design researcher / creative entrepreneur


A Good “Customer Experience”


This afternoon I took a walk to the Starbucks by my apartment. I needed to get out of the house, get some fresh air and a little human interaction. First let me say that I am not a one of those die-hard Starbucks customers that buys Starbucks almost every day of the week. I much rather prefer the little local coffee shops owned by people in the neighborhood. But I wanted to go for a long walk and Starbucks was the furthest away.

I approached the counter and the Starbucks barista asked me “What can I get you?” I found myself trying to remember the proper word for a “small” in Starbuckese. (I think a small is actually means large.) But like always the baristas behind the counter was very helpful and patient.  And the Tazo tea that I ordered was excellent, although a bit over priced.

Beyond my personal preferences, I find that Starbucks is excellent at providing a good customer experience. I truly enjoy the Starbucks environment from the comfy seating, to the interior design colors, to the choice of music, from the names of the sizes (in Starbuckese) to the faux-chalkboard signs showing the specials of the day. Not to mention the free wifi, the cross-promoted products, and the generally good attitude of the baristas. Starbucks seemingly seamless experience does not happen by accident, it happed by design.

Starbuck is not the only company that has mastered the formula for providing exceptional customer experience, Apple,, Zappos, Target, and Ikea provide a great experience for their customers as well.

What exactly is “Customer Experience?”

This phrase “Customer experience” has become very commonly used since everyone seems to be trying to improve how a customer perceives their company. Like the words “innovation” and “design” it is difficult to find a clear definition. How can a company improve customer experience if they can’t define it? Sometimes customer experience is focused on retail or customer service or the speed at which problems are solved in a call center. In other cases it can be defined as digital experiences and interactions, such as a websites or smart phones. I believe for a company to be successful, customer experience needs to be seen as all these things and more. It is the sum-totality of how a customer engages with a company and brand as well as how well a company stimulates the senses and emotions across all the moments of contact.

What retail organization do you think provides an excellent customer experience?