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The Importance of Experience

0130_airport-800x480This weekend finds me traveling to the U.S. for The Heads’ Network Annual Meeting and Conference. It is an association for principals of schools with girls, and the gathering is always excellent both because of the speakers and the opportunity to connect, share and learn with colleagues.

I always select a ‘work’ book to read while I am away and, because I have been thinking a lot about our community experience, the book entitled Be Our Guest by The Disney Institute intrigued me. As SCS is a small school with a tight-knit community it is very important that everyone- students, staff, parents, alumnae and friends- feel known and included.

The irony was that when I began the book I was in the midst of experiencing the antithesis of what the author was advising.

According to B. Joseph Pine and James Gilmour, cited in this book, we are in what they term the Experience Economy where customers want memorable experiences and companies must become stagers of experience. They say “the value of the experience lingers in the memory of any individual who was engaged by the event.” Organizations must ensure that at every point, customers’ needs and wants are anticipated and supported.

I am an ‘early to the airport’ person- I like to get there, check my bags, grab a tea and get to the gate where I can work or read. Sadly, the message I was given through my experience at the airport was that those who are early have to wait until those who are late ensure that they catch their flights. Traveling south of the border has become far less enjoyable, as those of us who are travelers without a Nexus card or Global Entry are made to wait in a holding area such that we can be sent through customs- a holding area that lacks any comfort or amenities. To be clear, I understand the difficulty with the numbers of travelers and the strain it puts on the process; however, as I looked around, I considered just how much could be improved with respect to the experience.

Needless to say, it was all just fine in the end. The staff were friendly and as positive as possible with all of us, but it was a great reminder to me that despite sometimes approaching things for efficiency’s sake, or thinking it will make sense to all, we must always have an eye to what the experience is for each member of our community and ensure that it is a positive one.

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