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Stop over thinking customer experience - there are just two types...

Updated: May 3, 2022

After over a decade focused on Customer Experience (CX) design realized there are just two types of CX. Things we WANT to do. And things we MUST do. Things we want to do should be fun and enjoyable. Things we must do should be efficient and convenient. These attributes should be at the core of any design work you do to improve the customer experience. They should be your 'North star'.

Let's start with a stuffed giraffe.

In 2012, the world was introduced to a stuffed toy giraffe called Joshie. Joshie became the inspiration for customer experience consultants around the world and the aspiration for customer service managers in a range of industries. Why? Well, as the beloved toy of a young boy, Joshie got to stay at a Ritz Carlton property in Florida. Unfortunately, Joshie was accidentally left behind by the family when they left the property.

Upon realizing their mistake, the family immediately contacted the property, and Joshie was quickly found. Rather than packing Joshie into a bag and mailing him back, the hotel staff decided that Joshie should enjoy his extended stay at the property. They took photos of the giraffe getting a massage, lounging by the pool, making friends, and driving a golf cart. Joshie, along with photographic evidence of his extended trip was returned to the family.

The father, Chris Hurn, was so impressed by how the hotel staff had gone ‘above and beyond’ posted the story on the HuffPost website and the story went viral as the ‘new bar’ in customer service and customer experience.

There are lots of stories from brands like Ritz Carlton, Zappos, Disney that demonstrate the delivery of exceptional customer experiences. But what makes them exceptional is that they are unique and personal and almost impossible to replicate or systematize. And that’s OK – because chances are if you’re reading this post, you’re probably in an industry that can’t hope to create those types of experiences – and that’s OK. Because there are basically two types of customer experiences and once you accept which one you’re in and what people value about your business – it becomes much easier to create GREAT customer experiences.

And those two customer experience groups are:

1. Things you want to do - like going on vacation or watching a movie;

2. Things you must do - like paying taxes or banking.

Customer Experiences can be divided in to 'things you want to do' and 'things you must do'

Things you want to do

There are things we all want to do – for example: date night; watching a movie; BBQ with friends; going on vacation. To describe these experiences, we use words like 'fun', 'enjoyable', 'delightful', 'can’t wait'.

When my family and I had settled into Boulder Colorado, I decided it was time for a nice dinner with my wife. So I asked some work colleagues for a recommendation on a restaurant. 3 separate people gave a resounding endorsement for Frasca Food and Wine. So we decided to try it out. It was perfect.

The food was exceptional – but that wasn’t what stood out. It was the service. We were greeted at the front desk as if we were the most important diners in the restaurant that night. We were a little early and provided with a complimentary glass of wine at the bar while we waited for our table to be prepared. Throughout the meal, our conversation wasn’t interrupted once (a big deal when talking to your spouse without two elementary school boys around) … but our water and wine glasses never ran dry and whenever we needed something, staff were on hand to help.

This level of experience at Frasca is by no accident. The restaurant owner Bobby Stuckey is famous for his focus on 'hospitality' as opposed to 'service'. In fact, his staff are called 'hospitalians'. He spoke at the Boulder TED event on the importance and simplicity of great hospitality.

'Hospitality' is not the same as 'service' - it's a mindset designed to make customers feel great, no matter what

We’ve been back to Frasca several times since, and we’ve never been even slightly disappointed.

Dining out is something I 'want' to do. I don’t want it to be rushed, I want to take my time. I don’t want it to be efficient, I want it to be enjoyable.

Things I must do

There are things we all 'must do' – for example: paying taxes; getting insurance; going to the dentist; banking. To describe these experiences, we l use words like “quick”, “easy”, “painless”, “put off”.

I was traveling from Colorado to Ney York for business in 2018. In addition to business meetings in the Big Apple, I also had several conference calls and a webinar to deliver from my hotel room. Standing in line to board my flight in Denver I realized I’d forgotten to pack a headset for the conference calls and webinar and I knew the audio quality on my laptop mic & speakers wasn’t good enough. I started to panic – when would I find time to get to a BestBuy? Where is the nearest BestBuy? It’s easy to find a bar, restaurant, or café in Manhattan – but an electronics store!?!

Then I remembered Amazon PrimeNOW – 2 hour delivery on certain items in metro centers. So I pulled out my phone as I was boarding the flight and searched for a wireless headset on PrimeNOW. Bingo – the perfect Logitech wireless headset was available. I ordered it and specified my hotel in Manhattan as the delivery location. Because the item was over $40, delivery was free. I boarded my flight and about 3 hours later landed in New York. I turned on my phone and received a text message to say my item had been delivered! I arrived at the hotel, checked in, and was handed a brown Amazon package containing my new Logitech headset.

I needed that headset. And I needed the experience to be quick, painless, convenient – all hallmarks of a great 'must do' customer experience.

Amazon designs experiences that are quick, painless and convenient

How do you design great 'must do' customer experiences?

Banking, insurance, government services are not like Ritz Carlton, Disney or Frasca experiences – but you can still make them memorable for customers by making them as quick, easy, and painless as possible – thereby giving people back more time for the things they want to do…even if that ‘thing’ is just watching TV.

Andy Lark ( from New Zealand was influential on my thinking about experience design. We met when he was the Chief Marketing Officer at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Australia’s largest bank). A great example of Andy’s work was the design of the bank’s Bank Account Opening experience.

Andy asked his team to graph their Mobile Banking logins during a popular TV show at the time – My Kitchen Rules. There were distinct spikes in mobile logins during the 1 hour TV show. The team then overlayed the four commercial breaks (ad-breaks) over this timeline – and the spikes in logins coincided with the commercial breaks. Obvious really.

Spikes in mobile banking logins coincided with TV show commercial breaks

But then Andy asked his team to “design an account opening experience that can be completed during the commercial break – in 90 seconds”. The result was an industry-leading account opening experience that many others have tried to emulate.

Andy recognized that quick, easy and convenient were critical factors in the design of banking experiences. Let people get the job done quickly, so they can get back to the things they enjoy, like watching reality cooking TV shows.

Quick, easy and convenient are critical in designing banking experiences

These days, most consumers expect their “must-do” experiences to be digital (I’m looking forward to virtual dentist visits!). Furthermore, those experiences should be mobile – in my pocket. I want to pay taxes online, get insurance digitally, bank on my phone.

And contrary to the beliefs of many – success in designing these experiences shouldn’t be measured by the time individuals spend on your website or in your mobile app – don’t be fooled into thinking this shows “engagement” – you’re not Netflix! Success should be measured by the completion of the task at hand.

  • How many accounts are opened?

  • How many claims are successfully submitted?

  • How many tax returns are submitted in a single sitting?

Success should be measured by completion of the task at hand, not time spent or engagement

And anything that can be done to make the experience easier for customers should be a focus. Think about it from a personal perspective – if you were a customer engaging with your business, would you want it to be faster, easier, more intuitive, more convenient? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” – you’ve got work to do. There are always dials you can turn to improve the experience. In the next post, I’ll share some best practices for the design of great “must-do” digital customer experiences. I guarantee you’ll learn something you didn’t already know.

Thanks for reading.


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