Ask the Coyote

Why you need a different sense of timing in experience design

I was chewing the fat yesterday (actually, it was a rather tasty cheese Pizza) with esteemed Imagineo colleague Markus Hormess, and we got to talking about timing.

In theater, and Hollywood -and increasingly in experience design - timing is crucial. Get the timing right, and you increase the wow-factor of your offering exponentially. The problem is, many of the folks working in experiential events come from a service background and do not have a showbiz sense of timing.

We have a typical Pine and Gilmore Product>Service>Experience progression here. If a delivery of building bricks is fifteen minutes late, the delay is trivial. If a restaurant meal is fifteen minutes late, it is inconvenient or perhaps embarrassing. If an actor is fifteen minutes late coming on stage, the play will have ground to a halt, audience will have left in disgust and his career will be history!

As you move your customer contact beyond service and towards experience, your feeling for timing must become more and more precise. Rather than hours and minutes, you will be working with seconds and even - one day -fragments of seconds.

Concretise this with your people by discussing your common definition of "now". Remember, for a chef, delivering food "now" means taking it out of the oven, putting it on a plate, adding the sauce, the veg and a sprig of parsley, wiping the plate edges, and putting it in the waiter's hand. That 25 seconds was "now" for the cook.

For an actor (or for an experience cast member with an audience waiting), getting the food "now" means holding out my hand and getting the plate within, say, half a second. For a designed experience to work, everyone needs to have a similar sense of timing.

Timing something perfectly – making it happen precisely when it wants to happen – can make the experience immensely satisfying (and impressive) for customers. So talk about it, work on it, and seek inspiration from the experts – Woody Allen, Laurel and Hardy, and Grandmasters Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote (MT).

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