The role of a UX Agency in 2024.


Brian HerronPrincipal UX Designer

At Each&Other we know our purpose: we deliver competitive advantage to our clients through exceptional UX Design. That doesn't change.

But at the start of every year, we go through an exercise to ask: "How are we useful to our clients?"
And that does change – because our clients' needs change.

Businesses – that were once prime potential clients – adopted the language and mantras that were once the purview of only high-end specialist design consultancies and Silicon Valley product companies (our language!). UX was core to CX, and the future of every business is to be a digital business, and therefore it all needed to be in-housed.

It looked – from the outside at least – that the days of specialist UX agencies, like Each&Other were numbered. And yet… here we are, two-ish decades on, and doing well with a global, growing client roster.

We think that’s because we – good, external agencies in general – offer something that is vital and hard to generate internally: momentum.

We’re at a moment of urgent change

Right now, we’re continuously hearing two big messages from the market:

  1. There is an increasingly urgent need to improve key customer journeys, in acquisition, customer service and internal processes to maintain competitiveness
  2. Companies are starting from shaky foundations and are finding it hard to actually get started.

In 2024, with so much change in technology and markets, digital leaders know they have a narrow but distinct opportunity to get Big Things done. But for many of them, achieving that first bit of momentum is a struggle.

It’s hard to gain momentum if your foot’s always hovering over the brake.

A new Head of Digital or Product may ostensibly have a mandate for digital expansion, change, or product launch – the senior leadership have read the Gartner reports1 – but then still find they need to “prove” the value of CX and design process when it comes to actual budgeted projects. They sometimes inherit inexperienced internal teams that aren’t producing work at the pace and quality expected. And nipping at the edges to achieve quick wins remains the order of the day, rather than tackling the fundamentals that would really move the needle.
1. Read the report:
As early as 2018, Gartner was tying CX to business performance.

Even in the best of times, doing Big Things takes time. But change-makers who joined companies in 2022/23 with a vision of transforming customer experience, are now operating with slashed budgets and uncertain corporate commitment for programmes.

It’s hard to gain momentum if your foot’s always hovering over the brake.

People use us to start putting the foot down on the accelerator.

Build momentum in three steps

Different companies get blocked at different stages of their journey and for different reasons:

  1. concern that they’re taking a technology first not a customer first approach (making the same mistake they always make!);
  2. worried that they’ll produce just below good enough, certainly not great;
  3. wary that everything takes longer than it should, and time is slipping by.

And that’s why we’re in a position to help. In some ways, it’s because we’ve followed the Jeff Bezos maxim: “focus on the things that don’t change”. In our case the fundamentals that don’t change are:

  • Always, always, always, start with the customer’s needs.
    By showing what it looks like from the customers perspective – and how by it is – you increase the urgency in business around the need to change.
  • Define what you want to create clearly before beginning, or budgeting, projects.
    Create clarity and confidence that what you’re planning is achievable.
  • Ability to deliver at pace.
    Start pushing through progress in design fast and get the organisation excited about what’s to come.

This is how we start building momentum.

1. Eyes on the customer

It seems obvious and boring to say, but we keep a laser focus on the customer journey, understand where the pressure points are, and make a dispassionate appraisal about where a technology can contribute to changing the customer experience for the better.

We take the conversation away from technology for its own sake and focus on where it can add value – and where it won’t. An agency like ours can be a copilot with the business sponsor, able to navigate the full customer service journey and identify if there are steps to add or remove.

Take AI: right now, we’re in the middle of the hype cycle. It’s tempting for organisations to go all in and make a big bet on it. In fact, it might be the best way to release budget in 2024.2

But the area is evolving so rapidly that it comes with enormous risks (eg. reputational, experiential, legal). A new and shiny toy can lead the business down a path that just delivers technology for its own sake, and loses sight of the customer benefit. Choosing the wrong investment could set back efforts or open the door to a more nimble competitor.

2. We’ll have more to contribute to the discussion on CX/UX and AI in the near future.

2. Building the business case

When anyone spends time in the trenches of a single business, there’s a risk of tunnel vision: missing out on learnings and best practice from other industries. If all you’re thinking about is healthcare, you might be missing a trick from financial services.

WE haven't just climbed one peak; we’ve scaled several.

An external studio hasn’t just climbed one peak; we’ve scaled several.

At any moment in time, we’re working on multiple projects with a variety of clients, across diverse business sectors. That kind of cross-pollination provides a vital perspective that a digital leader alone, by definition, won’t have. This experience also helps us to support digital leaders in steering a project through the organisation, convincing senior management and gaining valuable stakeholder buy-in that propels a project forward.

By joining this experience with direct customer insight and internal stakeholder expertise, we're able to pull together clear, compelling narratives for what the future should look like.3

3. This can take the form of User Journeys, Service Design blueprints, low-fi prototypes all of which input into more formal, traditional business cases.

3. The need for speed

The final, a most obvious requirement for momentum is the capability to execute fast. If the organisation’s strategy is to reach the top of a mountain range, there are a lot of hills to climb to get to the summit. And if you wait for the perfect conditions, to have all the technology set up, the perfect team in place, you’re losing valuable time – and that’s diminishing your ability to compete in the market.

If you want to show results in 2024 you need to actually produce something that can be in build by April and launched by September.

An agency is set up to deliver the best quality product to market as fast as possible. We help you plant a flag on that first hill, while, in the background, you’re resourcing your team and building capability as you go.

Shifting expectations

Watts S. Humphrey, the father of software quality, once said: “Every business is a software business.” Now, 20 years on, I think we can update this quote to say: “every business is a customer experience (CX) business”.

Market leaders in B2C have set high expectations of what good CX should be, and there’s been a steady cascade into the B2B space too.

even as digital leaders build UX capability in-house, CX is mission critical and strategic; and can't wait.

Unlike years ago, today, Heads of Digital get this – we're all on the same page.

But even as they build UX capability in-house, CX is mission critical and strategic; and can't wait.

That's our role now: the UX agency in 2024 is a trusted collaborator; a team of experts aligned with an expert digital leaders’ goals, giving them the support and the rapid results they need, building momentum for the bigger digital transformation.

At Each&Other, we’re excited by what lies ahead – we've never been operating as closely with our clients' core businesses and we're shipping some of the most exciting digital products we've ever co-created with our clients.

Customer Experience is a competitive advantage, and we’re the catalyst to deliver it.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Copyright © 2023 Each&Other Ltd.

Registered in Ireland. No. 545982

Privacy Policy