Are you experienced?

In my recent post about the delightful on-line shopping experience I had at, I referenced a quote from Rudy Vital, former Chief Customer Officer at InContact.  As part of a keynote panel at the 2009 North American Conference on Customer Management, Rudy answered a question about adapting a loyalty program to an emotional experience in part with this:

“This used to be a product and service economy. Not anymore. It’s an experience economy. People are spending money for experiences. Why? Because products are commoditized”

This stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking about companies that are not only succeeding, but thriving regardless of cyclical economic conditions by delivering a unique experience that connects at some deeper level to the consumer. (here’s the entire summary of the NACCM keynote)

Here’s my top ten list (in no particular order) and the experience that I think sets them apart:

  1. Apple – its not the phone, media player or laptop.  Its iTunes.
  2. Wegmans – the grocer puts employees first, before even customers and it shows when you ask someone in the store for help
  3. – crowd sourcing providing peer reviews and recommendations reducing the stress of buying a personal, tactile item such as luggage on line
  4. – for all the same reasons as eBags plus…The Kindle
  5. Lego – for understanding its not about plastic bricks, its about adventure.  And for its recognition and connection with loyal adult fans of their products
  6. Best Buy – Geek Squad and Twelpforce.  Sorry Circuit City
  7. Cabela’s Outfitters – They dont sell long underwear, boots and guns.  They sell the outdoor lifestyle.  Their stores make you feel like you’re an adventurer even if you’ve never been deeper into the woods than the shrubs in the back yard.  And this.  Vice Chairman James W. Cabela spends hours each morning reading through customer comments and hand-delivers them to each department, circling the issues he’d like to have addressed.
  8. My local Dunkin Donuts – Its unfortunate you all can’t experience this.  Every morning, without fail, I walk in the door and, without uttering a word, I’m presented with my coffee exactly the way I like it.  I can’t say enough about how that gets my day off to a great start
  9. USAA – I had the pleasure of having USAA as a consulting client and I’ve never had interaction with a company that is as committed to customer service agent training, development and empowerment (except maybe Zappos).  
  10. Ritz Carlton Hotels – the famous motto: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”  A while back, for a period of 6 months, I was a regular customer 5 days a week on a consulting assignment.  That gig ended.  A year later, I stayed at a Ritz on vacation and they remembered everything about me, from the newspaper I wanted in the morning to the extra towels that were already in the room.  Anticipating customers desires is at the core of their success

That’s my list.  Do you have any hidden gems to add to the list?


  1. Interesting that you picked Dunkin Donuts. Most people would have referenced Starbuck's experience. Likewise with Wegmans and those that have had the pleasure of shopping at Stew Leonard's.

    Yet I'm certain that your experiences at Dunkin and Wegman's is every bit as personal, differentiated and valuable as what others recieve at Strabucks, Leonard's or somehwere else entirely.

    It shows again that while the experience can scripted centrally and well supported by process and technology, it is the people executing the service that is most responsible for turning commodity interactions into experiences.


  2. Hey Chris,
    Thanks for the insight. I absolutely agree that, in most cases, the customer perception and personal experience definitely tints the point of view. I haven't had a personal experience with Stew Leonard's but have heard great things.

    As for the coffee wars, you're right on. The service that I get at my local DD is certainly not the corporate standard, but based on the personal pride of the particular franchisee. Starbucks, on the other hand, has tried to institutionalize their approach to service. While scalable, how it comes of to me is robotic. Like asking me my name does noting to enhance my experience.

    To your point, the people delivering the service, whether standardized or individualized, are what leave the impact.

    Thanks much for your comment

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