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  • there i was once again, in the dreaded taxi line at chicago’s o’hare airport. the line is long, it’s cold and it’s around 10pm. i’m waiting. the group in front of me is yapping annoyingly about their fantastic vacation in the bahamas. did i mention it’s really cold in chicago?

    the attendant points to my cab – it’s about half a mile down the cab line. great. better start walking. i hand over my luggage and get in. i start to notice that this cab doesn’t look like the others. there are books in nice neat stacks behind me, a kleenex box and fresh flowers. the interior is clean and smells nice. not ‘nice’ like the cardboard tree hanging off the rear view mirror nice, but nice like a spiced, exotic scent. hmm… who are you and what have you done with my typical cab ride?

    all of this immediately got me thinking about experiences. a cab ride is typically boring and potentially unpleasant. how did this cab driver figure out how to turn it into something memorable? let’s break it down…

    a few minutes into the ride i asked my cabbie what gives. why are you trying to make this a nice experience when no other cabbies seem to care? he tells me he had this idea one day that people need a cab ride to be something more than a way to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’. according to him, a cab ride should be about peace of mind and tranquility; a client should feel happier after experiencing the ride. the cabbie also told me that a cab should be a place where people can share their thoughts with those who ride after them.

    so, what we have here is a strategy and a point of view; the most important steps in creating a memorable experience. without a guiding light, even the best intentions tend to get mired in the pit of disorganization. by getting a solid strategic plan together, the vision for an experience can be brought forward and built upon.

    what else?

    as the cabbie got into the cab after taking care of my luggage, he asked – and politely mind you – ‘hello sir, where are you going tonight?’ i gave him my address and off we went.

    a nice greeting that welcomes me as a guest and makes me feel at home. i feel like this guy is here for me. he will provide service and do it with a smile. also, let’s not forget the call to action. after all, what do we need to get done here? in the case of a cab ride, i still need to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’. the experience is about how i get there.


    as we rode into the city, i was looking at everything around me and realized there were little notes tacked above my head – like wallpaper. past riders had left them for others to read. ‘just got back from alaska–if you go, eat at the twisted claw in juneau’ read one, ‘wow this is the best cab ever’ read another.

    the stuff that makes ideas come to life. even the best strategy is rendered useless without compelling content as its energy source. one of the best ways to get users engaged is user-generated content. telling the story and allowing your users to shape it is way more compelling than the “here’s who we are and why you should care” stuff we see over and over again. get users talking to each other and then give them the tools to spread the word.

    what’s it all about?
    the next time we start to plan an online experience, let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

    • do we have an overall strategy?
    • will we be providing great tools?
    • will we allow users a voice and a forum for conversation?

    as a matter of fact, these questions need to be answered across all touch points. whether online or offline, these are all brand interactions. a user does not distinguish between nike’s website, call center, or products. to consumers, it’s just nike, period. at a high level, it’s simple…a good experience leads to positive feelings. a bad experience creates negative feelings.

    as we go out and create more and more experiences for our users, maybe we can all learn something from a very insightful chicago cabbie.