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Designing guest & fan experiences

When you enter a theme park with a family of 5 and your family is actually a "mock family" consisting of experience design consultants - don't expect to enjoy the rides... Two years ago we did just that: with notepads in hand and an unlimited budget we set to visit our customer's flagship theme park playing the role of an MVP family who pre-purchased their tickets, bought the meal add ons, the express experience and were going to spend all we had on food and entertainment.

Dozens of tickets and pieces of paper accompanying our mock visit to the park

This was just the first in a series of experiencing "a day in the life" of a guest to a theme park. Three months later we were armed with photos of guests exhausted from a series of attractions, looking for a place to sit a catch their breath. We heard from staff members about problems at the park entrance and we personally experienced having to manage dozens of pieces of paper issued to our "family". Thus began a journey to re-imagine the guest experience:

If you had an unlimited amount of time and money what should that experience look like to an independent observer? What would it feel like to the guest?

In order to create a common language with finance, park operations, creative and IT we built "the wheel": a model depicting the experiences of a theme park guest before, during and after a visit to the park. The wheel turned out to be a great reference when designing future experiences. Most importantly after creating it, I realized that the most challenging aspect of any guest experience is not the individual "moments of truth" that represent the guest's exposure to your brand: it is the continuity of experiences.

When you book a hotel for a conference with any of the major brands, you can expect a pretty good experience: easy check in, perhaps they have an eLock mobile app to access your room and a simple process to check out. That's great but it is missing the context. Your context: you did not book a hotel for the purpose of booking a hotel room. You are here for a conference. Walking along the "wheel" someone should have asked themselves "how do we make our guest experience the best possible experience when they are here for an event?" The answers are surprisingly simple but immensely powerful: perhaps you get your badge/pass at the check-in? You can charge that hot dog you bought using your room key (or wristband?) and your wifi works at the convention center without need for an additional password.

I call these "bridging experiences": they are at the seams between organizations, companies and stakeholders and they are the most difficult to build if not designed in advance. Systems need to talk to each other, contracts have to have certain T&Cs to allow seamless business transactions and hand offs happen behind the scene creating the illusion that the hotdog vendor, the convention producers, the convention center owner and the hotel are part of a single operation. But they do not have to be. They may be participating in the worlds most orchestrated guest experience design initiative and you can do this too.

I have applied the "wheel" concept to design student experiences for a global network of Universities, an aerospace company and for large corporations looking to design the ultimate employee experience. Each of these value chains have a before, during and after aspect to the experience design: before the employee/visitor arrives at my facility. The experiences of a passenger after arriving at their destination. The student experience during remote learning.

How will you use the wheel?

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