I experience, you experience, s/he experience, they experience, we experience. That is what is so. Yet how deeply are you (and me) conscious of the quality (or the lack of it) of the experiencing that is occurring? Further, where does the quality of experience sit on the business priority ladder? Let’s shine a light on these questions by looking at a recent experience.
I attended a training course in London not that long ago. Here are the facets of this experience that are still with me:
- Cramped. The train room showed up as small for the size of the audience. No – small is not the right word. It lacks the flavour of experience. The experience-full word is cramped. There was not enough space for the most basic/normal of human needs. Example: whenever I needed to leave the training room I had to ask people to move their chairs into the tables so that I’d have just enough room to slide past them.
- Hot. Stuffy. Hot. Stuffy. Due the room being packed with bodies and the lack of an adequate ventilation system the room got hot. Not true. If we are going to stick to experience then it is more accurate to say that I got hot as in hot/uncomfortable. By the end of the first day of training I had a headache and felt so exhausted.
- No internet! We all needed good quality internet access in order to do the exercises. Some of us got good enough access. Others didn’t – I was one of those that didn’t. By the end of the second day of the three day training course the internet access issue had not been sorted out. Given that some 50% of the classroom time was given to doing the exercises I found myself to be frustrated and bored. It really took willpower to stay in the training room on the second day.
- Long sessions, no breaks. Imagine starting at 8:30 and having to wait until 12:30 for the first formal break – break for lunch. A computer may be totally ok with that. A brain in a vat – a purely cognitive being – may be totally ok with that. I was not. I got restless. I longed to stand up, stretch, walk… That is what goes with being an organism designed for movement.
- Poor visuals. What is the point of splashing something on the screen if the folks in the room cannot read it because the font size is too small?
Why was my learning experience so poor? Was it because the folks who did the training lacked intelligence? No. Was it because there is a lack of knowledge about what kind of environments are conducive to learning? No. Was it because the folks who delivered the training had no personal experience of being learners in a training room? No.
I draw your attention to the distinction between training and learning experience. I say that my learning experience was so poor because the focus of the training makers and doers was on the training. Notice, that when you focus on training you focus on the functional – activities (tasks, resources, materials) that go into training. Whereas when you focus on the learning experience you are focusing on the human – the experience of the learners.
Is that all there is to the matter? No. I suspect that the drivers that shaped the training were cost and time. Not experience. Why not hire a better-larger training room-venue? Because it would have cost more. Why not break the training down into two smaller groups thus giving more attention to each learner? Because it would have cost more. Why not schedule more breaks during the day and reduce the learning day to a more humane one? Because then it would take more days to get through the training. More days for the learners to take off to do the learning. And more time for the trainers to do the training. In business time is money – in this case a bigger cost.
Now I wish to draw your attention to what I found most interesting. During the course of the first day of training most of the experience issues were voiced by the learners. And brought to the attention of the trainers. Yet no effective action was taken – to deal with any of these issues.
Summing up, there is huge gap between the talk of Customer Experience and the customer’s experience. It occurs to me that this is largely because of the following:
- Revenue and Cost are the primary drivers of business not Experience.
- The default and pervasive way of showing up and travelling in organisations is Function (processes, activities, tasks, resources…) and not Experience. Further, the folks who often play pivotal roles in Customer Experience efforts are pervaded through and through with Function. And they automatically assume that improving Function improves Experience.
- Experience requires Flexibility of response to this particular customer in this particular context yet the organisational default is Standardisation on the one best way to carry out this function.
- The language of experience is a human kind of language. That poses a challenges in organisational contexts because the human is unwelcome in organisations. Organisations prefer a rational / scientific language – the language of the engineer, the economist, the technician. Notice, how I have had to correct myself in my speaking a few times just to be true to my experience. Language matters – as a famous philosopher said “Language is the house of being.”
- The work that is necessary to generate the kind of experiences that customers desire is simply work that folks in organisations are unable or unwilling to take on. Maybe it shows up as unnecessary. Maybe it shows up as merely ‘nice to have’. Maybe it shows up as too much hard work for little benefit – lack of ROI. Maybe it shows up as disruptive.
This may show up as bad news. I am clear it is good news. Why? Because the rewards of Experience excellence are only open to those few willing to make sacrifices today to harvest the promise of reward in the future. Put differently, the route of Experience excellence is available only to those who truly believe in the value of Experience centred business. For the majority, I say that experience centric business will continue to be a ‘bridge too far’.
I thank you for your listening and wish you a great day. Until the next time….