Thinking is bad

iStock_000024086772XXLargeOne impact of being in a new capability is trying to describe it. My wife doesn’t really know what I do, so how can I effectively communicate customer experience to somebody who’s never heard of it? This is a common topic among my CX friends. How do we explain what we do to others?

If they don’t give me a blank look, most folks hear customer experience and ask, “So, you work in a call center?” After stifling a groan, I go through the standard explanation that customer experience is broader than just service, and how a great customer experience often prevents the needs for a service call in the first place. I explored the difference between customer service and experience in this post about Target’s data breach.

But as my friend Mara Bain says, “When you’re explaining, you’re losing.” So I’ve been looking for a quicker way to grab somebody’s attention. Here’s what I’ve tried:

“I prevent customers from having to think.”

It’s still new, but so far it seems to make people curious enough to listen to the rest of the story. And it clearly differentiates between customer experience and service.

What do I mean by this? Dan Ariely has written extensively about decision fatigue, which he calls ego-depletion. Making decisions is hard work, and spending too much time deciding causes fatigue, reducing the effectiveness of follow-up decisions.

Isn’t that what makes a poor experience? Too much thinking?

Great experiences help my decision-making:

  • Amazon has a billion products. But they also have guides to help me. Consumer ratings and Amazon recommendations allow me to put my decision-making on auto-pilot, saving it up for something more important than which bike lock is the best.
  • Sam’s Club, Costco and Trader Joe’s do the choosing for me. Rather than the 30 laundry soap options at Target, Costco has two. I can move on to the next decision.
  • Credit unions and USAA have helpful people to make my choices for me. I can outsource decision-making to them.
  • On the other hand, most health plans make me do a lot of thinking. Which is why they’re on the bottom of both Forrester and Temkin customer experience charts.

Great customer experiences use design to help you with your choices, reducing your effort. And they’re rewarded with loyalty – why should I go learn a new store layout and put all that effort in, when I can just go to my favorite place?

So try this line out the next time somebody asks you what customer experience is. And let me know you it works for you. In the meantime, I’m going to spend my decision capabilities on deciding which lake to visit in these last days of summer.


To learn more about customer experience, join us at the second annual CX Day on October 7.  Go to to learn more about all of the great activities planned for the day.

6 replies
  1. Christopher Frawley
    Christopher Frawley says:

    Great post. Thinking takes “effort.” Effort is overhead ~ friction. Reducing it makes things naturally easier. Hmm, maybe good interaction design is the WD40 of a good customer experience? Thanks for your perspective. Well done.

  2. Erik Beckler
    Erik Beckler says:

    Jim, interesting post. I compared this content to what you presented a few months back. I had the feeling that enhancing the customer experience involves understanding where touchpoints occur and how the company can do the right things to help them through the process and towards your product/service.

    Could the line be something like, “prevent customers from thinking too much (there’s thinking involved with falling in love with you and that thinking brings momentum)” or “I help customers bond with you”.

    Thinking can bring a lot of friction, yes. But positive thinking releases chemicals in us that boost us and compel us to want more. Costco does well with 2 choices because customers think that a thought burden has been taken away from them, bring forth positive, boosting thoughts.

  3. Jim Tincher
    Jim Tincher says:

    Erik, your lines are certainly truer. But not as much fun!

    It’s true that for certain brands that driving positive thoughts is the goal, and that’s a good thing. But for most brands, that’s not really the opportunity. Even the best possible insurance company fails to get its customers to put on branded tattoos. In the hierarchy of customer experiences, most are still at the “don’t cause a bunch of extra effort” levels.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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