I just read a great book called The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage by Pine and Gilmore. It’s a great book and covers a subject that we must know and embrace. We have moved from and agriculture economy to an industrial economy to a service economy. And now we are moving into an experience economy. It is no longer enough to provide a service, even great service. There are many companies who can provide great service. And when there is no other differentiator, these services become commoditized and companies compete on price alone. But the companies who provide a positive emotional experience instead of transaction of goods or services will make their competition irrelevant.
Think about Disney for a moment. Is it the cheapest place to go? Is the easiest park to experience? No. But people flock there generation after generation to experience all that is Disney. Why is that? Because they have taken this concept to a very high level. There are no employees. They are cast members. There are no customers. They are guests. Everything about Disney is creating a wonderful emotional experience. And now neuroscience has verified that our purchasing decisions are based more on memory and emotion than on price or any other cognitive process.
So how can companies start embracing this concept? It starts with first impressions. What emotional impression is created when people first walk into your office? Let me tell you about two experiences I had:
Experience #1: Going to a meeting at a contractor’s office a few years back, I was not greeted warmly. The people didn’t smile. The environment was stilted and stuffy. There was a deafening quiet. When I walked down the hallway, no one said anything to me. The walls had a few posters and some wall hangings of company articles employee photos, and projects, but it didn’t seem warm and personal. I was not introduced or greeted. People were very busy working, but had very little time for me. There was no eye contact. I was offered coffee. They motioned for me to go into the kitchen where some coffee had obviously been on the burner for quite some time. The person handed me a Styrofoam cup and indicated the canisters of powdered creamer and sugar. The coffee was pretty awful. Then, they escorted me to the meeting room without any conversation. The room was cold and stark. It felt like I was in a free clinic. It was gray and dismal. Needless to say, I didn’t leave with a great feeling.
Experience #2: Shortly after that meeting, I went to a meeting at a contractor’s office in Finland. Keep in mind that the Finns are not the warmest of people. But I was warmly greeted. The reception area was beautifully appointed with art on the walls and beautiful, comfortable furniture. There were coffee table books about the company as well as colorful industry magazines. There was some very nice music playing. I waited a short time and was greeted warmly again and taken to a beautiful meeting room that was well lit and warm and friendly. They told me that the lights were full spectrum lights, which feels more like natural sunlight. Now the Finns do this because their winters are so dark. But why don’t we do this on interior rooms with no windows? It creates a totally different feeling.
The furniture was comfortable. I was brought coffee on a silver tray with real half and half in a silver pitcher and sugar in a silver sugar bowl. They also had a tray of lovely pastries that were great to look at and very tasty. They started with this coffee ritual (as most of the Nordic countries do) and talked about personal things first. How was your trip? How do you like Helsinki? It was a totally different experience.
What experience are you creating?