Meaningful Experience

Meaningful experience should leave a mark in your memory that you want to shareWhat is a meaningful experience?  Literally, it’s an important useful encounter.

A meaningful experience leaves a mark in memory.  It gives us something to talk about, something to share; and people love to have things to share with others.  A meaningful experience can be a deeply powerful thing.  It can influence how someone reacts and what they associate with a person, place, or thing.

To start, an experience should consider a narrative.  What is the story behind what is happening?  What are the stories behind the people creating the interaction, both individually and as a group?  The narrative can help form or reflect the group’s mission.  This narrative should be easy to share.  It should have a common language that anyone involved can use and relate to.

Timing plays a role in creating a meaningful experience.  Is it consistent?  Does it need to be?  Are there other distractions taking away from its power that can be foreseen?  Try to plan ahead why you want something to happen at a certain time.  People tend to have certain expectations of what happens when, like how drinks follow a wedding ceremony.  It can be when a customer is greeted at the door or when they’re offered cookies.  Almost everyone likes to be offered cookies, but who wants a cookie on the way to the bathroom?  That’s bad timing.  Timing can be how long it takes for a person to get settled into the experience and it should be part of what the staff does to make a customer comfortable.  These things  can be dependent on time of year, time of month, and time of day.  It can also depend on the service.  All this should be considered in your preliminary research.  A brief schedule or roadmap should be made available for the stakeholders.  Don’t nitpick,  some aspects of this should be left to the employees with direct customer contact to handle.

Experience can be digital, physical, and/or emotional.  It can involve a “user” and it can involve an instructor or a customer service agent.  It can involve the designers themselves.  Or, as Service Experience Chicago likes to put it, “the actors“, aka stakeholders.  There is a huge amount of thought put into the design for the user – to get them to use/buy/interact with the design.  But part of the design and research needs to consider the other parties involved in the making of the experience.

Communication, environment, and behaviors are also integral parts meaningful interactions.  The value of real life interactions is tremendous.  The value of building positive real life community interactions  is tremendous and can spiral outward, spreading like ripples in a pond.  How a message is communicated can influence how it is passed on and shared, whether orally or digitally.  The environment your interaction happens within can make the difference between customer growth, better learning facilities, and approachability. It can influence how people want to interact with it.  The color of the walls,  The distractions.  The focus.  Even the smells.  And let’s face it, the behavior of all involved will influence the success of the mission/design/interaction.

If you want to create a meaningful experience, aim to create an emotional one.  Give people something of value to share with one another.  And if you’re really smart, you’ll find a way to positively reinforce it.