When Designing Experiences, Think About What Happens After the Interaction Ends

These days, I’m involved in a project on (re)designing the experience of new employees who go through a rather complex onboarding process.

An important stage of the onboarding process is “the first day at the new job”. On the first day, the new employee gets acquainted with the office layout, receives and is trained in the use of the work equipment (fancy term for laptop), interacts with the direct manager and team colleagues, fills-in some administrative paperwork and has a short meeting with an HR representative, the main topic being benefits such as health insurance and pension.

When I analyzed this stage in the onboarding process, I realized that the first day at the new job ends with a not exactly enthusiastic experience – talking about benefits with the HR representative. Using the “peak-end rule” of memories about experiences, I concluded that the first day needed a different (more positive) ending.

The “peak-end rule” (Redelmeier, Katz, Kahneman, 2003) says that the memory of an experience is influenced only by the peak and end moments of the actual experience. The memory of an experience is not influenced by the duration and/ or other moments of the actual experience.

The proposed solution (wait for it…) came from the realization that, in this case, the new employee’s experience of the first day at the new job doesn’t end at the same time the interaction with the company ends – i.e. when the new employee leaves the office.

Starting a new job at a new employer is a big life-event. It is only natural for the new employee to be asked by significant others (e.g. spouse, parents, life partner etc.) the question “how did it go on your first day?” on the very evening of the first day at the new job, maybe during dinner.

The proposed solution is to add a short (15 minutes) stage at the very end of the first day in the office. The new employee is asked to write a short letter to her future-self (a year from now) about how her first day at the new job went. The letter is sealed, stored by the HR department and it will be handed to the employee on their one-year anniversary.

The benefit is two folded. First, the experience at the office ends with an interesting, intriguing, even fun task and this will help the new employee to form a more positive memory of their first-day experience.

Second, when the new employee will arrive home and will be asked “how was it on your first day?”, she already has the story sketched in her head – she wrote how the first day went only about an hour earlier.

Experience designers should consider the customers’ overall experiences, not just the experience during the interaction with the service provider.

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