Transperia Group, Inc.
Transformational Experiences That Drive Business Results

Archive for the ‘Experience’ Category

The Power of Person

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Personal connection is powerful. And it’s foundational, if not the cornerstone, to creating a great experience.

I’m always amazed at how much my experience at a store, restaurant, with a vendor, or wherever is affected by how I’m treated by the front-line person. It can literally make or break the experience for me (and determine whether or not I do business there).

I refer to it simply as “the power of person.” People want to be treated like a real person, by a real person. Not a number, not an interruption, not a nuisance, not a means to a sale. A person. It’s shocking how much we’ve lost sight of that in our culture.

Creating transformational experiences for people does not always have to be a huge endeavor. Simply put, our people are one of the biggest keys to creating a great experience for others.

I try hard to create a good experience for my clients, vendors and employees every chance I get. And the formula is really pretty simple. Here are some things we strive to do at Transperia:

  • Treat people like they matter. And authentically care about them.
  • Value their time as equally important (or more so) as your own.
  • Be kind and polite…even if they are being rude or disconnected (you never know what might be on someone else’s plate, or what burden they might be carrying).
  • Help them reach their goals (which, in turn, almost always helps you reach yours).
  • Be real and authentic. You don’t have to spill your guts inappropriately, but let them see the real you.
  • Have some fun/bring some joy in the midst of the interaction. I’m not suggesting telling jokes or not taking things seriously. Rather, look for ways to bring joy, if possible. Sometimes this requires a little bit of established trust or relationship, but if you authentically are looking for ways to bring some joy, it will go a long way.

These are just a handful of things that help a client feel like they are a “person” to you. You start by being a real “person” with them and letting them know how much you value them. If you can authentically do these things, your customers/clients will look forward to interacting with you—and doing business with you.

This isn’t rocket science and it isn’t a costly program to implement. If you (and the people on your team) simply employ “the power of person” you will stand out from the crowd. You will already be enhancing the experience. Best of all, others will begin talking about you.

Do you have any other ideas of how to fuel “the power of person?” We’d love to see your comments.

The Friendly Skies…Really?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Flight AttendantI was recently on an airplane.  As we were readying for departure, the Captain came on the loud speaker and said,

“Ladies & Gentlemen, I just wanted to make you aware that our flight attendant, Amy, has recently been nominated for Regional Jet Flight Attendant of the Year.  Let’s all give her a big hand,” which we did.

My first thought was, “Really? This girl?”  From what I had already observed, Amy didn’t appear to be the model of a great Flight Attendant.  I hardly saw a smile, she stumbled over the announcements and she coolly ignored the questions & requests of the young man seated behind me with Down Syndrome, all the while chatting it up with some other Flight Attendants (who were catching a ride on our flight—flying for free, by the way).

Then Amy delivered the safety instructions.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen less energy or passion delivered during this standard speech (and I’ve been on my share of airplanes).  While pedestrian, at best, these instructions are still supposed to be the instructions on how to save our lives in the case of emergency.  You would have thought Amy was reading the phone book.

“How could this woman be nominated for an award?”  I thought.  A few moments later, I got my answer.  I overheard a fellow traveler congratulate Amy, who then scoffed and replied that the pilot was simply joking and having a little bit of fun.

The airlines are getting some tough press lately (and rightly so, in my opinion) because of several things:
•    Escalating ticket prices
•    Eliminating snacks
•    Fuel surcharges
•    Charging for baggage
•    And now some are even charging for soft drinks

Each of these cost-cutting measures is driving down the experience the airlines are providing.

But the airlines can greatly improve their customers’ experience at little to no additional cost—and it lies in the hands of their Flight Attendants.  It costs nothing to:

•    Smile
•    Treat people with respect
•    Be passionate about your job, and the service you provide
•    Be friendly
•    Act like you actually want to be there

I’m sure it’s tough to give that same safety speech day after day.  It reminds me of some years back when I used to be involved in theatre (yes, I did a little acting in college—don’t judge me).  The Director would inevitably give a speech to the cast somewhere in the middle of our show’s run and say, “Now, I know we’ve done this show lots of times, but there is a whole new crowd tonight who is seeing this for the first time.  They don’t care how good we were last night.  What matters to them is tonight.”

It’s easy to forget these simple things that can go a long way.  I think the airlines would do well to remind their Flight Attendants of this.  Maybe next time they’ll find a way to deliver that safety speech with a little zest, interest, or dare I say, even humor.  The power to create a good experience lies firmly within their grasp—if they will only seize it.

