The atmosphere is what counts

​These days, people are more and more likely to seek experiences and a good feeling at work, with hobbies and as consumers. At the same time, they are also vulnerable to the moods of other people, whether good or bad.

So what constitutes a good atmosphere? How is the atmosphere taken into account in the operations of an organisation or company? Can an atmosphere be designed or managed? In her work, Marjo Rantanen, a customer experience coach specialised in atmosphere design and the Laurea Alumna of the Year 2016, seeks answers to these questions.

– People do not always remember what another person has said or done during an encounter, but what do they remember is what kind of an atmosphere there was, Rantanen describes.
– On the other hand, a good atmosphere can result in people making good decisions. Studies have indicated that a good atmosphere increases well-being, reduces stress, and allows directing energy to important things.

Atmosphere is an individual experience

Marjo Rantanen has been working in business and customer experience as well as service design for ten years. In recent years, she has been increasingly interested in atmosphere, and published her first book, Tunnelmamuotoilu (''Atmosphere design") in 2016. As a coach, Rantanen helps companies and communities to develop their customer experience.

According to Rantanen, an atmosphere is affected by people's different sensory experiences and ways of acting, and the interactions between them. Every person experiences an atmosphere differently. The way they experience it consists of the person's background, life experiences, acquired knowledge, skills and beliefs as well as expectations.

– Whenever I am coaching an organisation, I always highlight the importance of each individual to the atmosphere; how everyone can use their actions, presence and thoughts to influence the people around them, Rantanen summarises.

Staff experiences alongside customer experience

Rantanen's background is in developing business activities and customer experience. After the publication of her book, Rantanen noticed that an increasing number of people contacting her were interested in well-being at work, atmosphere in work communities and staff development. She realised that atmosphere is not only a tool for developing products or services.

– The significance of trust appears to be emphasised in Finlad as we are living through organisational reforms and co-operation negotiations: it is not self-evident that staff trust their employer and supervisors, Rantanen says.
– Indeed, these days, organisations should also focus on staff experience, not solely on the customer.

The Finnish Tax Administration is one of the organisations that Marjo Rantanen has worked with. According to Rantanen, the organisation has started to pay particular attention on how the staff experience correlates with customer satisfaction, particularly in the tax services for individuals.

In Finland, the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry has also started to pay increasing attention to taking multiple senses into account in constructing an experience. Different digital services provide another area where experience takes on particular importance.

– Even though the transactions occur in a digital channel, we cannot eliminate that fact that atmosphere makes a difference and can be designed, Rantanen says.

Atmosphere index for help

The concept of atmosphere design is fairly new and, as with any new concept, there are always going to be some doubts. According to Marjo Rantanen, one of the common suspicions is related to whether emotions can be measured.

– The Finnish manager would often like to examine things in an easily measurable form, Rantanen says.
– To answer to this, I have started to develop an atmosphere index for companies with a couple of experts, sort of like a share price of atmosphere if you will.

The atmosphere index will measure how the social emotions in a work community influence the emotions and experiences of customers. In the future, Rantanen is also particularly interested in examining how the atmosphere could be utilised, for instance, at schools or in elderly care:

– I am leaning towards well-being more and more. These things that we have initially utilised in business activities could also be applied to public services in increasing amounts, which would enable the entire society to benefit from this, she continues.

Modified 5/2/2017 1:49 PM

​Marjo Rantanen