How to ‘bookend’ in customer experience design

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One of the goals of customer experience design is to differentiate – to make a lasting impression that will live long in the memory. To achieve this, designers pay particular attention to the first and last impressions – these are the ‘bookend’ moments that bracket the experience in the consumers’ memory. If you get these right, they create a halo effect for the more everyday aspects of a product or service, but if you fail here, it can leave a stain that is hard to shift.

(for the science on this, see the footnote)

Here’s an example of doing it well – last week I visited many of the major law firms in London, but only one of them stands out in my mind. It wasn’t because of the quality of advice offered by their lawyers (although excellent I’m sure), but rather the exceptional experience provided by their reception staff.

As we arrived at the top of the escalator, we were greeted by name and gently ushered through reception. En route, we were invited to leave coats and bags in the cloakroom. We were then personally escorted to our meeting room – a longish walk, during which we were engaged in thoughtful conversation. Upon arrival we were offered tea, coffee and refreshments including fresh fruit and biscuits while our host was advised of our arrival.

I was as impressed by what that been designed out of the experience as much as the classy simplicity of what remained. Our group had no need for hush-toned pre-meeting conversations in a frosty reception under the blast of a CNN news feed. We suffered no sitting on low, squishy leather chairs struggling to look or feel comfortable, thumbing through corporate bumf. No gazing at impossibly expensive art, whilst stressed and busy lawyers brushed past. It was personal, professional, comfortable and beautifully delivered. Potential clients are left wondering, ‘if they take this much care of me in reception, how good must the rest of it be?”

So let’s give them a shout-out – they deserve it. Allen & Overy’s ‘welcome’ experience is five star, which had me feeling like a highly-valued visitor the moment I arrived. They made something routine feel significant, and embedded their first positive brand impression before a minute of their expensive lawyers’ time had even started……

Further reading: for more about the behavioural psychology that lies behind human experience vs. memory, check out this 20 min video clip of Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel in Economics for his pioneering work in this field no less !

Go to TED video clip

1 COMMENT

  1. […] Upgrade the wait to an ‘event’ – most barber shops don’t offer appointments, you just turn up and hope. And the clientele is (almost) exclusively male. It would be easy for barbers to replace the dog-eared magazines with a rack of the latest Men’s glossy titles – cars, gadgets, sport. Always keep two copies of everything, and replace at the first sight of wear. Customers would soon look forward to the ‘luxury’ of a peaceful few minutes to read. Are they taking the kids too? Then add a small ice-cream cabinet to treat them at the end for good behaviour. By ‘bookend-ing’ the task at hand, the wait is absorbed into the overall experience, and frustration fades into the background (see a whole separate blog on bookend-ing here) […]

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