Your Dinner’s Sill Warm: It’s In The Dog

One day several years ago my friend and I decided to grab a beer after work.  One beer turned into two and yadda, yadda, yadda, all of a sudden it was 8 p.m.  “Didn’t you say that your neighbors were coming to your house for dinner tonight?” I asked him.

He looked frightened as he rushed out of the bar.

The next morning I asked him how much trouble he was in with his wife Debbie and whether he made it home in time for dinner.

He reached into his briefcase and pulled out one of his starched, white button-down dress shirts.  “I found this nailed to my front door when I got home.”  Written in lipstick across the front of his shirt were the words, “Your dinner’s still warm. It’s in the dog.”

It helps to know people’s expectations and how seriously those people view their expectations.  Debbie had clear expectations for that night’s dinner.  My friend had a different set of expectations for the same event.  The difference between her expectations and his expectations is known as the expectations gap.  It’s also known as your dinner’s warm, it’s in the dog.

What does a perfect user experience look like?

Today.  Downtown Philadelphia. Noon.

I am approached on the street by an older gentleman who was wearing a Vietnam War Veteran’s ballcap.  From the movie Apocalypse Now, I remembered the sound of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie playing as a swarm of helicopters skimmed over the surface of the Mekong Delta—for those of you younger than fifty, the Mekong Delta is in Vietnam.  Robert Duvall, playing the role of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, reflecting on the attack said, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

I digressed.  My encounter with the man wearing the ballcap went like this.

“I like your shoes,” he told me.  I was wearing my chestnut-colored Ted Baker’s.  “Where did you get them?”

“eBay,” I replied.

“I wish I had me a pair like them.”

“When did you serve?” I asked.  He knew he had me right there and he started to reel me in.

He asked me if I was ex-military and then he mentioned that he needed to get to Trenton to go to the VA.

I told him I only had $4 in my wallet.  To which he replied, “That’s unprofessional and somewhat demeaning to just assume I wanted your money. You should have asked me how much the train ticket costs.”  Which then I did.


But I only have $4.

And here’s the kicker. He said, “There’s an ATM right there,” and he pointed to the ATM.

He had designed the perfect experience for him and for me.  He knew his expectations and he knew how he wanted me to meet them. It was apparent that he had choreographed our entire dance and it was not a simple two-step.

It was also apparent that this was not his first dance.

I wondered how many years he had been doing this.  Twenty years ago, instead of directing me to an ATM, would he have directed me to the closest bank?  “This bank will cash your check. Let me walk you over to save you from having to walk back here with the cash.”

I am looking forward to returning to this same corner next year. My guess is that by then he will be using the PayPal app to save me the trouble of having to walk to the ATM.

For user experience to be effective you must design it—not just from your perspective, but also from the perspective of the person’s behavior whom you want to shape.

Healthcare.  Healthcare and call centers.

My colleagues and I are developing consumerism scorecards for many of the largest health systems. Two of the scorecard’s broad categories are a system’s call centers and its digital capability—apps, website, social media.

“How can you give them a score of zero for their call center without even calling the system?” My colleague asked me.

“They get zero points simply because they have a call center,” I replied. People call because they have no other choice.  People go online because they want to. Nobody wants to call.  Ever.

Good user experience is not making something users don’t want better.  Good user experience is eliminating the thing they don’t want.


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