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Customer experience | What as an experience?

For more than a year I've been talking about creating loyalty loop experience and someone recently asked me this question: "Hey Drew, what exactly is an experience?"

It made me realize that I’ve never actually defined the word experience or truly explained what an experience is.

Better yet, I’ve never demonstrated what an experience is, why an experience matters and why every single person in your company contributes to creating a great experience.

The Loyalty Loop

If you've watched every episode of The Loyalty Loop you’ll know that it’s defined as, ‘a series of post commitment encounters designed to elicit intense and eager enjoyment, approval or interest’.

That is the textbook definition. Notice it's a series of encounters or experiences.

And that begs the question: What exactly is an experience?

The customer experience demonstrated

I’m going to give you that here... using a chair as an example.

I just found out that a chair I own is a knockoff. It's a fake, a fraud… not the real thing. Truth is, I bought four of them! Four fake chairs.

However, this chair might never have existed if it wasn't for Gregg Buchbinder, the CEO of Emeco.

Emeco has been around for a long time, about 75 years, and over that time has enjoyed huge success selling the so-called ‘1006 Navy chair’ – an indestructible and very lightweight aluminium chair invented and patented by Emeco – to the U.S. military.

By 1955 Emeco was churning out 200,000 aluminum chairs, most of those for government contracts. However, by 1998 most of those government contracts had dried up and in 1998 when Gregg took the company over from his father, it was nearing bankruptcy.

So, the following year Gregg Buchbinder went to tour the factory and spend some time on the floor to figure out how he might reduce costs to save the business.

He went to see the office manager and found her on the phone. I don't know the real office manager's name, but let’s imagine she’s called Debra.

As Gregg waited for Debra to finish her call, this is the one side of the conversation that he heard:

"As I just explained, Sir, I will not send you chairs unless you send money first.”

"No, no, no you send the money then we send the chairs… Look we don't know anything about you. I've never heard of your company, we’ve never fulfilled an order before. I don't have you in my files, and until you send me a check we will not send the chairs.”

"Sir, send the check we'll send the chairs. Thank you very much. Have a good day."

And Debra hung up the phone. Now keep in mind Debra is the office manager. She's not in customer service, she doesn't do sales – she just happened to receive a phone call.

Now put yourself in Gregg's shoes. He's just waiting to say “hi” and talk to Debra when he hears this conversation.

So I imagine the conversation that he had with Debra went something like this: "Hey Debra who was that?"

And Debra says: "I don't know. I wrote down his name, it’s Giorgio Armani."

It turned out that, yes… it was that Giorgio Armani. The Giorgio Armani.

Gregg decided to call Giorgio back who explained that he wanted to order a whole slew of chairs for his stores around the world. He told Gregg how much not only he, but many of his friends, love this chair... friends like Phillipe Starck, Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. Lots of famous designers love this chair!

And that's when Gregg pivoted the business. They repositioned the chair not as an indestructible chair for the Navy but a chair for designers - designers just like Giorgio Armani.

The factory started humming again. Chairs started flying out the door onto pallets and into trucks to get to these famous designers around the world.

Gregg redesigned the website and all of a sudden the brand was reinvigorated.

Everyone in your organization is part of the loyalty loop

This story epitomizes the way in which absolutely everyone, even your office manager, is part of the loyalty loop.

Every single person has an opportunity to create an experience… Mike in accounting, Jennifer in legal, Sahid in design, Nancy in the C-Suite.

They are all part of a great loyalty loop experience.

The customer experience defined

My definition of an experience is an event or occurrence that leaves an impression, or not.

What if Gregg hadn't been standing there at that moment to overhear that particular conversation? What impression would Mr Armani have left with?

Continually ask yourself: Am I being a Debra?

Any one experience can destroy a company or turn it around.

So, with the very next email you write, call you take, the very next design you release or contract you send, ask yourself: What impression will this leave and how long will it last?

Remember, an experience is an event or occurrence that leaves an impression or not.


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