A well-crafted user experience is all encompassing. It is not limited to the digital sphere, but includes any touch point a customer might have with a product or service. Let me tell you a UX story to illustrate my point:

A while ago I stumbled over the seven year pen in my local bookstore. Funky, well-designed and nicely packaged, the pen’s slogan promised that it would last for seven full years. Not one to ever say no to a cool pen (or any pen for that matter), I was more than happy to believe this promise and pay the rather overpriced $7.50.


Based on Morville’s UX Honeycomb,  the black-skull pen that I purchased had everything that I wanted; it was valuable (must be, I paid good money for it), useful (writes well), desirable (everybody around me wanted one), usable, (most everybody knows how to use a pen) , accessible and findable (easy to find in stores and on their well-designed website), and credible (well, it’s Swiss-made and lasts for seven years). We’ll get to that last part in a minute.

Fast forward two months. My new favorite pen has run out of ink and leaves only sloppy scribbles in my notebook. It didn’t even last for two months, let alone seven years! I took my mild frustration to the place where customers go to get things resolved – Twitter.

Within a few minutes of tweeting I receive a lovely email from Adah, one of the customer reps at Seltzer Goods, the makers of the pen. She profusely apologized telling me of a defective cartridge batch at the manufacturer and that they would be more than happy to replace mine.

Karin Schmidlin - User Experience
Cute photo to make a disgruntled customer happy

Attached to this nice and timely message is a picture of two cute sleeping bunnies. To make me feel better. Now, I’m not known for sending around photos of cute puppies and kittens, but this picture came so unexpected that it made me laugh and I happily showed it all around the office.

A couple weeks later (I have already forgotten about my sad pen), I receive a package in the mail. Inside the package is a replacement cartridge, a few stickers, a batch of nicely designed blank greeting cards and a hand-written (!) letter apologizing for the defective product.

Karin SchmidlinYou might wonder why I’m telling you this story in a UX context. Isn’t UX all about focus groups, persona development, user journeys and wireframes? It is, but at the centre of all that user research is somebody like me who really appreciates the personal touch. The effort the Seltzer Goods team took to make this one lonely customer happy was outstanding. And what can be more user-centered than to write me a letter. By hand! I have purchased many more of these pens, I have them pretty much in every color.

Seltzer Goods clearly understands the power of one and how a bad experience shared over social media can greatly harm a company. And now I am sharing this story of my favorite pen with anybody who cares to listen. With my students in class, or now with you here on this humble blog. Thanks for listening. And now go and buy yourself a seven-year-pen. Maybe you are lucky and your ink runs out before the seven years are over. Say hi to Adah for me.