Building an Experience Culture

Design has the power to enrich our lives by engaging our emotions through image, form, texture, color, sound, and smell. The intrinsically human-centered nature of design thinking points to the next step: we can use our empathy and understanding of people to design experiences that create opportunities for active engagement and participation.

– Tim Brown, Change by Design

And the truth of the above quote is delivered to people by people. An exceptional guest experience starts with the front line team that delivers that experience.

Creating an experience culture requires going beyond the generic to design experiences perceived as uniquely tailored to each guest. In order to do that, your front line team has to know something about the guest they are serving. An experience comes to life when it feels personalized and customized.

Do you know who are you serving? Maybe it’s time to create a persona.

Personas are fictional characters, created out of the insights of research you have conducted, that can exemplify certain attributes. Because they make the potentially abstract concept of “guest” very personal and human, personas enhance your ability to build the empathetic understanding of guests that is at the heart of design thinking.

Using the persona concept will allow you to reveal deeper insights into the various kinds of experiences that your guests are having and to help generate innovative ideas about how to improve those experiences.

Here’s a homework assignment for your guest services leadership this weekend:

  • Create 2 or 3 different personas that represent a cross-section of the guests you are trying to reach; make sure they vary in description
  • Brainstorm the way those personas interact with your church, from the time they approach your campus through the time they depart
  • Note each decision point they have to make and each personal interaction they have with your team
  • Chart those on a big whiteboard

What are those fictional personas revealing about a very real experience?

Creating an Experience Blueprint

The past few posts have given you a basic understanding of some of the foundations of guest services. Now it’s time to go back to school – design school.

Becoming an Experience Architect

One of the game-changing concepts related to guest services┬ácomes from Tim Brown’s book “Change by Design”. Brown, the CEO of the innovation and design firm IDEO, has challenged my thinking about design in a number of ways: it’s not just for creative industries or people designing products. Design thinking is most powerful when applied to abstract, multifaceted problems that address a wide range of issues and concerns.

Problems that the typical church encounters every day!

Here’s a great example from one chapter on the design of experience:

Design has the power to enrich our lives by engaging our emotions through image, form, texture, color, sound and smell. The intrinsically human-centered nature of design thinking points to the next step: we can use our empathy and understanding of people to design experiences that create opportunities for active engagement and participation.

Wow-that’s a lot to think about! In the world of serving the church where I work and live, the concepts of designing for experience are so important, yet so often totally overlooked. Brown goes on to talk about 3 “themes” of the design of experiences:

  • The experience economy – people have shifted from passive consumption to active participation
  • Best experiences are not scripted at corporate headquarters but decided on the spot by service professionals who create an authentic, genuine, and compelling experience
  • Implementation is everything-an experience must be as finely crafted and precision-engineered as any other product

Just as a product begins with an engineering blueprint and a building with an architectural blueprint, an experience blueprint provides the framework for working out the details of a human interaction, including emotive elements, from beginning to end.

It captures how people travel through an experience in time. Rather than trying to choreograph that journey, its function is to identify the most meaningful points and turn them into opportunities to positively impact the individual. What might be a source of discomfort or pain is now an opportunity for an experience that is distinctive, emotionally gratifying, and memorable.

The experience blueprint is at one and the same time a high-level strategy document and a fine-grained analysis of the details that matter.

It’s time to create an Experience Blueprint for your Guest Services!