It’s been just over a decade since I read The Experience Economy for the first time. Bought it in hardback as there was no way to download it to a tablet. It looked imposing: black cover, a weighty title, degreed individuals pouring mountains of research into a topic that, at the time, was so far outside of my abilities that I was only able to understand it conceptually. In other words, these men were writing about global organizations and C-level decision making in a way that was utterly disconnected from where I was: Managing a small business in the Northwest, sitting in my office, feeling the book’s importance but not understanding how to apply it. I just knew it was a good idea.
I don’t think the authors could have fully anticipated how interconnected we’d all be by now, nor how the mandate for such highly individualized experiences would become the standard for consumerism in the 21st century. But here we are, and a decade later The Experience Economy is more relevant than perhaps it was back then, and equally as challenging.
In theory, the concept is simple: Engage your customers in a series of interconnected experiences or ‘stages’ as the authors called them. Connect each individual in the sales/service cycle in such a manner that a cohesive series of continually escalating ‘stories’ are told. And then create an emotional connection by breaking the storied ‘fourth wall.’ These days words like ‘engage’ and ‘meaningful’ and ‘authentic’ are bantered around so freely that we hardly stop to consider the words true purpose, but the application of an Experience demands just that. (note: when I share this type of information with clients this is usually the point at which people smile, nod, perhaps jot a note, and then, well, ask “How?”)
In a practical sense, in a small business sense, creating an Experience for a consumer begins with a simple series of questions: What’s our story? Who are the cast members? What are their roles? What is our story line? These are big picture questions but they do require specific answers, forcing a team to drill down to the pertinent matter at hand: Does the business actually have any of these things? In most cases the answer is ‘no.’ And the evolution begins.
For example, a business may have a cast of four or five people that play their respective roles in a customer service/sales cycle. An administrator, a salesperson, a manager, a field team member, and an owner. And in most cases each of these people remains somewhat disconnected from the other–operating as a function rather than a fusion. The administrator may be outstanding at collecting the correct information. The salesperson may be a real pro at capturing opportunities. The manager may very well be an excellent resource for maximizing productions and people. But do they actually work together? Moreover, from the customer’s perspective, do they all seem to send the same message? Do they each play a role in developing an emotional bond with the customer in a way that matters TO the customer?
These issues then become the jumping off point for the next critical question: What message does a team want to send, and how do they send it?
See, in an era of terrific parity and deeply individualized connections, total messaging has become more important than a product or a service. People want to participate in something that makes them feel unique. And in the course of determining the story behind this connection a more significant business transformation begins to occur.