Experience Design Truth #7: Small Changes Early Solve Big Problems Later

My worst customer experience of the last 30 days was during a fire drill.

When the alarm went off in our office, my teammates and I dutifully left our coffee mugs behind and descended from our spot on the 22nd floor. We exited single file from the stairwell as directed a few floors down and gathered in the elevator bay. Since the space was only about 15 feet wide, the crowd kept getting deeper and deeper as more and more people joined.

At this point the building safety director asked us — a crowd of people packed 15 feet wide and 50 feet deep in an elevator bay — to count off.

It did not go well.

I don’t presume that a safety director is particularly interested in customer experience. But if she was, the immediate temptation would be to think: “People were frustrated with counting off. Let’s come up with a better way to do that so people enjoy it.”

This could result in people passing a ball around to keep track of who counts off next, or starting from the back, or who knows what crazy or creative idea to make that moment better.

This is a mistake.

The best solutions to bad experiences usually come earlier in the journey, not at the moment where the problem is. In this case, the solution is easy: stand by the stairwell exit and silently count people as they leave the stairs. Poof, the problem moment disappears.

If you’ve got a problem in your journey, stop looking at the place where the pain is. Look earlier.

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