Thursday, May 31, 2007

How to throw a book launch

I had a great time in Chicago at the American Association of Museums annual conference and successfully launched my book. Maybe there are some Experienceology lessons to share?

Sell books any place you can. Here they are in the AAM bookstore on Sunday. All gone by Tuesday.

Throw a fun party at a cool venue like Hot House, with yummy food by Chef Chris of My Private Chef. If you're doing an event in Chicago, Chef Chris Tong was amazing.

Bright smiles at the booth, and nice big posters of the books and journals.

Lots of sparkly purple pens for autographs!

Brand your publisher with his very own Experienceology hat.

Thanks to Mitch, Jennifer, and Kat from Left Coast Press for an amazing time.

Tip of the day: More pens, more clipboards, and make sure your booth's number is visible if you're telling people to "look for booth 359."
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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A self-proclaimed "experiential faux pas"

From a reader who will remain anonymous:
"Yes, I know your eight steps.
Yes, I know this is bad, bad museum practice... bad practice in general for any business anywhere.

But it's Memorial Day. I don't have enough staff and volunteers to watch these areas and I'm tired of walking through every hour (if I get a chance) and asking people to get out of the water.

Our printer is not working and there's no chance of getting it repaired. Our phones are out so I cannot call another department to use their printer—and they're all out on holiday anyway.

And so I commit the sin. I hand-write the signs and put them up.

At this point it's about MY experience not theirs!"

Dear reader, thanks for sharing. We've all been there, believe me. And I know that visitors will do the craziest things in gardens.

When I look at these signs, (nice handwriting, by the way) my first thought is: this is a design problem. Because the area is an experiential garden, and there are lots of things to touch (and probably things meant to climb) and so it's confusing for the visitors to know which things are off-limits. I'm wondering if there could have been ways to design this to either create clearer barriers or allow the kind of climbing and wading that visitors clearly want to do.

Any designers out there want to comment, for people who are still in the building or planning stage?

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

A letter I wish I could send

Dear United Airlines,
Thank you for the wonderful and pleasant flight home from Chicago last week. It was great to get your email before the flight about your changes to the SkyCap curbside service. I don't mind paying $2 per bag to cover the cost of gasoline. The SkyCaps are always so polite and friendly, and it's nice to be greeted with, "Hi Ms. Weaver! Thank you for flying United for more than 20 years, we appreciate your business." (I know that it's just your computer that keeps track of it, but it does feel good to be acknowledged.)

I'm glad to see that you discontinued charging extra for the exit-row seats. It seemed fairer to give them away on a first-come, first-served basis at the airport. We understand that there is more room in those rows to get us off the plane safely in case of an emergency. Charging more for them always felt wrong, creating a little island of exclusivity in the middle of coach; I'm glad you stopped doing that.

It was fun to take part in the "Create a Snack Box" voting campaign, and I was excited to see that my creation, the gluten- and sugar-free healthy snack box, was included in the finalists. I don't mind paying $5 for a snack box when it's something I want.

I loved the pillow and blanket reservations option, as I need that little pillow for my low back. I don't mind paying $2 for the reservation, as it's nice to know that those amenities are still available for the people who want them.

It was a great surprise to receive those towelettes midway through the flight when we were all tired and sticky. Thanks!

I so appreciated how the flight crew kept the bathroom clean using that Swiffer Wetjet on the floor. Otherwise it can get pretty gross in there over a four-hour flight.

Finally, it was nice for the pilot to recognize those of us who have been traveling with you for many years. Feels like I'm part of a fun club.

Stephanie Weaver
United Mileage Plus Member

Well, I can dream, can't I? By the way, if any other airlines are monitoring blogs, this is for you, too.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Blog book tour

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Tisch, Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels and author of Chocolates on the Pillow Aren't Enough: Reinventing the Customer Experience. My podcast interview is now up on iTunes (click the player in the right-hand column or the link to subscribe). Here are my thoughts on the book:

If you haven’t read any books on the customer experience, this is a great place to begin. Tisch, with co-author Karl Weber, presents a compelling argument for why businesses need to care about the customer experience. They researched many different examples from a variety of businesses around the U.S. to make the case for the customer experience. Included in each chapter are “Your big AHA’s” which will help readers relate each example to their own business.

Chapter One—What Happened to My Customers? is a helpful overview and a nice follow-up to Pine and Gilmore’s Experience Economy, which is now nearly a decade old. For people in healthcare, Chapter Four—The Hospitable Organization: Turning Customers into Guests offers some shining examples of hopeful change in the healthcare industry.

