Memorable experiences need a bit of friction

  • Voices
  • July 17, 2017
  • Simon Sievert
Memorable experiences need a bit of friction

I witnessed the perfect customer experience demonstration years before I was even aware of the phrase.

It was a wet weekend in the school holidays, in an inconspicuous corner of a MOTAT hall. There sat an exhibit called the Tactile Dome. From the outside it looked pretty uninspiring – a hand painted silver geodesic dome. But it was what was on the inside that counted; pitch blackness and the muffled sound of screaming. Adding to the effect was the omnipresent staff member watching security monitors, helping kids ‘survive’ the experience.

Normally they breeze through exhibits without batting an eye. But this had them mesmerised. Fear had stopped them diving straight in – yet they couldn’t tear themselves away from the curious combination of screaming and squealing. Their anticipation of terror was countered perfectly by the look of joy on the faces of the children coming out the other end of the dome.

After 45 minutes of courage plucking, and several false starts, the first of them got through the course. I assumed this was the end of the process and we could move on. But no.

Not only did I have to endure another hour to wear them out in the dome, but evenings of recounting the adventure at the dinner table, and requests to go back terms later.

The point that day really drove home, was just how big a role emotion plays in our experience of the world - particularly the bits we remember. My kids exhibited two key behaviours any marketing team would kill to get: advocacy and loyalty.

A lot of the conversation we’re hearing around CX is centred on meeting expectations and making the experience with the business ‘seamless’. Much of this thinking stems logically from CX’s heritage of UX (usability) and NPS programmes. Both are laudable (and challenging) goals – and they will almost certainly pay dividends on your short-term sales.

But CX is a long play. It is about consciously designing the experience to steer customers towards a goal they, and you, want. Part of what you get out of the bargain is to create such a memorable experience it creates loyalty and advocacy. We’re talking good old-fashioned emotional loyalty here. So ask yourself: do you remember the last time something went off without a hitch?

What makes an experience so powerful that people will seek it out again?

Let’s return to the dome for answers; build anticipation to fever pitch levels, and then satisfy it. Disney has taken this to world-leading levels, with a CX programme that focusses as much on the period before the visit, as it does on the actual park experience itself.

Of course, as an industry, we have perfected the craft of creating anticipation and desire – but have rarely concerned ourselves with the fulfilment of the emotional expectations we created. Merely following up a powerful campaign with a seamless experience is going to leave the bitter taste of hollow promise. How do we lift our game?

Turns out, you need a bit of friction. Just not the 10-step-registration-form kind.

Slowing people down at the right moment gives you the chance to incite an emotional response.

Functionally, it made no sense to add another step before an already onerous calculator for the Electricity Authority’s energy savings website. But What’s my Number did just that, to create a sense of anticipation of the saving electricity consumers could make (eventually) and to deliver on the campaign idea

#Goballsout encouraged men to, literally, run for miles before making a simple, 30-second check for testicular cancer.

In America, Porsche uses the time it takes to build a customer’s car to introduce the features of their new purchase. That build-up to the first moment behind the wheel guarantees it will be one to remember. 

The art of CX design lies in identifying the right time to add such moments. User journey maps are a great place to start. They will certainly give you a picture of all the opportunities to impact their experience – but which to pick?

FCB combines the classic map with our behaviour change framework to find those points where impactful moments are going to elevate your brand. It can identify the perfect time to close the creative loop and deliver on your emotional promise. Or find that little value-add to meet a customer’s core need.

No customer will ever recount the entire process of dealing with you – but they will tell the tale of something memorable you did along the way. The rest of the task is removing enough of the resistance along the path, so that positive moment is the one they do remember.

Simon Sievert is a member of FCB’s Integrated Strategic Unit, with a focus on CX. He has a background in engineering, combined with extensive digital and creative experience. Most notably, he led the development of The Journal, which has been internationally recognised by both the advertising and medical community for its effectiveness in tackling depression.  

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