Elevate Others with an Engineered Experience

By Rob Keefer

Whether it's a hotel guest who is late for a plane or an impatient boss at an upcoming team meeting, those who view work as a craft will engineer these experiences and elevate the people around them.

Think for a second about the most memorable wedding you've ever attended. What made it so -- the food, the guests, the heartfelt toast, the bridal song, the dance music, the decorations? The cake smash in the groom's face?

It was probably a combination of all those elements. In other words, the overall experience came together in all the right amounts to make the day perfect and excellent.

Happenstance? Hardly. Along the way, someone made all the right choices, and those choices added up to something meaningful. You could say they engineered the experience, with an eye toward the result.

Engineered experiences showcase a belief in the value of getting all details right to add up to the largest impact.

Engineered experiences are all around us. If we look hard enough, we can see them everywhere -- in the little candies on our pillows at night in a Ritz-Carlton hotel room, in the way we board an airplane, and in countless other interactions in our daily lives.

Engineered experiences are also at play in our work environment. They could be the seamless quarterly employee meeting, the briefing document before the big interview, the research done to inform a new initiative. Or, they could simply be the cookies that appear on everyone's birthday.

Engineered experiences reflect more than a dedication or pride in a job well done. They reflect an appreciation for quality. And they are at play in all interactions: those with your teammates, with your CEO and board of directors, as well as your clients and customers.

Engineered Experience, Defined

Many companies have tried to express their commitment to the customer experience. Few have done it better than The Ritz-Carlton Hotels: "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen."

These deliberately chosen words give employees a license to create memorable experiences, no matter their role. Every Ritz Carlton employee is considered a professional on equal footing – not a lesser "servant" chasing approval. Through this famous creed, Ritz expects and encourages every employee to become an experience engineer – to develop skills in "anticipatory service" and then empowering them to fulfill the "unexpressed needs and wants" of hotel guests.”

But whether for in-the-moment unique opportunities or through more fundamental processes, and whether for teammates or management or clients, customers and stakeholders, the principles of engineered experiences remain the same.

Engineered experiences showcase a belief of the value of getting all the details right to add up to the largest impact.

Engineered experiences reflect an appreciation for quality, and they are at play in all interactions.

"Empowerment is often manifested as the power of employees to break away from the routine," Ritz President Herve Humler told a Forbes columnist in 2015. "This requires attention to seek out the moments where a break from the routine brings value to the guest … If you are an [maintenance] engineer and you are painting the wall or changing a light bulb, and a customer says, 'Hey, how are you? I need to get to the airplane,' you can stop what you're doing and say 'Sir, I am going to take you to the airplane.'"

Whether it be an “in-the-moment” unique opportunity or a more fundamental process, or an interaction with teammates, management, clients, customers and stakeholders, you will find that the principles of engineered experiences remain the same.

Engineered Experiences for Clients

The concept of "user experience" has taken on greater sophistication in the digital age. Remember the "GUI" -- the graphical user interface? That was the user experience in the early days of personal computing, the advance that made Steve Jobs and others into legends. Click the icon to make the computer do something. No knowledge of programming is needed.

The challenge of engineered experiences today on the web lies in the connecting points. How can technology make aspects of a user's life more comfortable and better? Take the simple act of enabling bill payments online. It requires complex connections between multiple organizations and multiple systems, both online and off. These interactions must go smoothly in a fraction of a second – otherwise, the moment, and client trust, is lost.

When you offer a product or service, either online or in person, it is essential to remember that your customers expect you to take on these complex behind-the-scenes interactions. Your ability to do so is, in fact, the magic behind the product or service. You must understand the risks, anticipate and resolve them ahead of time, and find a way to communicate what you've done simply so your experience can be activated.

The nature of an engineered experience for stakeholders is formal and professional. The purpose of the experience must be communicated clearly and explicitly. And the focus should be on solutions and purpose

Clients and customers expect integrity in our relationships and deliverables. They expect you to be engaged with their problems and anticipate their needs. They expect you to bring expertise and advice, and to guide them to a great solution. You're not just creating a product or service; you're offering a solution that makes life easier.

Engineered Experiences for Teammates and Management

It's easy to consider the day-to-day elements of work to be drudgery. It's just another meeting, right? You can fake your way through it, no problem. But that's not the path to an engineered experience; that’s the path to frustration and uncertainty.

Consider the opposite approach: A corporate lawyer in Rochester, New York hosted a quarterly meeting of a client's board of directors. The morning of preparation was choreographed down to the second and the smallest detail. Nothing was left to chance even to the point of making sure there was almond butter for that one board member with different tastes.

It's not always necessary to sweat the details so finely - it’s the mindset that matters. Your coworkers rightly expect to trust your output and that of their teammates. Solid teams also maintain a trusting atmosphere that supports team members constructively challenging each other without recriminations, all in the name of engineered experiences.

Companies are recognizing the importance of the engineered experience in the way they organize work for employees. In "Workplace Experience: The New Employee Value Proposition," consultants at Sodexo Quality of Life Services highlight signs that companies are viewing the work environment as more than work, adopting a mindset that "examines every aspect, exchange, and encounter in the working day and uses data insights to optimize and personalize these moments," Sodexo writes.

That's what employees who view work as a craft do for their teammates as well. Every encounter is an opportunity for an engineered experience. Encounters are polite and informal, marked by clear communication and a solution mindset. Making the team successful is what matters.

So, whether it's for a wedding, a hotel guest late for a plane, or an impatient boss at an upcoming team meeting, don't just do the work. Engineer experiences, and watch them elevate others around you.