The Hairdresser and the Barber

Are you offering an Experience-as-scheduled or an Experience-as-Available?

One of the principles of experience management is that a staged experience should meet or exceed the expectations of your audience. But what if people have a different expectation of a similar experience? In other words, two people with the same goal desire different experiences.

This can mean that you might have to choose between staging different personalized experiences in your business or specializing your experience by offering it to a subset of the potential audience.

One way of approaching this challenge is designing an Experience-as-scheduled versus an Experience-as-Available.

Let’s use an example to illustrate this. One of the most exciting, sometimes worrying, but usually rewarding experiences is getting your hair dressed. But the simple art of wash, cut, and dry comes in various staged experiences.

Think about the difference between a Hair Salon and a Barber Shop. The experience outcomes are the same: feeling better about yourself when looking in the mirror. But the experience strategies are very different.

Full disclosure, we can write this with authenticity because one of the authors
likes their haircuts cheap and cheerful, while the other is a frequent guest at the Man Cave.

In the Essence of Experience, we learn that Ambition is the expected minimally satisfactory experience for a product or service. In our example, two similar experiences have two different ambitions. Let’s look at those differences.

The Salon as an Experience-as-scheduled.

Salons typically take your booking several weeks or even months in advance. Your booking is recorded in a schedule. It is assigned to your preferred ‘stylist.’ To guarantee the experience, walk-in customers are often discouraged and sometimes even penalized by a higher price. The range of services is often elaborate and broad. You could be treated to exotic experiences like a Master Hot Shave, a Skin Fade, or a Color Cameo. What is a man to choose? Of course, the experience is full of special effects, beer on tap, cold water, and up-sell (“this bottle of stuff will make your hair even more

Generically Experience-as-Scheduled (ExAS) is the approach of guaranteeing a personalized experience by mapping customer demand to a schedule and ensuring experience delivery matches that schedule. There are, however, risks with this approach. Should the desired stylist unexpectedly fall ill, the rigor of the schedule can mean an excessive effort to renegotiate the experience with affected customers.

The Traditional Barber Shop is usually an Experience-as-Available

Traditional Barber Shops typically don’t take bookings. Instead, they work on a first-come-first-served basis, easily organized using a bench where customers shuffle sideways on their bums. The service tends
to be spartan at pace!

To maintain flow, the offerings are limited

  1. Cut.
  2. Wash and cut
  3. Wash, cut, and dry.

Generically Experience-as-Available (ExAA) provides a standardized experience when the customer needs it. It is a seemingly chaotic approach; however, it is easier to observe Queueing Theory in action. The queue on the bench is a visual indicator of the backlog. Prospective customers can make an informed decision to either take a seat and wait or pop over to the supermarket for some groceries and come back later.

Even though Salons and Barbers trade in precisely the same industry, these approaches have emerged to suit their customers’ needs and personalized preferences.

In conclusion, when you are thinking about your design, consider the following:

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. What is their experience ambition?
  3. What is the experience that I want to stage?
  4. Is Experience-as-scheduled a good approach for me?
  5. Is Experience-as-Available a good approach for me?

This article was co-authored by Louis Stanford and Alan Nance, and was first published on LinkedIn.