Why a Glimpse Behind the Curtain Can Enhance the Magic

January 17, 2013

I am fascinated by how things are made. For me, having a sense of where something comes from gives me a much deeper connection to a product. That is why I love the segment in Gary Hustwit’s movie Objectified that shows Jasper Morrison’s Air Chair on the production line, and the interview with Apple Design Head Jony Ive where he talks about designing the fixtures to make Apple laptops. The more I know about how a product gets into my hands, the more I value it.

I think the same is true of services. I was reminded of that the other evening at, of all things, a performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Ordinarily when attending a theatrical performance we enter the theater and sit patiently in front of a closed curtain while the actors and production staff are busy getting ready. The convention is that we should be separated from the preparations so as to maintain the suspension of disbelief.

For this performance at London’s Apollo Theater however, the preparations became part of the performance. On entering the auditorium we were faced with a stage full of benches and tables with actors coming and going. They were putting on costumes, applying makeup, and chatting with each other just as you would imagine happens in the backstage dressing rooms. As favorite actors came and went we felt drawn into the company and part of the process. The quality of the performance was superb, but that small glimpse behind the curtain certainly enhanced the experience for me.

I feel the same way about restaurants, where I love sitting so that I can see into the kitchen and watch the chefs at work. Again, the food seems that extra bit more interesting when I can see how it is prepared.

I would suggest that any product or service experience can be enhanced by letting the customer see behind the scenes. Of course, to do so we must be as proud of what happens ‘offstage’ as we are of what happens ‘onstage.’ This requires careful design, but in markets where the alternative is commoditization, anything that creates a deeper connection to the customer is an advantage.

Where might you create a glimpse behind the curtain for the customers of your product or service?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)