She walks in the door at the end of the day, and the first thing she notices is that the house smells like home cooked dinner and vanilla candles. Bubbling with excitement and romance, she steps over the threshold and hears strains of her favourite romantic CD wafting in with the rich gravy smell of roast from the kitchen. As she kicks off her shoes she notices in the dim light a path of rose petals that starts at the front door and ends at a chair in the dining room, surrounded by candles. Beside the chair, on his knee, is the engineer of the experience, heart beating in his throat, with a ring in his trembling hand, hoping that her reaction will be in kind with the atmosphere he painstakingly created.
How enchanting! How could someone say no?
When people think of the word design, some things come to mind: Architecture, interior design, car models etched out of clay (which really seems like a waste of time – can you really not envision it from the pictures?) Typically design happens in three dimensions, on a computer program or on posterboards perched on easels in public places. But can you design an experience?
Sure you can. Go to Disneyland. Think anything they do there happens by accident? Make a scene and watch how quickly you get whisked away to a dark room by the Mickey-hat gestapo – then I’ll ask you again. Ever walked into Best Buy and noticed that it smells like Pine Sol? They paid someone a lot of money to figure out that that smell’s gonna make you want to buy the 52 inch instead of the 48.
At my store the walls are painted green. Not because it makes your complexion look good – believe me. A highly paid firm told us that people will want to buy more flooring if our walls are green. Fortunately we don’t have to place Pine Sol diffusers everywhere.
When I smell popcorn, I think of the local hardware store. When I smell a hot dog stand, I think of the OTHER local hardware store. Is that intentional? In your place of business, in your home, is what people experience intentional?
Here’s the thing: we cannot control what a person is going to experience. Their perception is entirely up to them. But what we can do is control as many variables as we can, to pave the way for that perfect experience to happen. Just like the perfect proposal scenario – we can tailor it so that all the arrows point to the yes button.
So, have you ever walked through your customer’s process and seen it through their eyes? How much of what they experience is intentional, and how much is accidental? Is it a consistent message (are you selling BMWs to the smell of theatre popcorn)? The multi-million dollar firm might be able to get you to 90% of variables controlled, but if you took a walk in your customers’ shoes, I bet you could get to 80% by yourself. And I bet that’s a LOT further than most of your competitors have gone (do you think the hardware store intended for me to think of them every time I smell a soggy hot dog?)