Archives for September 2012

Experience is an Output, Not an Input

I realize my last few posts here have been more ponderous and philosphical than anything else.  I plan to return with some more “news you can use” in future posts.  But there have just been some things that have been eating at me recently.  So, I needed to get them out.  And hopfully, learn some perspective from you.

The latest is about the notion of the customer experience.

Two nuggest came across my desk recently.  One story on NPR was analyzing the changing grocery store industry in the U.S.A.  The other was a blog post proclaiming the death of the customer experience.  Two completely opposite opinions.

The NPR analyst was reporting on the shift of grocery store customers towards the desire for a greater in-store experience.  As opposed to what?  Better product? Better price?

In claiming the death of the customer experience, the blog author claimed consumers don’t really care about the experience.  Their preference is what?  Better product?  Better price?

Do you get where I’m going with this?

Experience is a result of product, price, billing, shipping, manufacturing, customer service and every other element of your business model.  Maybe its the fact that we talk about creating experiences that messes with our minds to the point where we think they are some tangible item that can be produced.

Customer experience is the output.  The result of all of those things above.  Experience design requires the examination and design of all of the business model inputs which result in a desired experience outcome.  

With everything we do, with everything we interact as consumers, we have experiences.  The experience itself is not designed.  Nor can it be created or taken away.

So, can grocery stores do things that will enhance the experience?  Absolutely.  Is it exchanged for some other element of the business model?  By definition, its impossible.  Do customers not care about the experience?  We can’t avoid it.  Experiences are everywhere.  In everything we do.

Has It All Been Said?

Sometimes I just get tired of talking.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love a good banter as much as the next guy.  The intellectual waltz.  The idea shuttlecock, batted around until it’s frayed.

But I just got to thinking the other day, when it comes to customer service and the customer experience, could we maybe use a little less talk and a whole boat-load more do?

Has it all been said?  Maybe it’s the fact that not a whole heck of a lot of people are listening?  Or, maybe doing is just really hard.  What’s the cliche?  Talk is cheap?  Not necessarily.  There are a lot of smart people with a lot of smart ideas.  Forgive me the gratuitous plug, but tune into Twitter on any given Tuesday night at 9pm to the #custserv chat.  There is no shortage of great ideas and great advice from some keen thinkers.  My friend Stan Phelps has a whole site dedicated to real examples of unique customer experiences. 

What I’d like to read more about is stories of customer service actually reinvented.  Where are the case studies of companies that have listened to some of the great ideas available for free in places like that, and have put a plan together, implemented it and delivered value where little existed prior?

There’s a reason the web is filled with references to Zappos, Wegmans, Virgin, USAA and Apple.

Let Them Eat Cake!

Ok, so first off, yes I know.  I’m a blogging slacker.  I haven’t been here in way too long.  I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been hard at work researching some really compelling stuff to write about.  But, that’s a big fat lie.  I have been hard at work.  But not at that.  There’s this thing called the Sex and Cash Theory.  Check out Huge McLeod’s work.  And you’ll know what I’m talking about.

But enough of the excuses.

I had to relay this story and get your opinion.  So, first a question.  Which would you walk further for across hot coals in bare feet?  A really cool product?  Or, a mind-blowing experience?

This is a story of a mind-blowing product served with an F-You attitude that made me give the proprietor the big F-You.

I was turned on to a local bakery six years ago when I first moved to my current home.  Everyone in the local area that I asked pointed me to this bakery.  The opinions were unanimous.  This place served up the most amazing delights.  And its cakes gave The Cake Boss a real run for his money.  And for the past six years, we have had this bakery make every cake for every special occasion in our family.  Birthdays, births, christenings, anniversaries, you name it.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I were dragging our feet in the planning of my son’s sixth birthday (see, I haven’t just been slacking on my blogging).  Our son’s party was on Saturday.  And, on Thursday we were faced with the realization that we had no cake.  No problem, we thought.  We’ll just call our cake boss.  My wife called.  And here’s sort of how the conversation went.

Wife: “Hi! Its (wife’s name…she hasn’t signed the release form allowing me to use her name in print).  I’m in a bind.  My son’s birthday is Saturday.  Can I order a cake?

Cake boss: “THIS SATURDAY?”

Wife: “yes”

Cake boss: “hold on…”  “can we make a cake for Saturday?”

Now mind you, we weren’t asking for a life-sized reproduction of the Eiffel Tower.  Our request was for a rectangular sheet cake with a little icing in the design of a baseball diamond.

Cake boss: “huh…yea I guess we could do that.  But it’s going to have to be late on Saturday.”

Wife:   “I’ll have to get back to you.”

Wife hangs up the phone.  Her next call was to Wegmans.

To the same request, the reply was…

“Absolutely.  We can do that for Saturday”

Wife:  “It’s not too late?”

Wegman’s: “Dear, it’s never too late.  We’d be happy to do that for you”

Eat that, cake boss.