No Earplugs Necessary…

Winter Concert 2008

It’s that time of year, and thank goodness your intrepid Experience Designer brought her notebook along to last night’s holiday concert. My daughter and her fellow choir-members were ready to teach us a thing or two about Maximum Customer Experience. When you’re at your kid’s (nephew’s, niece’s, next-door neighbor’s) concert, see if you hear the following chants between choruses of “Let It Snow”:

1. Dress the part

You might get tired of the staff uniform or the dress code, but your customer sees it much less often. To them you present a unified, professional front when your staff hits the same visual “note” every day. If “whatever makes you comfortable” is the rule now, take a good look at the result. Do a staff picture. Stand back and look at the jumble. Then institute some sensible guidelines. Like it or not, we judge whether we’re giving your company our money, by how you present yourself.

2. Pace the Experience

Fast, slow, medium, medium, end with a WOW. That seemed to work at the concert. For you? In your shop, create pacing with your floorplan: places to glance, places to stop and get lost for a while, places to glide through, and that last area that grabs us just as we thought we were about to leave. Think concert, think movie, think fireworks display: enthrall, guide, and make us want to stay.

3. Practice, practice, practice

Know what you should say in advance for phone, walk-ins, presentations… whatever situations come up regularly in your line of work. Train your staff. (Seems logical, but so many places just throw the new guy into the deep end!) Have scripts. Present to each other before you go out to bag your biggest client. It eases the nerves and helps you look for rough spots.

4. Make it easy to understand

I’ll return to this theme soon because it’s dear to my heart right now, but for today: be clear, not clever. Confusing the client is a deal-breaker, because nobody likes to look stupid. It only happened once tonight, but I’ve been to concerts where the audience thought every song was over before it was, thought each group was done before they were, thought the concert had ended when it hadn’t, and tried to clap in all sorts of inappropriate places. Result: less clapping each time, as folks decided they didn’t want to get it wrong. Make your Customer Experience so easy, even a holiday-harried parent can “get it.”

5. Give ‘em more than they expect

Simple, and even old-fashioned, but true: Encores get the best applause. The little thing you do almost as an afterthought will be the thing they can’t stop talking about to friends. The free gift wrap. The service call a week after delivery “just to see how you’re doing.” The framed photo of them in front of their new (house, car, boat…). Have any friends who’ve been to DisneyWorld, DisneyLand, EuroDisney? Have you seen a picture of them or their kids with Mickey? Yep. The littlest thing in the whole vacation, and they can hardly wait to show you. And now you want one, too.

BONUS: Reward nonconformity

“No fair!” you cry. “Kelly, you said professionalism, practice, training!” Yes. All those things make a team that sings beautiful music to your customer. I can’t deny it. Yet once in a while, you’ll find an employee with the spark to do things differently, to have fun with your Vision, to get your message out in exciting new ways—to be your finest Propheteer, if only you’ll give him or her the freedom. There was one girl in the concert tonight who couldn’t sit still, who must have been a hassle to deal with in practices, but who came up for her solo and blew us away with her angelic voice. She had the spark.

People aren’t horses. Your job as leader isn’t to “break” them. Your job is to find the ones who can go way beyond what even you knew was possible, and let them shine.

The magic of your product or service won’t grow your company half so fast, without the magic of your people.

Dress, pace, practice, clarify, astound, shine.

Been to any good concerts lately? What can you add to our Customer-Experience-from-concertgoing list? Come on, I want to hear from you guys all the way in the back row today!


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

P.S. Fourth grade must be the year when the voices and the attention of our young entertainers improve. This 4-5-6 concert really was the first time I didn’t wonder if bright orange swimming earplugs would look all right with my holiday finery. Barely a painful moment. I give it two thumbs way up. 🙂