Promises, control and how experience turns into value

Promises, control and how experience turns into value

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This started as a different article about the elements that make up an experience. But after rumbling them and examining what organisations do and don’t control, I realised the details are less important than how they turn into value. Which led me back to promises.

In the hands of organisations, experience is seen as “an instance or process of someone undergoing, encountering, or observing something”.

Of course experience is also always around us and happens every moment, regardless of deliberate things shaping it.

So, no matter what you do, how much of someone’s experience you control is small, really small. Yet, you can still improve their interaction with you. That’s your frontline.

The ‘someones’ are a landscape of people who work with you and buy from you—staff, suppliers, investors, partners, and, yes, customers.

At its most basic, improving a person’s experience means improving things you can control. There’s a lot you can’t. How someone feels, regulatory and legal constraints about what you do and how you do it, and the competition. These are just a few, and people’s feelings are the eternal wild card.

Even the most meticulously designed interaction can go off a cliff. For example, when someone doesn’t sleep well, argues with the kids, burns the toast, and their car breaks down, your careful crafting of what should happen won’t stand a chance.

So what’s an organisation to do?

Accept that you can’t control the choices or behaviour of others and impact what you can.

The best starting place is to keep your promises. They are a kind of currency that turns experience into value. So whenever possible, make sure people know what to expect, especially when it’s the everyday stuff.

The lion’s share of value accumulates in unheroic actions. Sure, respond to an unexpected bump. Jumping on those moments can save a sad face. But there are always more everyday experiences than ‘be a hero’ sugar hits.

This is hard. Organisations are hardwired to try to control things and are likely to double down rather than let go. Getting a handle on your promises helps. It forces you to think specifically about what you intend, leaving things you can’t control no place to hide.

Think about one aspect of an interaction—for example, the delivery of a product purchased by a customer online.

You use a third-party company, and they control the windows for standard or express delivery. You control communicating them. So when finalising their purchase, be explicit about the options so people can choose.

Once I accept the timeframe, it becomes a promise. As long as my new shoes arrive by day three, my experience turns into value. Which in this instance might take the form of a positive review or returning customer.

I admit, this is a super simple example. But the process can scale across even complex interactions.

To find things ‘in my control’. Outline what you intend, will and won’t do for any element. Accept the edges. Get into the nitty gritty. Break big things into smaller bites. Then get real and face the brutal facts of your current reality – what can and can’t you do?

A promise isn’t a guarantee that an interaction will turn into an experience that adds value to the brand. Back to all those pesky pieces outside your control. But you’ll have a much better chance than if you wing it.

Thanks for reading.

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