The Experience Cycle


If you deliver services that help customers (or employees) change their behaviour then finding better ways to inspire, support and motivate them will be at the top of your list.

There are a number of behaviour change models I’ve seen organisations use, the most prevalent being the behaviour change cycle by Prochaska & Di Clemente from 1983. In this model, people move through the following stages: pre-contemplation (where they hadn’t even considered doing something); contemplating change (once they consider the potential benefits to be appealing enough); making a commitment; getting started; and then finally either to a maintenance stage or relapse.

I use a variation on this which I call the “experience cycle”. It’s largely based on a tourism and hospitality model and it considers behaviour change through the lens of a series of brilliantly designed experiences.

This makes each episode of a behaviour its own mini experience. As an example of this in action, think of the process you go through when booking a holiday:

STEP 1 - INSPIRE - Before you book a holiday you need to receive some inspiration from somewhere, so you can choose where to go. Inspiration for a trip can come from a number of sources. You could see some incredible destination pictures on Instagram, or read the enviable updates a friend posts of their trip on Facebook. Maybe you see your friend in person when they return from their travels and they tell you stories about their favourite moments and trip highlights over a coffee. Perhaps you see a television commercial of an unusual or beautiful destination, scenes from a movie catch your eye, or you watch a travel documentary where a celebrity visits somewhere interesting. Or, you could have great memories of a place you’ve already been to, somewhere you particularly liked. Any or all of these can spark the inspiration, and now that you are thinking about those sandy beaches and hip restaurants, you move onto the next phase…

STEP 2 - PLAN - The next step is to plan your trip and do your research. You’ll be busy finding out what time of year has the best weather, which airport and airline you can travel with, how much it will cost and where you can visit when you get there.

Step 3 - COMMIT - The next step is to book. You commit to your travel plans, pay your deposits, block off your calendars, arrange the dog sitter and start getting excited.

Step 4 - EXPERIENCE - This is the trip itself. And hopefully it’s everything you imagined it would be, and more. In fact, it is so good, you just can’t help but share your favourite photographs on Instagram and Facebook.

Step 5 - SHARE - You become the inspiration for the next person. With your pictures, stories and insider tips to share, you become the spark, inspiring someone else to experience a holiday similar to the one you just had.

Now consider this same process for your service.

You start with the inspiration, a compelling and emotionally vivid account of what it is like and how much other people enjoyed it and what they gained from it. You help people choose the approach, activities and experiences that best suit them for what they want and need. They commit, get booked in and get prepared. They experience the service or product and find it is so damn good that they can’t wait to come back and do it all over again and in the meantime, they tell their friends and family (and anyone else who will listen) just how amazing it was and how they will be missing out if they don’t do it too.


• Applying this experience cycle approach to designing services considers all the stages in the whole cycle, from the initial inspiration to the telling of friends afterwards.

• The experience itself has to be brilliant, so that people will want to repeat it over and over again – leading to lasting new behaviours. Nothing mediocre. Nothing half-assed. Brilliant only.

• It has to be memorable and include key moments people can easily share with others.

• It considers customers in the context of their connected, social lives. Persuading other people to copy our experience gives us social currency. It reinforces to us that we do is desirable in the eyes of others (more about this in another blog) and makes us more likely to want to come back and do it again for ourselves.

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” Walt Disney