WX: The Wordle Experience!

My wife, Sue, and I love Wordle. Along with what seems like everyone we know, we play every day. And though she’s better with words than I am, I did manage to beat her.

Well…once. This image is more reflective of my usual results!

Having built a massive, extremely devoted following so quickly, Wordle seems like the epitome of a great customer experience. Building loyalty is what we’re all about, right?

But I say it’s not an example of CX at all. Or at least it wasn’t until recently.

Hear me out:

Wordle is simple, intuitive, and rewards your guesses with feedback like “Impressive!” and “Splendid!” That rush of dopamine hooks you and brings you back the next day hoping you’ll do even better.

All of that makes for a great user experience. But is it a customer experience?

Philosophically, no.

UX vs. CX

Many in our space consider customer experience as an end unto itself. And some customers feel entitled to a good customer experience, regardless of whether the systems and operations required to provide the experience they want would cost more than they’d be willing to pay.

Spend five minutes on LinkedIn and you’ll find somebody discussing how a company doesn’t provide a good customer experience because they had to sit on hold for a few minutes.

But customer experience is not about giving customers everything they want. (As I’ll explain in a moment, that’s actually a recipe for business failure.)

Simply put, CX is a business strategy that, balanced against all the alternatives, is the best way to build more loyal customers.

You can’t always get what you want

All of this reminds me of one of my early blog posts. My friend Bill, upon learning what I do, asked, “Can you please tell Delta that I want a wider seat?”

I told him he didn’t really want a wider seat, which confused him. So I walked him through the math.

Widening those seats by two inches means the company would either have to reduce the aisle by a foot (clearly impossible), widen the plane by a foot (again, impossible), or charge hundreds of dollars more per ticket, since the only viable way to create wider seats is to remove some of those that are already there, reducing the number of fare-paying customers (and therefore, revenue).

Besides, the option for a wider seat was already available to Bill: he could pay the premium to upgrade his ticket to first class. But he never chose that option.

This example illustrates why giving customers everything they want isn’t CX, or even realistic: the price customers are willing (or able) to pay for all of that isn’t financially viable. The company would fold.

As a business strategy, first and foremost, CX needs to serve the organization’s business goals. And when done right, one of the chief ways it does that is by identifying and focusing on what matters most to customers.

I happen to believe that CX is a very effective and efficient way to achieve those business goals.

If you’re reading this on my CX blog, I suspect you believe that, too.

So back to Wordle, and why it isn’t (or at least wasn’t) a good model for customer experience.

CX is a business strategy that, balanced against all the alternatives, is the best way to build more loyal customers.

When it first came out, Wordle wasn’t a business. It was a game Josh Wardle developed for his partner.

So those playing the game aren’t customers, they’re users. Wordle’s intuitive simplicity provided an excellent user experience, but no business means no business strategy. And no customers means no customer experience.

In an interview with the New York Times, Wardle shared that he deliberately decided against strategies that would help it to grow. That just wasn’t his goal.

Don’t get me wrong: doing things just because they please you is an excellent way to go through life. But it’s not an approach you can use with your boss.

So why do I say Wordle is a good example of customer experience now?

A few weeks ago, the New York Times purchased the site. They haven’t changed it much beyond adding links to their other games. But now, that same, easy experience that creates an emotional connection supports the Times’ brand as an intellectual powerhouse.

That’s a business strategy.

The bottom line: customer experience is a powerful tool to build your brand and create customer loyalty. But unless it’s tied to a business strategy, it’s just a feel-good exercise.

(And, hey, who enjoys feel-good exercises? Apparently, everyone. Because now you can play versions where you solve for two, four, eight, and 16 words at the same time. Or if words aren’t your thing, other Wordle-like options have sprung up for math and geography, and a plethora of niche interests, from Star Wars to Shakespeare to Pokemon!)

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