Museum staffers will find the last chapter interesting, as Tisch explores food service and special events as examples of brand extension in the museum world.

Jonathan and I discussed his volunteer work with the travel and tourism industries, supporting both U.S. tourism and tourism in New York City following the 9/11 attacks. If you work for a Main Street district, a heritage tourism organization, a convention and visitors' bureau, or live in an area devastated by a natural disaster, follow this link to the Discover America Partnership for resources you can use to build tourism to your area.

My thanks to Rachelle Lacroix of Fleishman-Hillard and David Polinchok at Brand Experience Lab for organizing the book tour, which continues here:

Brand Experience Lab, including a report from a live presentation by Jonathan in NYC
Customers Rock!, with questions submitted by Becky's readers
The Engaging Brand, Anna Farmery's podcast
Conversion Rate Marketing Blog, two-part podcast with Bryan Eisenberg
Vacant Ready, Q&A with Chris Clarke
Lipsticking, Q&A with Yvonne Divita
Experience the Message, Q&A with Max Lenderman
Customer Experience Crossroads, Q&A with Susan Abbott

Full disclosure: I received a free advance copy of this book at my request to prepare for the blog book tour.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Report from AAM: wayfinding at McCormick Place

Just returned from Chicago for my book launch at AAM (the American Association of Museums annual conference). McCormick Place is a vast convention center and proved to be a wayfinding challenge. I especially loved this sign. The two holes seem to be the size of a brochure holder, which I hope offered a map of the building. Now it just underscores the problem. [Note to building management: Remove signs like these if you aren't going to maintain them!]

The first session I attended happened to be about wayfinding. I was amused to see that they took it upon themselves to provide their own guidance, as the building's was so poor.

The yellow-brick road was a theme they carried through the presentation, even going so far as to Photoshop their own heads onto characters from the movie in one slide! Bright yellow handouts completed the theming.

Moderator and presenter Jeff Hayward was a visual cue, welcoming people with this fun t-shirt. (The back says "Orientation." It was originally part of a Judy Rand presentation on her Visitor's Bill of Rights.)

Tip of the day: For special events like conference sessions, feel free to add your own short-term wayfinding to help your "customers" (in this case, session attendees) find you. Theming the entire session created a more memorable experience, and helped cement the learning.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blog book tour with Jonathan Tisch coming to Experienceology

On May 21st and running for a full week, I'm excited to be part of the blog book tour with Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels. He'll be spending a week traveling across the blogosphere, talking about the need to craft better experiences in order to create successful businesses. I'll be interviewing him on Friday May 25 for my next podcast. You'll have a chance to hear first-hand how Mr. Tisch uses experience in his own business, as well as some examples from around the world. But the most exciting part of the blog book tour is that you can participate. If you send me a question you'd like answered, I will incorporate it into my podcast interview (as time allows).

Blog book tour organizer David Polinchock:
"No matter what industry you're in, the only way to build long-lasting customer relationships is to create great customer experiences.

At a time when customer loyalty is declining in all industries, Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Reinventing the Customer Experience by Jonathan Tisch shows how enduring customer relationships can be built with dynamic customer experiences that extend far beyond a financial transaction.

As seen in USATODAY, Advertising Age, and on, Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough addresses today's disintegration of customer loyalty."

Monday 5/21
Brand Experience Lab
Customers Rock!

Tuesday 5/22
The Engaging Brand

Wednesday 5/23
Conversion Rate Marketing blog
Vacant Ready

Thursday 5/24
Experience the Message

Friday 5/25
Customer Experience Crossroads

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tips for Main Streets: La Mesa, CA, part 2

In my last post, we looked at a Main Street in La Mesa, CA to see where their customer experience could be strengthened. Now let's see what's already working well.

When driving to La Mesa, street signs clearly indicate where "The Village" is.

In addition, wayfinding signs are also clear.

In the 1980s, the Chamber of Commerce funded an Old World look, unifying the entire area. They branded the street as "The Village" and do events like an Oktoberfest, an antique show, and classic car rallys in the summer to drive traffic.

Cute stores with great streetside merchandising add life.

An independent coffee house adds to the European atmosphere.

A nice courtyard was created with seating and murals, commemorating the work of local volunteers, adding to the authentic sense of place (i.e. this is a real town, not a fake Main Street created in a theme park).

Tip of the day: Working together for the common good, as this Chamber of Commerce and merchants' association do, is a great example of common sense, benefiting all parties. For more on the common sense step, click here.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tips for Main Streets: La Mesa, CA

I'm doing an article for the Main Street News so I visited a local town to see how Experienceology might be able to help. In my next post I'll cover all the things they're doing well. In this post I'll touch on a few things they might be able to improve.

