic customer base. Centring the gaming experience around a motion-sensitive remote, the Wii brought a unique touch to entertainment , which pleased both new and existing customers.

Here’s where Nintendo got design right: they put the gaming experience ahead of product specifications and performance.

A player could physically swing the baseball bat, throw the bowling ball and shoot at enemies. I recall playing a survival-horror game when younger, lights off (fully immersed) and reaching an apex of tension… and be terrified. So terrified, I cowardly stopped playing and did not resume for months – something I never experienced before with the competition.

Here’s where Nintendo got design right: they put the gaming experience ahead of product specifications and performance. A cross-platform game was less pretty on the Wii, but the experience was superior. The trade-off was a no-brainer for customers: they’d rather be immersed in the experience, shooting enemies, slashing monsters or driving their kart, than sitting in front of a slightly better-looking game.

The strategy clearly paid-off, as the Wii sold more than 100 million consoles worldwide, 20 million more than its two competitors – all thanks to a differentiated experience.

However impressive the Wii was from a design standpoint, the Switch is Nintendo’s true masterpiece.

The Nintendo Switch: The ultimate CX console?

The Switch, brought gaming to a new standard at its launch in 2017, like the Wii did a decade before (2006).

Meeting customers on their own terms is also key to the experience design.

Nintendo took one of the business’ greatest challenge – providing a truly omni-channel experience – and made it core to the design of the Switch. It is a console that can be played connected to your living room’s TV, on a table on its own or anywhere else, on the go. This means that people can play a game like Minecraft anywhere, be it online on GGServers or offline on the go.

Meeting customers on their own terms is also key to the experience design. A remote can be used in multiple ways: by one or two players, joined up, separated or attached to the screen, or even as a more traditional and mainstream remote. Motion sensors embedded on the screen enrich the gaming experience further through puzzles and in-game features.

Most important of all is the Switch’s unique ability to fit around the customer’s life, without compromising on the gameplay or the experience, regardless of playing mode – more than ‘omni-channel’, it manages to go beyond the concept of channels, very much like customers do when they think of a business.

This customer-centric design is critical as it enables the Switch to deliver more value and go beyond experience.

Nintedo: The CX transformation game-changer

Joe Pine and James Gilmore identified back in 1999 in their seminal book “The Experience Economy” that businesses move from commodities, to goods, to services, to experiences to transformation. Transformation is the ultimate stage of evolution, where customers benefit personally and grow thanks to the experiences with the console – this is the standard achieved with the Switch.

Nintendo’s customer-centric strategy earned them their most profitable quarter in the decade.

Taking a personal example once again, the Switch enabled me to increase my attendance at the gym and workout far longer, more frequently and consistently than ever before. It provides me with engaging, entertaining and flexible entertainment in a way that no other console ever could (most of handheld consoles requiring the two hands to be joined up in holding the console in order to play comfortably).

I went from dreading exercising to not minding it and, surprisingly, wanting to stay longer than planned (to finish that one level of that great game).

With the Switch, Nintendo reached the last stage of the experience economy, enabling a healthier routine, fitting around, enhancing and transforming lives – a claim that currently no competitor could credibly substantiate. I hear they have released more coupons for this coming system as well through websites such as PromoCodeWatch.

Nintendo’s customer-centric strategy earned them their most profitable quarter in the decade; raising their profit forecast by a third.

The gaming company has reached the exclusive milestone of selling more than 100 million units (therefore earning more than £10 billion in revenue) for three of its products, which also happen to be three of the five bestselling consoles of all times). Hopes are high for the Switch to join this very select club.

Nintendo’s success demonstrates that leading product and experience design with the customer in mind will ultimately pay off and unlock customer-driven growth. The company has been able to prove time and time again, across the decades, that making next practice a reality is not only a profitable strategy, it’s the most profitable strategy of all. This strategy is one taken on board by most new gaming companies who wish to reach the heights of Nintendo and other gaming organizations. New companies have a long way to go before they are able to gain the reputation that Nintendo has. Nevertheless, there are a variety of resources available for those who are interested in learning the steps to opening their own gaming companies. You can begin with reading a site similar to that details what you need to start your own gaming company.

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2018: The year of a more leveled CX playing field

This article was originally published on the CX Network, a leading platform for senior CX and Marketing leaders.

This isn’t the year of futuristic innovations and a complete industry overhaul, 2018 is about customer experience maturity across the board.

Year after year, we see people talking about the next 12 months as announcing a fantastic revolution, with innovation transforming life as we know it and redefining the standard in customer experience.

There is no denying that computing power has been increasing at an insane pace and that the gap between great innovations has been reduced time and time again, but computing power is not the only ingredient to enhanced customer experience.

Call me cynical, but after years of exploring the latest innovation in customer experience (tech-enabled or otherwise), my personal prognostic is that we won’t see a massive leap in customer experience in 2018 – beyond extremely niche offerings or PR stunts.

Over the past few years, we’ve been promised a completely changed playing field through augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR, chatbots/artificial intelligence (AI) and smartwatches. Very few situations have been able to become more than simple gimmicks; good for PR or for die-hard fans.

Maybe 2018 is the year it happens, but I doubt it.

On the contrary, I believe that the excitement this year should be around a more leveled playing field. It’s about those businesses who are newer to the CX-mindset. They are the businesses that have been getting their house in order, dealing with legacy systems and inside-out strategies to truly focus on their most important stakeholder: the customer.

I believe 2018 will be the year where more and more businesses become mature enough to demonstrate their own take on customer experience and how they use technology to enable their unique proposition to shine through and scale.

