It’s the experience itself that matters

I just had the most incredible customer experience last weekend at Mt. Rainier National Park. And no it doesn’t have to do with a single interaction with park rangers, concession employees or infrastructure. It was all about the experience itself.

Mt. Rainier

Labor Day at Paradise

Spending the last day of summer hiking up the side of one of most beautiful mountains in the world with my son, having a snowball fight in 80 degree sun and running down the trail to bring my wife, who was sidelined by crutches, with a chunk of a glacier before that same 80 degree sun gave real meaning to global warning.

My point is not to rave about a great family outing I had, although it was fantastic. On the drive home, I started thinking about what made the day a great experience. We got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic driving up the winding mountain road. The brand new multi-million dollar visitor center had fewer exhibits than a grade school science fair and we had to walk single file up the first trail because there were so many people. When I look at the day from a series of controllable human interactions, it sounded more like a bust than a memorable moment.

From a UX perspective, they could have designed better traffic flow on the roads. The visitor center might have been adaptable to my persona’s needs and of course they could have simply built more trails, scaling for the demand. But in the end, they wouldn’t have made much difference, because ultimately it wasn’t about navigational or operational issues, it was about pure experience.

My pure experience was blue sky, bright sun, views that dwarfed me and a time/place/people combination that wowed me. In other words, it was the content that made the experience. So much of the content we create today is mass produced, aimed at the lowest common denominator and tries to shock or titillate to such a degree as it simply becomes part of the noise and noise which is getting louder every day.

Tatoosh range

Looking beyond Paradise

The answer is not easy and there isn’t a simple solution, but if try to adhere to one simple principle we may be able to come closer to the mark. Every time we pitch, design, develop, or evaluate an idea, a campaign, or a business model, we should ask ourselves if it can rise to the monumental or at least taste like a lick of a blue glacier on the last day of summer.

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