What can you learn from the airlines?  What are you doing to improve the experience you provide for your customers?  What can you be doing that doesn’t even cost money to accomplish?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Sony Walkman Project

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Talk about a cool experience. Sony has taken a risk in promoting their latest Walkman media player.

Their website says, “The Walkman Project is an incredible musical collaboration that lets you make and share music with other people around the world.”

Sony has created a vehicle where people can collaborate on a piece of music together—each one adding his/her own part. You can sing, play or mix tracks. You then upload your contribution. Little by little, the musical piece grows, morphs and changes as each part is added. A very, very cool idea.

To promote this collaborative project (and their product), Sony created a video highlighting how even the most seemingly insignificant contribution makes an impact on the whole.

It’s brilliant.

The video features 130 musicians, all gathered in one place, performing a musical composition where each musician plays only one note at a time. The piece moves by beautifully as you watch each musician playing their one note, but the whole coming together fluidly and flawlessly.

It’s amazing.

I can’t imagine the immensity of the challenge of wrangling 240 microphones, handling 130 sensitive artist egos and juggling the logistics of such an endeavor.

Watch the video. It will blow your mind (at least it did mine).

Sony could have just done a regular product launch for their new Walkman. But instead, they created an experience for people to jump into, and also created a cool experience for the 130 musicians who played on the video, and then shared that experience with us.

Sony reminds us of the need to break the mold on our status quo events, projects or media. How about you? Is it business as usual, or are you creating an experience that will involve and impact your audience and not soon be forgotten?

Let the Sun Shine… or The Best-Case Scenario Rarely Is

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Age of AquariusMost of the clients I work with approach a project, event or media with big plans and high hopes.  After all, unlimited ideation, creative thinking and dreaming big are great ways to approach a new project.  Some of our clients, however, become a bit deflated when they realize that those big plans often come with corresponding resource requirements and challenges.

Great ideas and wonderful new creations usually require funding and human resources commensurate with the idea.

I’m not just talking about the costs for things we charge for.  In many cases, it’s the costs or situations that are unrelated to us (or outside our scope) that bring the most drain or frustration.

“Hmm.  Is it really going to cost that much, or take that long?”  I’ll often hear.  “Yes, that’s what it’s going to take to do this,” I’ll reply.

The client then sometimes enters into a theoretical bargaining of sorts with us.

•    “Well, what if we could get a vendor to agree to this.”  They’ll say, hoping they might find some as-yet-undiscovered bargain.
•    “By then, travel costs will probably have come down.”
•    “Hopefully the economy will have turned around by then.”
•    “What if we did some of this internally?”

We are often backed into a corner and asked to create guesstimates based on these hopeful, yet improbable, scenarios.  It’s what I call, “Best-Case Scenario Planning”.

And it’s dangerous.

I hate to even enter into it.  I explain to my client that it’s highly unlikely this and that will go our way, but they often twist my arm and ask me to create schedules or show them numbers based on such assumptions.  These unrealistic estimates then morph into the deadlines and budgets they plan for.

Here’s the catch:  “Best-Case Scenarios” almost never happen.

•    Shipments get lost in transit.
•    Unions go on strike.
•    Someone, somewhere drops a ball.

The planets rarely align in our solar system (either every 200 years, 5,000 years, or never, depending on your definition) and there’s no Age of Aquarius.

And the actual best-case scenario is more rare than a Kevin Costner blockbuster.

Regardless of how many disclaimers I list or try to prepare the project manager, anything that falls short of this new best-case scenario expectation becomes a disappointment, or even worse, is looked upon as a failure.

“Remember, we said that it would only work this way under a best-case scenario,” I remind them.

Doesn’t matter.

All they know is that they got their heart set on things happening a certain, albeit unrealistic, way and then got their heart (or budget) broken.

Moral of the story:  Next time you’re dreaming up a great new project, forget about the best-case scenario.  Plan for the most-probable scenario, and then budget a little more or set a realistic deadline.  Then, if the planets do happen to align, you’ll be a hero, everyone will be happier, and you can all join in on a chorus of “The Age of Aquarius”.

Thrilling Your Customers (Apple Does it Again)

Friday, September 5th, 2008

The experience we create for our customers goes beyond the time they are at our events, on our sales floors or using our products.

To foster customer loyalty and even build a cult-like following, you have to thrill the customer—even after the sale, or your obligation, is done.

