When a community is planned by residents, it works
Oak Park, early in the suburban sprawl that eventually defined the landscape of the USA, was largely a planned community. Schools, parks, shopping and housing were carefully considered. I am pretty sure it’s impossible to live here without being within comfortable walking distance of a park. Plus, thanks to the consideration and action of a few very smart (and not to mention brave) people, Oak Park was DESIGNED to be a diverse community, thanks to the continued dedication of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, which was founded in 1972.
Thinking about this recently, I realized we decided to raise our family in Oak Park because, for our our lifestyle and needs, it provided the best customer experience. We had both implicit and explicit selection criteria:
- Close proximity to the city of Chicago meant that we wouldn’t feel like we lived elsewhere. The public transportation options, the easy commute to the city center in Chicago, The Loop, and other factors played heavily into our decision.
- We like knowing our neighbors. There is no doubt it is more urban than suburban. We don’t have big yards. We don’t have high fences. We barely have walkways between our houses. If you live here, you have to be OK with that.
- Oak Park is diverse in every way. It is a welcome, accepted part of living here. The community works because of the diversity, not in spite of it.
What does any of this have to do with customer experience planning?
Among other services, the staff at the Oak Park Regional Housing Center staff conducts interviews with would-be residents, compiles a list of properties that suit the individual budgets and lifestyles of the applicants, then drives them to those properties for viewing- free of charge! Many of the residents who have used the service report that it made them feel like they were a part of the community before even moving in. This helps to continue evolving a neighborhood that is shaped by the residents.
Have you thought about what it would look like if your customer experience were your own little village? Designing the experience based on the needs of the customers could be much like urban planning.
Customer experience planning as an urban landscape
- Multichannel experience gets your customers where they need to be, regardless of platform, and provides a seamless experience for all customers. Compare this to Oak Park’s carefully planned infrastructure. No matter where in town you are, you can get wherever you need to be whether you prefer to drive, walk, ride your bike, take a bus, a train, a riskshaw, (yes, we have rickshaws!) or a combination of these. Residents here will tell you there are challenges within this infrastructure, too, like a lack of easy parking and bike lanes. Infrastructure is only as good as the last “joiner” thinks it is. Keep up with growth to provide the best experience.
- Online communities need to be closely knit and rich with conversation. It is the members who create the social landscape, as our communities are built upon their needs. Compare this to Oak Park’s sense of diversity and community awareness. Oak Park residents are assisted in finding the right part of town to live in based on their own needs, much as online community members should easily find the right channel to interact with your brand and other members. Being part of the community is encouraged through self-organized block parties and officially organized events alike. Help your communities find ways to organize around what’s important to them.
- Feeling at home from the very start is important- not only by getting to know your business and feeling welcome, but by making it easy for them to find answers to all of their questions and get support where and when they need it. Compare this to Oak Park’s Housing Center, which makes sure all new residents know their way around and provides ongoing support and information about community events and endeavors. In another example, our realtor gave us a year-long subscription to the home town newspaper when we moved into town. It’s a small idea that helped us feel connected quickly.
Bottom line – Americans in particular, but all people, love community. We like to feel included. We appreciate when something feels organic and special. We want someone to say, in the words of my friend Angela Maiers, You Matter!
So put on your hard hat, gather all of your customer experience planning and drafting tools, and think about your own customer experience landscape.