Designtheorie | Playful Customer Experience
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-16794,single-format-standard,ajax_updown,page_not_loaded,,qode-theme-ver-5.3,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.0.1,vc_responsive

19 Feb Playful Customer Experience

„Playful Customer Experience“; examining the integration of playful aspects into customer experience design to enhance people’s everyday experiences with services. This is an interdisciplinary research that studies the issue of play, as one of human basic needs, and aims at getting a better understanding of positive elements that shape playful experiences. Accordingly, the research examines how these aspects can be integrated into the service experience in a meaningful way, to improve service experiences and at the same time to provide opportunities to extend the attention to playfulness among adults.



Play is a basic need and an intrinsic characteristic of human being. Play scholars believe that a lifelong approach to play will have positive impacts on people’s well-being (see, e.g. Brown, 2009, p.24-51; Terr, 2000, p.40; Maxwell et al: 2005, p.216; Van Leeuwen, 2008, p.159; Stevens, 2007, p.28). The term play has been widely used in different subjects and disciplines such as in sport, music, theatre and developmental psychology. This makes it difficult to find a single and comprehensive definition for this term. Play can be approached with different perspectives. Therefore there is a need in each research to clarify the aspect to approach play and find the relevant definition of the term appropriate to the research interest and requirements. In this research play is viewed as the result of an invitation to temporarily distance oneself from the actual world and start to perceive surrounding objects and the environment as part of a playful frame that suggests alternative ways to experience and interact with the world. To play means to act according to an unusual interpretation of usual objects, situations and activities in pursuit of fun (see Henricks, 1999; Fink, 1955; Terr, 1999). Furthermore, what is known as play seems to be not an absolute activity but rather a series of characteristics, which shape a playful experience. It means that any activity can be more or less play-like to the extent to which it contains playful characteristics. (see Butterworth & Harris, 1994, p.139) These characteristics in addition to other positive aspects of play, offer an appropriate opportunity to use playful elements in order to improve the experience of other ‘non-playful’ activities and thus, ultimately, the quality of everyday experiences.


Customer Experience

People have kinds of experiences when contacting companies and using their product and service offerings. These experiences can be in harmony – or contrast with customer’s desire. The customer experience approach focuses on companies’ effort to get a better understanding of their customers and based on that to provide them with positive and effective experiences, in order to win customers’ satisfaction and royalty as well as reaching an effective competitive differentiator in the market. (see, e.g. Schmidt, 1999; Shaw and Ivens, 2002)


Experience of Services

Customer Experience can play a particularly significant role in the service sector. What services offer is unlike product manufacturers not tangible. It is rather provided based on activities and processes that are created in interaction with customers during service delivery stages. Thus, the most important opportunity for services to impact the customer occurs in the actual encounter and the service usage. (see lovelock 2010, p.37, Kotler 2010, p.269; Viladas, 2011, p.22-25). Appropriate and meaningful experiences at each service stage can bring innovation, satisfaction or even delight. Delight means to provide customers with experiences that result in “positive affect, arousal and unexpected high levels of performance”. (lovelock, 2010, p.75).


Playful Customer Experience of a Service

Based on a thorough overview of the issues play, customer experience and service, Playful Customer Experience of services puts emphasis on developing a harmonic integration of playful aspects into different service interactions, in order to achieve an effective inter-play between them with the purpose to expand the quality of service experience as well as the attention to playfulness. In the empirical part the research examines in particular how playful aspects can be integrated into the experience of waiting at physicians’ offices. The ultimate purpose of the Playful Customer Experience approach will be to improve people’s overall experience of everyday activities.

Author: Mitra Khazaei, Doctoral Student of Strategic Design University of Wuppertal, February 2013



> Brown, Stuart L.; Vaughan, Christopher C. (2009): Play. How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York: Avery
> Butterworth, George; Harris, Margaret (1994): Principles of developmental psychology. Hove, East Sussex, UK ;, Hillsdale, USA: L. Erlbaum Associates
> Fink, Eugen (1957): Oase des Glücks. München: Karl Alber • Kotler, Philip; Armstrong, Gary (2008): Principles of marketing. 12. Aufl. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Prentice Hall
> Lovelock, Christopher H.; Wirtz, Jochen (2010): Services marketing. 7. Aufl. Harlow: Pearson Education
> Maxwell, Sarah Rees Gary Saker Jim Saker and Story Vicky (2005): The two faces of playfulness: a new tool to select potentially successful sales reps. In: Journal of personal selling and sales management,,, pp. 215-299 Vol. XXV (No.03), S. 215–299
> Reifel, Robert Stuart (1999): Play contexts revisited. Stamford, Conn: Ablex Pub. Corp.
> Schmitt, Bernd (op. 1999): Experiential marketing. How to get customers to sense, feel, think, act, and relate to your company and brands. New York: Free Press
> Shaw, Colin and Iven, John (2002): Building Great Customer Experiences. London: Palgrave Macmillan
> Stevens, Quentin (2007): The Ludic City: Exploring the Potential of Public Spaces. New York, NY: Routledge
> Terr, Lenore (1999): Beyond love and work. Why adults need to play. New York, NY: Scribner
> Van Leeuwen, Lieselotte; Westwood, Diane (2008): Adult play, psychology and design. In: Digital Creativity 19 (3), S. 153–161
> Viladàs, Xènia (2011): Design at your service. How to improve your business with the help of a designer. Barcelona: Index Books