I’m a huge Apple fan.  I’ve been using Macs for over 20 years.  I’m already in the fold—it’s a done deal—but yesterday I got another HUGE reminder of why I love Apple.  They extended my customer experience by thrilling me.  Here’s what happened:

On Tuesday of this week, I sent my almost three-year-old PowerBook G4 in to Apple to get some repairs done.  Being an Apple Care member (their extended warranty program), I had about 2 more months left before the warranty expired.  I decided to send the laptop in to get some final repairs while I still could.  Among the things I needed fixed was a flaky monitor.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Frank, at Apple Care.

He said, “Well, we have a little problem with your computer.  The screen is so bad, it can’t be repaired.  It needs to be replaced”.

“Yeah…” I said, a little hesitantly.

“Well, this might sound weird, but we currently don’t have any monitors…and it will take a month for us to get any”, he said.

“You’re kidding.  I can’t wait that long.”  I replied.

“No.  But I think I have another solution for you.”  He said.

“Okay…”  I said, and braced myself for some pain.  Frank then made a statement that shocked me.

“We’d like to send you a brand new MacBook Pro to replace this one”.  He said.

“…Uh…What?”  I replied, quite eloquently.

“We’d like to send you a brand new 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro with 2 gigs of RAM and a 200 gig hard drive.  As far as your current machine goes, we’ll either fix & try to resell it, or use it for parts”,  He told me.  “The new MacBook Pro is yours to keep.”

“Am I on Candid Camera?”  I asked.

“No”, he laughed.  “You’ve had some trouble with this machine and it’s still under its Apple Care warranty, so we’d like to give you a new one”.

I explained to him that my machine was almost 3 years old and was even an older generation (PowerBook) than the computer they wanted to send to me.  He said they realized that, then asked if it was okay for them to send me a new machine.

Once I finished picking myself up off the floor, I thanked Frank and then asked how often he gets to make these kinds of phone calls.

He said, “It’s my job to call people up and tell them they’re getting a new computer.  They call me Santa Claus around here” (now that’s what I call a great job).

I told him he was my new best friend.

Apple gets it.  They didn’t have to do anything more than replace my monitor.  They didn’t even have to give me a refurbished version of the computer I already had.  But they went above and beyond (way beyond) and offered me a better solution than I ever would have dreamed of.

In short, they thrilled me…to say the least.

Excuse Me, What’s this Fly Doing in My Soup…?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Watiress w/GumThe service we receive in a restaurant can sometimes make or break the experience for us. Subsequently, the way we respond to that service (whether good or bad) sends a message of what our future expectations are. Tipping is really our most effective feedback mechanism for the service we’ve received.

My wife was a waitress. She was hard-working, fast, attentive and friendly to her customers (so she tells me).

While she’s a generous tipper, she sometimes thinks I tip too much. Normally, I tip an unwavering 20% (of the total, including tax). Even when I get bad service, I tend to tip the whole 20%. My wife argues that I should tip less when I get poor service.

I usually respond with something like:

  • “Well, maybe the waiter is just having a bad day” or
  • “You know, she’s probably a single mom and needs the money” or
  • Maybe I just don’t want to be perceived as cheap.

My wife then explains to me that it’s not fair to the good waitresses if I tip the same, regardless of service. It’s my responsibility to tip less.

She’s right. If we tip the same for exceptional or terrible service, then we complicitly support the terrible service we’ve just received.

I know that the amount is supposed to vary based on the level of service (full service vs. a self-serve buffet) and the caliber of the restaurant (cloth napkins and table cloths gets more than no table cloth and paper napkins). Let’s assume it’s a restaurant where you’re getting full service and a 20% tip is in order.

Here’s the standard I’m thinking I should follow from now on (no rocket science here):

  • Great service: 20% of total—including tax—or more (no one says you can’t tip more than 20% if the experience was really terrific)
  • Adequate or average service: 15% of total
  • Sub-standard service: 10% of total
  • Really bad service: leave something, albeit small, so they know you weren’t simply stiffing them. Then consider having a short conversation with the manager or owner on your way out.

Let your tip communicate your satisfaction level with the experience you received and set the expectation for next time. If you don’t, you can’t really expect something different on your next visit.

How about you? Do you have effective feedback mechanisms in place for your customers/audience?  Do you know if what you are offering is effective or not?  How do you measure it?  It would be nice if people left us “tips” for our work, wouldn’t it (or would it be frightening)?

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your feedback mechanisms, or simply feel free to respond with your tipping standards.  Please share your thoughts.