We won’t see a massive leap in customer experience in 2018 – beyond extremely niche offerings or PR stunts.

I’m genuinely excited to see how two, three or four businesses will be competing with each other using strong customer experience as a major vector.

Gartner predicted it a few years ago, and all points towards it are finally materialising itself: 2018 will be the year of diversity. So open your eyes and witness how the same technology and capabilities can offer vastly different solutions to customers based on an organisations’ DNA.

This is just the biggest trend I see happening.

However, I’ll still be looking out for (and reporting back on) the cutting-edge examples. Fear not, Customer Experience Next Practice is definitively part of the agenda for 2018.

This prediction is an excerpt from CX Network’s Customer Experience Predictions for 2018 report. 


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Do AI and text analytics bring the death of surveys?

This article was originally published on the CX Network – a leading platform for CX and Marketing senior leaders.

It’s a new world of customer feedback measurement, but is it out with the old and in with the new, or can traditional and futuristic tech work alongside each other to paint a complete picture?

customer feedback

Let’s face it, surveys have lost a lot of their popularities over the years. Decreasing response rates and an ever shorter attention span from customers have announced the age of ‘survey fatigue’. And some doom and gloomers even argue they are a thing of the past. Are they though?

NPS (net promotor score) was launched in 2003 and with it came a push for a growing focus on open-ended questions, generating an ever-greater body of unstructured data through the follow-up question of ’Why?’, or ‘How can we improve?’

A new generation of tech analytics
Text analytics are the effort of structuring the data which is captured unstructured, while keeping the depth of insight.

It attempts to bring the quantitative element back into the picture by associating key words to a category called ‘theme’. It applies rules on the words present in the text string and those surrounding it. Themes are the standardised, quantified approach to this data.

Although the original solutions focused on a data set that was formatted to be digested by the engine, a new generation of advanced text analytics tool suites can now digest the information available on social media. This enables businesses to analyse both solicited and unsolicited feedback, which they would otherwise never hear from.

According to Groovv, 96 per cent of unhappy customers will not complain to you but will tell their friends and followers – and now you can access that information too.

AI takes customer feedback to new heights

As artificial intelligence (AI) is dubbed the biggest revolution of 2018, one would be quick to ask whether AI is making this any more accurate or easy.

I caught up with AI thought-leader Lars Hamberg, CEO of Swedish start-up Gavagai. He spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos about the promise of AI, successful corporate AI strategies and some of the most ‘unexpected, implications of language AI, both inside and outside of the business world’.

Hamberg believes the future of feedback is about both open-ended responses and unsolicited social media commentary.

“By leveraging the power of automation – enabled by AI-driven NLP (natural language processing) – much larger data samples of unstructured data can now be analysed in a fraction of the time this used to take. We are now trying to take automation to the extreme, so that anyone – without any prior skills – can get operational and prescriptive insights from raw text data in just one single click.”

“We are now able to predict the NPS score based entirely on what is written in the response, rendering the actual NPS score unnecessary.”

Hamberg explains that with a few exceptions, there will be no need for structured data, beside the metadata, in typical customer feedback. However, he said there will still be a place for structured data and scale questions, as it is what people are familiar with.

“Ultimately, it is the cost and business value of the customer insight that will determine the need for structured data. As soon as the newer approaches reach maturity and become more widely used, the closed-ended approach will be less commonly used,” he concludes.

But what about NPS? Its promoters (forgive the most overused pun in the industry) claim this is the only number one needs to focus on (alongside an open-ended question) – does it still have its place in this new AI-driven offering?

“If you are able to gather enough volume of answers, you will be able to determine with high accuracy what is driving customer satisfaction – on a much more granular level – based solely on unstructured text responses,” continus Hamberg.

As per NPS, “we are now able to predict the NPS score based entirely on what is written in the response, rendering the actual NPS score unnecessary.”

It turns out, there could be even more depth, reliability and rigour in an AI-calculated NPS score according to Hamberg: “Interestingly, responses also contain information about the likely future direction of the implied NPS, on an individual respondent level. The most direct way to find out what people think is simply to ask them, without going through some intermediate step of introspective gauging.

“It turns out that people are very inconsistent when numerically assessing their own opinions or beliefs.”

Should we all give up on surveys then?

Although many businesses are adopting text-analytics driven-approaches, and Hamberg sees its days counted, there are still many businesses needing structured data to measure customer experience.

Take a business that is very data-driven and only swears by numbers, or another that wants to ensure they will fairly reward performance on the back of customer experience metrics. An open-ended approach will generate worry, uncertainty and probably discomfort, which would be prevented by a set of scale questions.

Surveys might have been there for much longer than text analytics, but that doesn’t make them outdated. Like any new approach, some businesses will adopt it with great success and others with incredible frustration – novelty doesn’t mean it is a fit.

When designing your voice of the customer programme, focus on what would work for your business, your operational colleagues and your corporate culture; whether that be AI-powered text analytics or close-ended questions. Understand what your business truly needs and adopt it. Additionally, above all, do not be afraid to embrace software for survey analysis, as this type of revolutionary technology can offer unique insights for your business that no other method of data collection can compete with.

Ultimately, remember the greatest truth in customer experience measurement “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted” (Albert Einstein).

Surveys might have been there for much longer than text analytics, but that doesn’t make them outdated.

Whichever approach you decide to adopt, make sure that you focus on what really counts, measuring and re-designing what your customers think and feel about engaging with you. Have the right tool for your business, instead of trying to fit your business to a fancy new tool.

It’s not the fancy, but the right tool which will enable you, like Lars Hamberg, to create Next Practice in the Making.

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