Transperia Group, Inc.
Transformational Experiences That Drive Business Results

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

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.

Give Me Some Space (part 2)

Friday, August 29th, 2008

(Read “Part 1” here)

My wife and I love movies. When we were newly married, we would occasionally do what we’d call a “movie marathon”. We’d see three movies in one Saturday—all in different theatres.
• We’d start with a late-morning matinee
• Then see a new release in another theatre during the afternoon
• Followed by a second-run movie that evening in the local “discount” theatre.

In the car on the way home, we would talk about the three movies we’d seen that day and invariably could only name two of them in the moment. Only after racking our brains and digging through our short-term memory for a few minutes would we eventually unearth the title of the third movie. We’d already forgotten.

Like I said, we LOVE movies, yet after over saturating ourselves in that environment, our ability to retain what we experienced became clouded.

The same is true for the people who come to our events. They need a little bit of time and space to process what they are taking in. If they don’t get it, their retention will suffer. We need to give them:
• Ample breaks
• Conversation time and
• Uninterrupted Space to process what they’re taking in

And I’m not just talking about “dinner on your own”.

The moral of the story is this: “Don’t over program. Don’t over schedule.” If you do, your audience will be hard-pressed to remember which “movies” they’ve seen that day. Allow adequate amounts of “process space” and your experience will reap far better results.

My Fellow Americans…Vote for Me

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Okay, I know this is going to come across a little narcissistic, but when I saw this, I couldn’t help but laugh.  I never thought I’d get into politics, but hey, you never know where the path of life might lead you.

–Your humble servant, Mark Bennardo.

Seriously, though, I think this is brilliant. And, you can try it yourself (it’s fun and it’s free–see below for link).

The real brilliance is in how the company PalTalk has apparently created this viral marketing tool to promote their instant message & video chat business. What a great way to create and use something that is fun, engaging and highly shareable to create some buzz for your product.

Also notice the subtle, almost subliminal product placement for PalTalk in the video.  Fantastic.

Well done, PalTalk!

PS: To try it out and throw your own hat in the ring, go here!

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?

Potbelly Steps Up!

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Potbelly Sign

I have a new “Hero-CEO”. Bryant Keil, CEO of Potbelly Sandwich Works, has gone above and beyond in responding to my pickle saga (you can read my original post here). I thought it was only fair to tell the rest of the story.

A few days after I sent off my original letter to Mr. Keil, I received a personal voice mail from him telling me he’d received my letter. He apologized for the situation and asked if I’d call him back. He then left his direct number.

I called the next day and Mr. Keil immediately took my call and again apologized for the “pickle incident”. He said he appreciated that my letter was very constructive. He told me they work very hard to create the best experience for their customers, but because they are growing so fast, it’s sometimes hard to pass the culture along to everyone. I told him I completely understood.

He added that, like me, when he orders a pickle, he never gets it sliced.

He thanked me again for my letter and said, “It was important to me that I give you a call. This is what it’s all about.”

I was shocked and amazed. To think the CEO of a large company would take the time to make a personal phone call to a disappointed customer was simply mind-boggling to me. His kind gesture showed such great respect and more than made up for the original issue.

But that’s not all.

The next day I received a call from the General Manager of the Algonquin Potbelly store. She apologized for the situation and asked if she could bring dinner to my home for my entire family (unbelievable!). I thanked her, but said that wouldn’t be necessary. She then asked if I could describe the Manager who treated me disrespectfully. I mentioned that I didn’t really want to get anyone in trouble, but she assured me that she simply wanted to reinforce Potbelly’s excellent standards on the importance of the customer’s experience.

I thanked the Manager for her kind phone call and assured her that I would be back in their store some time soon.

But the story doesn’t even end there.

A few days later I received another call from the Potbelly District Manager. He apologized for the experience I had in the store and wanted to double check to make sure the store Manager had taken care of me. He also said that they had “addressed the issue internally”. I assured him that everyone had gone above and beyond to follow up with me and told him I would certainly be back in his store.

Again, amazing.

Culture starts at the top. It doesn’t always trickle all the way down, but a strong CEO knows the importance of carrying the culture and follows through to make sure everyone understands it and is owning it. That’s exactly what Bryant Keil did. He made sure (in multiple redundancies) that the Potbelly culture was carried out in my situation. That’s the sign of a great, “Hero-CEO”.

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.]

In The Beginning…

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Earth from SpaceOur world changes at a rate that’s no longer possible to measure or adequately describe (“speed of sound”, “speed of light”, etc. don’t seem to cut it anymore). And it’s becoming more and more difficult to distinguish our message and products in a culture/marketplace/business environment that is constantly in flux.

The competition for our attention and affections is getting tougher by the minute. More and more, what is required to differentiate a product, event or service is the experience that we create for people.

It used to be that our offerings would stand out if they were of excellent quality, were highly creative, or unique in some way. No longer. Today’s economy requires us to go beyond these expected qualities and provide an experience for people that transcends the status quo, engages them personally, excites their senses and becomes, in a word, memorable.

The Art of Experience is an ongoing dialogue in how to create experiences for our audiences (customers, employees, conference attendees…) that will not only engage them, but also change and transform them, and bring about the outcomes we’re hoping for.

Transperia Group (the sponsor of this forum) gets its very name from the concept of creating “transformational experiences” to drive the results we are after.

So, what creates a “transformational experience”? What does it take to move beyond the status quo and enter the realm of “experience”? That’s what we’re hoping to discuss in this blog. Some categories that we’ll cover are:

  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Communication
  • Technology

The topics may vary, but in general, we’re looking for things that will help us move beyond the normal and mundane, and will inspire us in the art of creating effective experiences.

Of course, we want this to be a multi-way conversation. Please join in. If you have new ideas to add, great. If you disagree with opinions stated here, great. If you want to share your experiences with “experience”, great. We’d love to have you join in the fun.

Thanks for dropping by. Here’s to some stimulating conversation.

Mark T. Bennardo
Transperia Group, Inc.