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 / Autumn 2010 / Issue 60(originally published by Booz & Company)


What Experience Would You Like with That?

In Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again, published a decade after the Marketing Management article, Carbone described these clues as the “essential building blocks of experiences” and explained how to design and deliver them in a systematic way. He identified three categories of clues: functional clues, which are embedded in the product or service; mechanic clues, which are created by the environment; and humanic clues, which stem from people. These clues could be combined to deliver a customer experience.

Leonard L. Berry, a marketing professor at Texas A&M University who is a prominent expert on service quality, and Kent D. Seltman, who served as the Mayo Clinic’s director of marketing for 14 years, provide a terrific case study of how these clues come together in practice in Chapter 7 of their book, Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World’s Most Admired Service Organizations. They point to the clinic’s team-based approach, which delivers expert treatment in coordinated fashion, as a functional clue; to the interior design of the buildings, which are intended to reduce patient stress, as a mechanic clue; and to the professional but warm and empathic behavior of the staff as a humanic clue.

A Value Proposition

One reason customer experience is proving to be an enduring concept is that it is eminently scalable: It is relevant to the tiniest detail of a product’s packaging, the fundamental processes and strategy of a business, and the development of a national economy. As with the concept of quality before it, every aspect of, and activity within, a company can contribute to or detract from the customer experience. Thus, designing and delivering the customer experience involves every function and person in a company.

Lior Arussy, the founder and president of the consultancy Strativity Group, develops this idea in his new book, Customer Experience Strategy: The Complete Guide from Innovation to Execution, when he writes, “Customer experience is the total value proposition provided to a customer, including the actual product, and all interactions with the customer — pre-sale, at point of sale, and post-sale. This value includes experience attributes such as on-time delivery and the quality of products, as well as the experience attitudes, such as the emotional engagement created during interaction with the customers.”

Companies have been pursuing value propositions that depend on creative and memorable customer experiences for decades, sometimes very successfully. When I wrote Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service (Disney Editions, 2001) for the Disney Institute, I learned that Disney’s imagineers design attractions and, indeed, everything within the parks, by considering and aligning service strategy and delivery, setting, and employees. In the Haunted Mansion at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., for instance, the speed of the “Doom Buggies” that determine the guest flow through the attraction is set so that park-goers can take in the full effect of the setting — down to the dust, which is purchased in 5-pound bags and carefully blown into place. Further, the cast members, who are costumed as maids and butlers and trained to stay in character by learning scripts and detailed backstories for resident ghosts, are simultaneously part of the setting and guest-flow managers. Shades of Carbone’s clues, right?

Geek Squad, the computer repair company that was founded in 1994 and acquired by Best Buy in 2002, is another notable case of a business that has created a value proposition around customer experience. In “The Geek Squad Guide to World Domination: A Case for the Experience Economy,” an entertaining and lesson-packed DVD published by the Batten Institute at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, company founder and two-time college dropout Robert Stephens describes how he combined computer nerds and Dragnet, the iconic television crime drama from the 1950s and ’60s, to differentiate himself from his competitors when he started the business.

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Customer Experience Resources
Works mentioned in this review.

  1. B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre and Every Business a Stage (Harvard Business School Press, 1999)
  2. Bernd H. Schmitt, Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to Sense, Feel, Think, Act, and Relate to Your Company and Brands (Free Press, 1999)
  3. Lewis P. Carbone, Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again (FT Press, 2004)
  4. Leonard L. Berry and Kent D. Seltman, Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World’s Most Admired Service Organizations (McGraw-Hill, 2008)
  5. Lior Arussy, Customer Experience Strategy: The Complete Guide from Innovation to Execution (4i, 2010)
  6. Gosia Glinska, James H. Gilmore, and Marian Chapman Moore, “The Geek Squad Guide to World Domination: A Case for the Experience Economy,” (Darden Business Publishing, 2009), DVD
  7. Jeanne Bliss, Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action (Jossey-Bass, 2006)
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