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.

Consider the business center. All too often, I check in to a hotel that caters to business travelers only to discover that the so-called business center is not much more than a hard-to-find closet with a fax machine and a printer. At the Courtyard, the whole notion of the business center has been turned inside out and expanded. Entering the lobby, you can’t miss a large business center just beyond the check-in desk replete with cinema displays and a “boarding pass” station where you can print your travel documents. The wide variety of seating options throughout the lobby, blending workstations and dining facilities, gives visitors the option of working or eating alone or in groups. Power outlets abound. Wi-Fi is free, and the signal is strong. The restaurant’s tag line pretty well sums it up: “Eat. Drink. Connect.”

Why does Courtyard do this? Because it's designed this space and the experiences it supports with a specific persona in mind, not some generic checklist of requirements. What could be more satisfying to a business traveler than to find — as soon as she walks in the door — that her hotel has anticipated her most essential needs and designed facilities that make solving those needs so easy?

As the old song goes, “T’ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it — that’s what gets results.” Courtyard has the CXi scores to prove it.

I’ll be speaking more about companies that are designing experiences from the outside in at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA, November 19th and 20th, in London. Join me to find out how you can design an experience for your customers that not only surprises and delights but also differentiates your brand from the competition.