It’s all about “Me”

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

I’m just looking for a little bit of fun and relaxation when I go out. I don’t want to have to work at anything, or try hard or wonder where I fit. I just want to get what I came for and be treated with a little respect.

I especially enjoy my experience if I believe the people serving me (waiter, salesperson, conference presenter, whatever) make me feel like they are actually there for me (not the other way around).

That’s a small part of what creates a good experience for me. A sense that it’s about me. Now, I know that life is really not all about me, but sometimes, it should feel that way. Examples:

  • at a restaurant
  • at a conference
  • at the hospital
  • when I’m on vacation
  • at the airport

The list could go on and on. If it’s not “about me”, then I walk. Or, if I don’t walk right at that moment, you can bet I won’t choose to be back any time soon.

How many of our everyday interactions could become meaningful experiences if only a little focus and effort were applied? What would life be like if the person at the DMV actually smiled at you, treated you kindly, didn’t rush you and didn’t make you feel like a number? We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.

In the end, it’s all about our customers, our audience, our clients, our viewers. If we don’t make it about them, then we may not see them again. And can we really blame them?

Experiential Element: Surprise

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Surprise!Surprise is one of those things that can take an experience to a higher level. It’s the joke that catches you off guard, the unexpected guest on stage, the freebie that is generously provided, or an unexpectedly comfortable environment.

Surprise is the element that makes us say:
• “I never expected that”
• “I can’t believe they just did that”, or simply
• “Wow, I wonder what they’ll do next time?”

All these responses are almost guaranteed to bring a smile—and to make someone want to come back, purchase your product, or simply be open to the impact of your message.

It doesn’t necessarily take a lot to create a little surprise. My wife and I went out for an anniversary dinner the other night and our waiter took the time to explain to us how the dishes were prepared. He was knowledgeable, engaging, interesting and even humorous in how he described them. It was a nice little surprise that added to our experience (and the food was good, too).

Surprise creates a sense that someone (you) did something over and above the simple requirement to make them (your customer) a little happier. It communicates, “Hey, they’re thinking of me”. And it’s one element that raises the expected, status quo into an experience that people will remember.

What can we do to create an element of surprise in our offerings? What would it take to give a little surprise next time?

I’d love to hear about times you’ve experienced an unexpected surprise. What was it? How did it make you feel? Please join the fun and add your comments. Thanks.

Pickles, Potbellies & Respect

Friday, August 8th, 2008

All I wanted was a pickle.

Honest.

What I got was a lesson on one of the foundational elements that makes a great experience…or not.

For those living in the mid-west, you likely know about the joy that is Potbelly Sandwich Works—a fast-growing chain of over 200 restaurants that serves really, really good sandwiches. I love Potbelly, but not too long ago I had a disappointing experience there when I ordered, of all things, a pickle, with my meal.

Now, the reality is that it really wasn’t about the pickle, but rather the disrespectful way I was treated in the process of ordering it.

I was so disappointed that I wrote a letter to Potbelly’s CEO, Bryant Keil, to make him aware of my disappointment. Rather than tell the entire story in this post, you can read my letter here. It tells the whole story (and I think it was a pretty good letter, if I do say so myself).

As I mention in my letter, respect is one of those key elements that lay the critical foundation for a good experience. Without it, it doesn’t matter how good your product, conference, environment, church service, business meeting (or whatever) is. All bets are off.

Can I get a little “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”?

[UPDATE: To read Potbelly’s response, click here.]

Living in the Experience Economy

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Experience EconomyAs our culture and economy continue to change and evolve, it’s becoming more and more apparent that if a company is going to compete for much-coveted business, they will have to go beyond simply offering their products, services or communication, and position their offerings around experiences they create for their customers.

At Transperia, our focus is on helping clients create transformational experiences to help them achieve their business results. It takes a lot of different forms, but often deals with live events, media or project consultation.

Our philosophy has been influenced by many different sources, but we would be remiss to not mention the impact of Joseph Pine and James Gilmore’s pivotal book, “The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage”. It’s an amazing book that continues to grow in influence, even though it’s been in print for almost 10 years.

One of the beauties of the book is that Pine & Gilmore have given language to a lot of concepts that many of us have intuitively sensed for a long time.

If you haven’t read it yet, get it. It will help bring focus to you as you consider how to create meaningful experiences for the people you’re trying to reach.

Pine & Gilmore also have a new book out called, “Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want”. I haven’t read it yet, but when I got a chance to spend the day with Joe Pine last year, he told me a little about it. It sounds great.