The Balancing Act: Efficiency and Engagement in Customer Experience Design


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 20, 2023

3 min read


The Balancing Act: Efficiency and Engagement in Customer Experience Design


Efficiency is often considered a key factor in creating a successful customer experience. However, many companies fail to realize that a more efficient experience does not always translate into a more engaging one. This article explores how great companies like Starbucks and Costco have recognized the importance of balancing efficiency with engagement in their customer experiences. By understanding the value customers derive from their products and infusing their experiences with cues that align with that value, these companies have achieved remarkable success.

Efficiency vs. Engagement:

Starbucks, under the leadership of Howard Schultz, recognized the need to restore the "romance and theater" of the Starbucks experience. The introduction of automated espresso machines, although efficient, hindered the baristas' ability to maintain eye contact with customers. In an effort to prioritize engagement, Schultz instructed the replacement of every espresso machine in their stores worldwide. This bold move showcased the company's commitment to creating an engaging customer experience.

Similarly, Costco understands that customer loyalty is not solely based on efficiency. Their aim is to create an experience marked by discovery and surprise. Customers enjoy snaking through the aisles, finding bargains, and relishing in their "Costco haul." Despite the lack of consumer efficiency, Costco cultivates intense customer loyalty by focusing on engagement rather than just streamlining processes.

Understanding Customer Value:

Achieving a higher level of success in customer experience design requires a deep understanding of the real value customers derive from your products and services. This understanding goes beyond rational factors and delves into the emotional connection customers have with your brand. By identifying and catering to these emotional drivers, companies can create experiences that resonate with their target audience.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Prioritize engagement over efficiency: While efficiency is important, it should not overshadow the goal of creating an engaging customer experience. Assess your processes and identify areas where you can enhance engagement without compromising efficiency.
  • 2. Infuse your experience with value-aligned cues: Understand the emotional value your products and services provide. Incorporate design elements, language, and interactions that elegantly align with that value proposition. This will create a more cohesive and memorable customer experience.
  • 3. Use priming to influence behavior: Priming is a powerful technique that leverages existing memories or mental associations to influence future behavior. Use simple and clear language to validate why a user visited your website or engaged with your brand. Set clear goals for users to take the desired actions, leading to increased engagement and conversions.


Efficiency and engagement are not mutually exclusive in customer experience design. Great companies like Starbucks and Costco have shown that by prioritizing engagement, they can create experiences that drive customer loyalty and satisfaction. Understanding the value customers derive from your offerings and infusing your experience with value-aligned cues are key to achieving success in customer experience design. By following the actionable advice provided, companies can strike a balance between efficiency and engagement, leading to more meaningful and profitable customer experiences.

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