John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

The Six Components of a Customer’s Experience

In order to create brand loyalty and customer evangelists, you must:

 (1) operate at a high level in six distinct areas of business


 (2) constantly evaluate your company’s customer service across each category, separately, and as categories overlap

1. Physical: Deals with the actual brick-and-mortar component of your operation. These are the physical elements that are more permanent or long term, that cannot be changed daily.

2. Setting: Refers to the controllable setting you create daily. As Disney says, “Everything speaks from the doorknobs to the dining rooms sends a message to the guest.”2 The setting communicates a message about what you can provide your customers. This isn’t always visual, it may be the music your customers hear when they call and are placed on hold or the mood your web site creates. The setting reveals the characteristics of your business as they appeal to the five senses of your customer: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.

3. Functional: Refers to the ease of doing business with you-return policies, hours of operations, and other factors. Functionality has nothing to do with human interactions, such as being pleasant or saying please or thank you.

4. Technical: Refers to your staff’s level of expertise in their particular skills and in the company’s systems and equipment, such as product and job knowledge. Again, this has nothing to do with whether they are nice.

5. Operational: Refers to the actions that team members must execute behind the scenes before, during, and after a customer’s experience. These actions assist in the day-to-day transactions with customers, the tasks, compliances, and duties of our jobs.

6. Experiential: Refers to the actions that team members execute while interacting with the customer. Those actions that make the customer say “WOW!” The customer is delightfully surprised. Experiential actions are the reason why customers return, refer others, and become brand evangelists. These include Secret Service, personalization, anticipating customer’s needs, and others.


Let’s look at some real-life examples of these components:

  • Your server is the most incompetent waitress (technical) you have ever met, but she is trying her hardest and being extremely nice (experiential).
  • The place needs a good paint job (physical).
  • The store where you shop is always out of what you want (operational).
  • Your favorite store is difficult to get to and has barely any parking (physical).
  • This salon has high energy and always smells great (setting).
  • The quality of the food (technical) is unfit for human consumption.
  • An associate overheard that you really wanted a diet drink and ran across the street to the drugstore to get it for you (experiential).
  • At the diner, everything is themed 1950s style (setting).
  • It is impossible to get a human being on the phone. No matter what you try, you cannot get out of the company’s voice-mail maze (functionality).
  • The company has a 24-hour answering service and guarantees a call back within 60 minutes (functionality).
  • My sales rep always screws up my order (technical).

      Specific examples of each of these six components are:


-Brick and mortar






-Parking availability



-Public areas

-Floor coverings



-Handicap accessible









-Comfort of chairs,

beds, etc.



-Sound system

-TV placement

-Noise level



-Hours of operation

-Ease of doing business

-Accessibility to a human being

-Product selection

-Design of your web site

-How well you are staffed

-Reliability of vendors


-Payment options

-Phone number on web site


-Employees level of expertise

-Speed of your technology


-State of the art


-Ability to use your web site


-Phone system


-Product knowledge

-Quality of product




-Daily tasks


-Dress code


-Answering the phone


-Checking people out

-Processing orders

-Functions of the job





-Customer engagement


-Above and beyond

-Using the customer’s name

-Remembering preferences

-Presentation of food

-Verbiage/vocabulary of staff


-Willingness to help

-Anticipating needs

-Service recovery

-Soft skills

      An example of physical excellence would be the beauty of Disney parks or how The Cheesecake Factory restaurants are designed. Starbucks has mastered setting, from the comfortable, inviting furniture to how well they merchandise their cafes, just as Disney has mastered how well they theme their parks and hotels. A couple of great examples of Functional excellence are Nordstrom department stores and who have simplified the process of returning merchandise.

      Cleanliness is a great example of operational excellence. When you are considering your customer’s experience, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Consider a hospital room, or massage or facial room. Because patients and customers are lying down for extended periods of time, they may notice the condition of areas of the room employees never look at.

      As for the sixth component of the customer’s experience, experiential excellence, there is no need to provide specific examples here because the rest of this book is focused on experiential standards.

      Keep in mind that it is important to constantly review how customer friendly your company is in each department. With regards to training of new and existing employees, the majority of your training will deal primarily with technical, operational, and experiential.

      The vast majority of companies focus their training on the technical with very little if any emphasis on the experiential. Having been fortunate to work with some of the best customer-service companies in the world, I have both learned and helped create some amazing training that truly prepares new employees to be able to provide a world-class experience, regardless of their backgrounds.

People don’t remember what you said
as much as how you made them feel

      Are any of the components more important than another? No, all are critical and all need to be reviewed and tweaked on a regular basis. The components differ significantly in terms of required people skills training. Physical, setting and functionality have little to do with training or people skills, but the other three components absolutely do involve people skills and training. There is a difference, however, in the training required for each component. It is much easier to train employees on technical and operational skills; they are job-specific, and they include easy-to-train subjects, such as product knowledge, and checklists. Also, technical and operational skills tend to be present and thorough because of prior education, degrees, licensing, certifications, and trade schools. Many industries today mandate continuing education credit hours. The vast majority of companies are weakest in the experiential category.


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