Okay, for the impatient, here’s the answer: Flow and Design.
Great. That was easy.
Alright then. Let’s dig in.
Level 1: Flow
Here’s a fun name you may have never heard before: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
It’s pronounced something like “Me-high Cheek-sent-me-high-ee.”
Let’s try all. All together now: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Pretty good. (We’ll work on it.)
Csikszentmihalyi is a positive psychologist. Early in his decades of research, he interviewed creative types, like musicians, artists, and scientists, to understand what made them happy. He noticed how each of them explained their craft as an intense and alternate state of being. When at work, they were in total ecstasy, without a sense of time or distraction, and their ideas just “flowed out.”
Accordingly, Csikszentmihalyi named this mental state “flow.” In a very basic way, flow is the feeling of being completely invested in an activity. It’s the feeling of losing yourself in a chosen task or pursuit, to the extent that nothing else matters.
You may have experienced flow before. Maybe you lost time while doing yoga. Or got in the zone on a basketball court. Or spent three blissful hours making cookies. Whatever the case, there’s likely been some moment where you lost track of time in a pursuit.
Flow is interesting to psychologists because of its connection to happiness. And that connection also makes it appealing to people in education, innovation, and design. For those people, the question is this: How can we encourage more flow?
Level 2: Designing Flow
Video game designers are experts in flow. They throw players into an alternate reality, spark action, ratchet up the difficulty, and provoke players to engage over time.
A great example of how flow works in video games is Tetris. Tetris is one of the most popular video games of all time, and it’s simple and addictive. When you start the game, blocks fall slowly from the top of the screen. You can rotate and move blocks easily, so you can learn the mechanics of the game.
But the game incrementally increases in speed. You have less and less time to rotate and move blocks. You don’t have time to think. (“WHERE’S A LONG PIECE?!”) You clear rows however you can. Suddenly, your screen fills with blocks and the game ends.
Think about that: You never win Tetris. You always, always, always lose.
Through design, video games position failure as a motivational tool. Each failure is a learning moment, an opportunity to try again. In fact, gamers fail 80% of the time they play video games. (For educators, that’s one of the grail-like qualities of the medium. Kids are willing to fight through failure in games, but not necessarily in math class.)
One of the other interesting qualities of video games is their dynamic nature. Each player has a unique experience while playing a video game, because every player has his or her own approach to solving the challenges presented. In a first person shooter, for example, one player might prefer running and gunning through levels. Another might prefer stealth tactics. Another might scour the landscape for hidden trinkets. And another might perform a mixture of the three. Each player would experience the game in a different way, one specific to his or her interactions.
Level 3: Customer Experience Lessons
What does all of that have to do with customer experience?
Well, in short, everything. You want your customers to engage. You want them to find value. You want them to continue investing in you. You want them to have unique experiences.
So, great customer experience strategy is a matter of design, and also a matter of encouraging flow for your customers. Let’s think about the customer journey through through the lens of a video game designer:
- Press Start. If you want new customers, aim to get them into the game as soon as possible. Barriers to entry are opportunities for your competition.
- Beginner Mode. Once they choose you, help them learn the ropes, so they can embark on the journey. Get them started and comfortable.
- Choose Your Own Adventure. Every customer will experience your products and services in a different way. That’s why you should take every chance to create meaningful interactions along their journey. That level of care translates to customer trust.
- Power Up. If you want customers to continue working with you, think about how to evolve with them. Listen to customer feedback. How they use your products and services can highlight new opportunities and help you redefine your business.
Hold on. Hit Pause.
What about failure?
Just like in video games, failure in business is all about positioning. A customer’s failure as a motivational tool, as a teaching moment, can be a remarkable motivator and distinguish your experience from the competition.
But if you fail when delivering your products or services? That’s a recipe for Game Over.
That’s why it’s so important to ask for feedback and act on it. With every closed feedback loop, you can create learning moments for prospects, customers, and employees. You can create a stronger experience for your customer base. You can improve your systems of business. You can create memorable moments that keep your customers on board, and encourage them to spread the word about you.
Level 4: Play Again?
Of course you should.
Even if you have a great experience that puts customers seamlessly into a state of flow, you can still improve through customer feedback management. If you open the door to dialog, it might result in ways to improve the experience on your website, or voicemail system, or checkout line.
Building a better customer experience takes ongoing effort and action. As long as you’re in business and working with customers, there will be challenges. But every challenge is an opportunity to improve, a chance to build trust, and a way to create better business.
So keep asking questions, acting, and improving.