Delight 2016 main stage

Amazing customer experiences: Delight speakers share their favorites

What makes for an amazing customer experience? In the run-up to Delight 2016, we published a series of spotlight interviews with many of the speakers. In addition to their work and the topics they would be talking about at the conference, we asked about the most delightful experiences that they, themselves, had recently had with a brand. And it turned out to be almost everyone’s favorite question!

A lot has happened since we first interviewed our Delight speakers last summer: Virgin America is now part of Alaska Airlines, and the white-hot hype around Pokémon GO cooled off pretty quickly. But the underlying qualities that make for an amazing customer experience are evergreen.

Evelyn Huang, Capital One

Evelyn Huang, VP of Design Thinking & Strategy, Capital One

Virgin America

I had an almost unbelievably amazing experience with Virgin America. I was headed out to DC, where I fly a lot from San Francisco, where I live. And when I walked through the doors at SFO, the first person I saw was Richard Branson getting interviewed under bright lights. So I stopped and took out my camera, took a photo of him, and sent it to my team that was out east, saying, “Hey, look. There are celebrities at SFO today.” And then I went along on my merry way toward the TSA checkpoint.

Maybe 20 seconds later, two flight attendants come up to me, and they said, “Hey, where are you going today?” I said, “I’m going to DC for work.” And they asked, “Would you like to ditch work instead and go to Hawaii with Richard Branson?” And I said, “Yes.”

Would you like to ditch work instead and go to Hawaii with Richard Branson?”

As it turns out, it was the inaugural flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. And as part of their PR, they were looking for one person, a “stunt winner,” who they could convince to completely switch their plans on a dime and go to Hawaii instead of wherever they were going. And I just happened to be this person. On the flight, and later at the launch party in Hawaii, I ended up talking to some Virgin America executives—and they ended up flying my family out as well. It was just the most amazing experience.

Maggie Lang headshotMaggie Lang, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

National Car Rental

I recently had quite an amazing experience with National Car Rental. I was in the car with my two kids, running late for the airport, and went to drop off the rental car. We know how we can pay steep prices if we forget to fill the tank up outside. So as I pulled in, I looked at the meter and thought, “Oh no, I forgot to fill up the tank.” I’m stressed out, the plane is leaving in, like, 20 minutes, and I’m just not a happy camper.

This lovely woman jumps in and sees the tank. And I said, “Here we go, here’s my $100, fill up the tank.” She just winked at me and said, “Don’t worry about it. We got this. You’re in a hurry here, so be on your way.” I don’t know if it was because I was so stressed out already and I had my kids with me, but I have never had a car rental do that with me before. I thought that was just a delightful thing for her to do. I talked about it to people, so there you go—word of mouth.

David RoseDavid Rose, Researcher & Author, MIT Media Lab


I think my self-driving Tesla is really one of the most mind blowing experiences I’ve had in the last year. Just to have a car with a range of 250 miles that is always 100%, charged, because it’s been charging in the garage, and to be able to take your hands off the wheel and have it keep in its lane, follow the person in front of you, and do that for tens of minutes at a time. If I’m driving down to New York, my hands are near the wheel for the entire time, but on the wheel very few times.

I think that’s going to dramatically change how we think about transportation, how we plan cities, and even how we think about car ownership. Because we’ll start to see self-driving, and even self-parking, cars as more of a service and less of an object. Hopefully, that will get us away from car ownership, away from car storing, away from flooding our cities with parking ramps where we have to be able to walk to our car—and toward something that really changes the way we move around the world.

Tom Bennett headshotTom Bennett, Experience Strategist, Connective DX


Delight comes from a sense of personal attention and being treated like a human. I recently went car shopping with a friend and found a huge contrast in the experiences from one dealership to another.

At BMW we got very little help and they did nothing to personalize the experience. Then we went to Mercedes where they took us by the hand, talked to my friend about her about her choices, answered her questions and really listened to her. They provided expertise and guidance in all the right ways. Their effort and attention paid off, because she walked out of there with a new car that she loves.

Image of analyst Andrew HoganAndrew Hogan, Analyst, Forrester Research

Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO was like a textbook example of this phenomenon we have at Forrester Research called “hyper-adoption,” which another analyst, James McQuivey, came up with. I often see this happen with early adopter hyper-adoption, but this happened with everybody. There was just this huge community following that happened almost instantly when the app was released (in July of 2016).

And there was a tremendous amount of nostalgia for me as somebody who played these video games. It was this really easy thing to pick up that helped me to connect with a lot of other friends, a lot of other people that I hadn’t even talked to in years. It got me doing things, changing my behavior in positive ways. I was going to places I hadn’t been before, I was talking to lots of people that I hadn’t talked with before, and I was noticing things in the physical world that I hadn’t noticed before.

The hyper-adoption may have peaked and led to hyper-abandonment almost as fast as it took off, but it was still a memorable brand experience that had a huge impact during a short time. There are some small lingering effects too: even now my nephews will ask to walk to the park and catch Pokémon—leading to new memories.

Delight speaker Michelle LeeMichelle Lee, Design for Play Team Lead, IDEO Toy Lab


Going to the doctor is something that isn’t an experience you usually think about as being delightful, but I’ve really come to appreciate Kaiser. I feel like they’ve taken so much time to think through what all the different pain points would be when you go see a doctor.

I went with my son to the pediatrician last week, and they’ve done everything to make the visit as easy and transparent and as seamless as possible: They put a nice play structure in the waiting room, so that he was occupied and didn’t get bored and antsy before going to see the physician. The nurse explained what was coming up so there was nothing unexpected. And the physician really took the time to listen, and she has toys in her room that she was interacting with my child with.

You go in bracing for the worst. When it’s so simple and so easy and so thoughtful, that’s when I feel like it can be really delightful.

Then, there’s a seamless transition from one department to another. We’ll be in to see the doctor, and she’ll coordinate so we’re ready to get labs taken, future appointments are scheduled, prescriptions are sent automatically to the pharmacy. That extra level of detail and consideration are somewhat unexpected in that setting. You go in bracing for the worst. When it’s so simple and so easy and so thoughtful, that’s when I feel like it can be really delightful.

Paul O'Connor

Paul O’Connor, Executive Creative Director, Ziba Design


I had to go Canada a couple of weeks ago. With AT&T you’ve always been able to turn on international packages through the app and whatever. But it’s finally become what I’d say is pretty transparent and easy. You know what you’re doing in there. The ability, for me, to conduct business, to change countries and know I can just change my relationship with the brand really easily is super important. Not to over-emphasize AT&T, but this is part of our theme: What does it mean to allow people to change? When I go international, my role just changed. My needs just changed. How is any brand that’s with me enabling that? We’re getting into a lot of other conversations about transitioning from a device company to a service company. Underlying all those things is how you enable change for people. How do you allow that to be seamless?

What’s the most delightful or memorable experience you’ve had with a brand lately? We’d love to hear about it! Please share your story in the comments below.