Big corporate houses adopted various ways to attract prospective customers, strengthen business relations, and ultimately increase revenue in-flow. The Executive Briefing Center (EBC) is one such channel to present organizational culture, people, heritage, products, and offerings to impress the clients. The use of such engaging presentations offers impressive demonstrations in a larger-than-life experience. Over time, EBCs evolved through the progress of digital and Audio-Visual (AV) technology, and appeared in the new avatar of “Customer Experience Centers (CEC).” At MPS Interactive, we help our customers set up such Customer Experience Centers to meet their business goals.
The journey from the initial stages to the final set up of a fully functional Customer Experience Center involves various challenges including decisions on technology, architecture, and application development. You could be creating excellent content or impressive visuals but if the underlying technology does not represent them accurately, it impacts the overall end-user experience.
Below are a few key areas which need early attention while designing a customer experience center:
Define what to showcase:
This is the first step taken before embarking on a project. Here, the content curators and writers begin to research and analyze content; visual designers begin their sketches of the visual representation of the ideas; AV engineers begin scouting hardware devices/technology options and trends in the market; and interior designers start drawing up layouts and blueprints. Although many of these activities happen parallelly, there must always be cross-functional collaboration and consultation to ensure synergy.
Finally, all the elements are put together and the instructional designer validates the broad storyline to ensure that the experience effectively conveys the message that needs to be communicated to the customer. For a successful immersive experience, it is imperative to build the visual and technological solutions around the storyline and resist the temptation to experiment with unnecessary flashy devices and gimmicks.
Conceptualize the interior design:
Initially, while planning the grand design for the Customer Experience Center, one might overlook minor details which can later lead to significant inconveniences. For example, the plans for an LED-backlit panel had to be scrapped owing to the lack of space and provisions to hide the LED-Controller device. Hence it is critical to review the blueprints and every minute detail such as the location of a power junction box, electrical points, distance from the server room, length of the cables, requirement of HDMI converters/boosters, etc. to avoid any last-minute surprises.
Selection of AV-Hardware: While selecting the AV-Hardware, the engineer needs to find answers to the questions below:
Is the technology mature or new to the market?
The answer would be to select a more established technology – for the very simple reason that such technology would have a known track record, ready installation know-how, easy replacement and spares, and customer support. There may be the occasional exception to this, but selecting the right technology will pave the way for a consistent, sustainable, and well-deployed experience.
What is the budget?
Having a fair idea of the budget will help select the right hardware options for the solution. The simplest example would be having to choose between a single high-quality luminous projector or multiple thin bezels high-resolution professional display. The choice can be made keeping one eye on the budget and the other on the needs of the project – not that they overlap, but we could attempt to strike a balance between the two.
What are the limitations set by the design?
The answer to this question depends heavily on interior design. The placement and position of the AV hardware are critical elements in creating a truly memorable experience for the customer. If the visuals projected by a high-end projector are intended to fall on one of the walls, then the designers must be certain to avoid any LED-backlit panels or continuously-glowing digital panels near that wall. The light reflected from these devices will impact the quality of the projection, and the customer experience might be diminished.
Similarly, while planning a multi-panel digital display, one must keep in mind the minimum viewing distance, else it may obstruct the consumption of the information being displayed on the panel. A full-wall digital display that runs from floor to ceiling might offer a grand effect, but care must be taken to ensure that the content appears only in the viewable area for maximum impact.
What limitations do software and its compatibility bring?
The AV engineers need to expound these limitations while selecting hardware. If the system software is proprietory – offering fewer choices for support and customization – then it is best avoided. Blindly opting for popular brands or highly reputed suppliers does not guarantee either the availability or the compatibility of the hardware and software.
For example, you may plan on adding a multi-projector display for the grand view on the longest wall of the premise and later realize that the projector stitching software fails to blend the edges. It is always a good idea to first request a demo from the supplier and evaluate the capabilities as well as the limitations of the hardware along with the software controlling the AV hardware.
Developing application software and visual assets:
Although the design and development of application software and visual assets come at the latter end of the project, it is important to remember precursors for the same during conceptualization. This starts with defining the supported resolution, aspect ratio, bit rates, and Codec for the planned visual assets along with a selection of the appropriate computer configuration and graphic cards that will render these visual assets.
Visual designers and software engineers should work in coordination to ensure perfect execution. In most cases, the hardware used during the development of the software and the visual assets do not match the hardware planned for production use. Hence, the QA team needs to be given sufficient time to test the experience on the actual hardware. Issues related to touch-sensitivity, fine-tuning of the professional display, alignment of a projector or multi-display screens, network communication, driver compatibility issues, the calibration of hardware and software, etc. are key factors that one needs to plan for during the implementation of the production environment.
The planner needs a thorough understanding of these challenges since there are numerous dependencies that can be identified and resolved only in the actual production environment. A delay in the availability of hardware is the most common phenomenon during the implementation of a Customer Experience Center. This is due to various factors such as importing, customs, transportation, deployment, installation, commissioning, etc. The high-end professional display, projectors, and other high-tech AV hardware are mostly available on an on-demand basis and thus have long procurement cycles. The deployment of such hardware requires a dust-free environment. Development needs to be planned to consider variables such as shorter testing windows, aggressive timelines, work-in-progress interiors, the absence of network connectivity, and a noisy work area for deployment – similar to what one might experience at a manufacturing plant.
The success of the Customer Experience Center will depend on how well these challenges are managed, how the risks are identified and mitigated, and how well the development team is equipped with skills, tools, and experience. To quote Winston Churchill – “Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.” At MPS Interactive we have learned many such lessons over several years and countless implementations, and have molded our design and implementation processes to create a seamless experience – for our clients and their customers. To know more about our work on Customer Experience Centers, visit https://www.mpsinteractive.com/consulting-services/user-experience-design/.
– By Ashwin Kamat, Director – Technology at MPS Interactive Systems