Urban Planning the Customer Experience

by Jeannie Walters

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Have you ever thought about what it would be like as an urban planner? I’m sort of fascinated by the subject, partially because I’m totally enamored with our home community of Oak Park, Illinois.

Oak Park, early in the suburban sprawl that defined the landscape of America, was a somewhat planned community. Parks, schools, retail and housing were carefully considered. I am fairly certain it is 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 is a diverse community BY DESIGN, thanks to founding and continued dedication of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center in 1972.

Thinking about this recently, I realized we selected Oak Park as the place to raise our families because, for our needs, it provided the best customer experience. We had both implicit and explicit selection criteria:

  • It had to be close enough to the city of Chicago that we didn’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?

Have you thought about what it would look like if your customer experience were a village? How would you plan it? Would diversity be important? (I’ll be writing about this a lot more in the coming weeks.) What about providing the right space for the right moments?

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 the urban planner hat and think about your own customer experience landscape.

Photo credit: mgrenner57 via Creative Commons license


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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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