They've branded themselves as "The Village" and gone for an Old World charm. One of the issues for them is that the Main Street, in this case, La Mesa Boulevard, is bisected by a very wide street and railroad tracks. As you can see from the first picture, the area across the tracks (straight ahead in this shot) also looks much more modern.

My first suggestion is to tie in the area visually with large banners, benches, trees, and plantings so it's absolutely clear that The Village continues across the tracks. If done well, this could almost make the tracks disappear. Alternately, they could stop trying to overcome the divide.

This photo shows the "entrance" to The Village from the main drag (you would turn right at the light). There's no sense of welcome, arrival, or entry here. I'd suggest either an arch or a large kiosk with a You-Are-Here map, so people know they've come to the right place.

A pole or weights at the bottom of each banner would keep this from happening in the wind.

Banners are great, but size does matter. Larger banners would link the street more strongly.

This is a fun little shopping area and with a few more touches could offer more of a branded experience, which would transfer to all the businesses on the street. Here are two posts about local businesses on this street: Handful of Wildflowers and Aubrey Rose Tea Room.

Tip of the day: If you have a large location like this, think about it as a zone in Disneyland, and theme in all the elements to create an impression.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Aubrey Rose Tea Room: Hidden treasure in La Mesa, CA

Another fun find during my trip to La Mesa was this charming tea room. I've lived in the area for ten years and had no idea we had a lovely little tea shop like this. I passed by it on the street twice, thinking it was an antique store.

There was no clue from the window display that they actually serve food. It wasn't until I read this sign, tucked into the alcove (only visible from one direction) that maybe it wasn't just an antique shop. I stepped inside.

It's a celebration of Victoriana.

Women and girls were sitting at tables, many in fancy hats, chatting and having high tea.

Every display was lovingly overstuffed in the Victorian style.

Not one false note.

They were doing a bustling business, so perhaps don't need any pointers. But for those of you who might, here are my suggestions.

Tips of the day:
  • Signs flush with the building need to be augmented with ones perpendicular or angled out, so that you catch people's eye both walking and driving.
  • Don't assume that your business name and window display conveys what's inside. Ask potential customers if you're missing anything. (Some vinyl lettering on the window stating "High tea served" with the hours, would have done the trick here.)
  • Keep your Web site up to date. Use themed fonts sparingly, so that Web surfers can easily absorb your information.
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Thursday, May 03, 2007

First impressions and a welcome in La Mesa, CA

I'm doing a story about the 8-step process and Main Streets, and visited this charming town just a ten-minute drive from downtown San Diego. I love the way this shop tied their fresh sign into the existing Old World Euro look of the rest of the street.

Great way to welcome people in.

Love the design and lettering, and the monochromatic window display is strong.

Even the "no restrooms" sign is friendly.*

The cute interior has an upscale flea market, Shabby Chic feeling, and the way they group items by color palette works well.

Tip of the Day: Getting the details right makes all the difference, whether you run a retail boutique or a medical office.

* Every single store on this street has a variation of the "no public restrooms" sign, so I had to ask the owner, what gives? Turns out that someone has been making a living suing small establishments like this for having non-ADA-compliant restrooms. What a shame.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Do people care about "customer experience" yet?

No, not according to Google Trends.

Google Trends is a cool new feature pointed out by MannyMo's blog. You can compare the volume of searches for any two terms since 2004. The red bar represents searches for "customer service." The flat blue line (appearing only in 2005) represents searches for the term "customer experience." So, despite the success of The Experience Economy in 1999, and people like Mark Hurst, who have been teaching about customer experience for ten years, it's still flatlined out there in the Google consciousness.

Why? Well, for one thing, the term customer experience got appropriated by a very specific, narrow set of parameters in business called CEM, for customer experience management, which focuses mainly on improving the performance of call centers. I have a Google news feed set up to fetch articles including the term customer experience; for the last six months it's netted only press releases from companies or consultants focusing on CEM.

A search on Amazon gave me 41,488 books tagged "customer service" and only 3,147 books on "customer experience." So, believe it or not, we're still on the leading edge of this discussion. There's still a lot of room for fresh ways of looking at the customer experience, from Danny Meyer's book Setting the Table (reviewed here) to Jonathan Tisch and Karl Weber's new book, Chocolates on the Pillow Aren't Enough.

Why do you think the concept of customer experience still seems "new?"
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