Expecting Magic

Shouldn’t my vacation be better than my real life?
— Every Vacationer Ever

Which aspects of a business need to make a commitment to continually focusing on customer experience technology in order to stay alive?

As Harry Beckwith wrote in his book Selling the Invisible, “Bad News: you are competing with Walt Disney.” Beckwith recognized back in 1993 that excellent service experiences at leading brands like McDonald's, Starbucks, and Walt Disney Resorts were setting new baseline expectations that customers may not even consciously acknowledge. This warning still stands true today, except it’s not just Disney anymore. The competitive landscape for user experience has become saturated and the always-online nature of today’s connected consumers makes a magical experience more necessary than ever before.

Every day, consumers’ needs are satisfied by countless service experiences, and that’s before they’ve even had breakfast! When they leave their home, they’re whisked away by a transportation platform service, like Lyft. On schedule or on-demand, their lunch is brought to them cheaper and faster than ever by swarms of competing offers from service platforms like MealPal, Doordash, or Uber Eats. These experiences remove friction and give free time back to your customers which improves their daily lives and happiness. Happy customers with more free time become loyal to the brands that make it possible.

A service that does not jump to meet these expectations will have a small revolution and have a small customer exodus on their hands.
— Harry Beckwith
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The exponential advancement and adoption of technology in the last decade has empowered today’s on-the-go consumers to experience what most would have referred to as magic not too long ago. In 2011, only 35% of Americans owned a smartphone. Since then, the number has jumped to 81%, according to a 2019 study by Pew Research Center. This means the majority of consumers in the US are equipped to engage in these “magical” experiences. This proliferation has caused consumers to become very familiar with—and sometimes dependant upon—the technologies they rely on to add value and remove friction in their day-to-day experiences. They are your competition and set the industry benchmarks. Keeping up with the competition is challenging as it is, but what is worse is the realization you’re not just competing with your industry—you’re competing with every industry.

Are you delivering the magic your customers expect?

When guests show up at your business during their limited vacation time, do you do the following:

  • Did you reach out to them beforehand to learn more about them and their expectations?
  • Can you recognize them and call them by name in every interaction with them?
  • Do they have any special needs which you should be aware of?
  • Can you offer them personalized experiences that are relevant to the journey they are on? or are you just shoving an unstructured offering list under their nose?

You need to realize you are immediately being ranked against the experience benchmarks offered by your competitors. How do you stack up against disruptive lifestyle brands in your guest’s pocket? Has your brand unwittingly become subpar in the minds of these customers? It’s no wonder you struggle to get the kind of repeat business you thought you could take for granted. When customers enter your ecosystem, they expect more orchestration and thoughtfulness, not less.

Your industry has a new external competitor: your customers' ability to satisfy their every whim at the flick of their finger. If you can’t deliver an experience that—at the very least—matches the ones delivered in at-home apps, why would your customers ever leave home, the place they’re already paying for? All the disposable income they could have spent with you is going to simply go the way of “Alexa, make me some avocado toast.”

Innovation is rewarded, execution is worshipped
— Damion Chatmon, Director of Emerging and Digital Technology, Cleveland Cavaliers

So what does it take to meet or set new benchmarks for your customers’ expectations? First, it takes guts and a willingness to embrace continual innovation. Have you made investments already? Fantastic! What’s next? It’s not easy to identify your customers' needs or to anticipate what they themselves don’t know they need. Second, you'll need to fill the gaps by developing or inventing the technologies required for your desired guest experience to work. Lastly, it’ll take an experienced team who has designed the customer experience and invented new technologies to make the impossible possible for some of the most innovative companies in the world.

Our team is ready to partner with you. Share your vision with us, set up a workshop, and let's make some magic.


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About Author

Loren is Design Manager at Level 11 where he leads the creative team to propose, iterate, analyze, rework, and deliver transformational experiences to some of the world's top brands. His favorite guiding questions are “Who’s it for?” and “What’s it for?” As a great partner, he expects good answers and will help you uncover them, preferably at a whiteboard while sipping black coffee.