Designing Experiences That Surprise And Delight

My wife and I have finally reached the last phase of a lengthy and complex home renovation project. To make sure that the new stairwell gets installed with the least risk of personal injury (descending the stairs first thing in the morning, in the dark, before coffee, and before the banister has been completed — not a good idea), we decided to spend a couple of nights in a hotel while our contractor finishes the job.

That hotel happens to be a Courtyard by Marriott property, one of a handful of businesses to achieve a rating of excellent in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (Cxi). In the CXi, we ask consumers to measure how well each brand they’ve done business with measures up against three criteria: value, ease of use, and enjoyability. Most brands score OK to very poor. So how does Courtyard do it? 

It's skirted the requirements trap. All hotels have rooms, showers, and parking. Wi-Fi, a business center, a dining area, and fitness facilities are pretty generic too. These things are required to compete in this market. But merely having these things is not enough.

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The Magic Behind A Well Designed Mobile Experience

Recently I witnessed a bit of design magic.

I was reviewing some research with a customer experience colleague who suddenly realized that he’d left some notes on his laptop, which was tethered to his desk. Knowing that he just started using Evernote, I suggested he sign into his account on his iPhone (which never leaves his side) and get his notes there.

Voilà. 

For seasoned Evernote users there’s nothing magical about this. But for my coworker, something significant happened. Though young enough to be considered a digital native, he’s also worked long enough to associate productivity tools with desktops and laptops, client-side apps like Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office. His work life has been so deeply informed by PC-based tools that even though he knew, rationally, that he didn’t have to run back to his laptop to consult his notes, his habits told him otherwise. Only when he logged in via his iPhone and experienced what a cloud based note-taking app could do for him did his ideas about work begin to swerve a little. You could see it in his smile. That’s good design – it makes life a little better, opens up possibilities, adds a little gusto.

My colleague Tony Costa has been writing about these “post PC” experiences, and he’ll be speaking about this topic at both our Los Angeles and London CX Forums. He describes these emerging interactions as:

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