Thursday, January 31, 2008

The last word on January's experience economy theme...

Comes from author Joe Pine:

Stephanie, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your blog this past month with its focus on how the Experience Economy concept applies to and has impacted various businesses—including websites!

So often people who have read our book still miss the thesis at its very core—that experiences are a distinct economic offering, as distinct from services as services are from goods. So many companies merely make their offerings more experiential, instead of ascending to the proposition that their very business is one of staging experiences.

That is one difference with so many of your examples here—and with you yourself, of course! It's crucial to understand what business you are really in. And if truly in the experience business, then learn from the examplars you've provided here -- and the principles you write about in your book—to make those experiences engaging, compelling, robust, and above all memorable.

Then also take the next step: begin to manage authenticity as a new management discipline, as we discuss on our latest book, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want. Then you can add real to that list of adjectives!

Joe Pine

Joe, thanks for reading and sending in your comment. I look forward to checking out Joe's fun Authenticity website. If you missed the posts, read more about the experience economy in museums, doctors' offices, and on websites.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Applying the experience economy to websites

This month, I'm taking a look at how the experience economy (coined by Pine and Gilmore in their book of the same name) has changed a variety of businesses. While my work focuses on bricks-and-mortar locations, websites have a huge impact on the customer experience. And of course, in some cases they are the customer experience.

Online retailers: We'll start with the obvious. One of the reasons Amazon is such a great experience is that they're constantly thinking about how to make customers' lives easier. And their patented "one-click" system does just that, allowing a regular customer to pick something and buy it with a stored credit card and address.

Next up, the clever Woot, who redefined the FAQ, making it actually worth reading.

Bricks-and-mortar + web: Banana Florist, staking a claim as a florist for men, with items like the Broquet (a nod to Seinfeld) and a lovely pot of insect-chomping Venus fly traps.

Artists: The highly entertaining Billy Harvey music, or the stripped-down Miranda July—both engage you in totally different ways, making you want to learn more about each.

Business to business: I'm completely enamored with Scott Creamer's ad agency in Austin, The Screamer Company. With possibly the best tagline ever devised: Be heard. (Get it? Scott Creamer = screamer. Oh, and he calls his staff the Scream Team.)

How about this clever website designed to get you to buy insurance? The Bad-Luck-O-Meter.

Or you can dress up your favorite customer experience consultant in different hats. My personal favorite is the Shriner's fez.

Product extension: Not so much designed to sell products, but to engage you with their products. Try Tazo Tea, or Emerald Nuts.

And these from Europe (How I wish I could read Polish to try these recipes!) Knorr Soups and herbs (This one is slow to load but worth the wait). Or this amazing rethinking of a typical product page from the HEMA Dutch department store.

Educational: The Good Food Fight, is sponsored by General Mills, trying to get Americans to eat healthier. Or this one from Brussels: Murder in the Museum. Who said learning can't be fun? The incredible Desert Museum in Saltillo, Mexico has an all-Flash website that is truly an amazing visitor experience. Definitely makes me want to visit, even though the site is only in Spanish. Love the ants. The Los Angeles library's website does a great job of creating sub-sites for different audiences... the Kids' Path, Teen Web, Espanol, Adult Literacy are all completely different, designed for their individual users.

Tip of the day: Good websites need to be usable and easy to navigate. If yours needs help, visit Interface Guru. Great customer experiences on the web are so much more. How can your site be revised with the customer experience in mind?

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, January 28, 2008

Applying the experience economy to doctor's offices

We're continuing our January theme, looking at how different types of businesses have used the concept of the experience economy to improve their visitor (museum)/patron (library) experience. Today, we'll look at the patient experience.

I've coached a couple of doctor's offices here in town as part of my consulting work. It was illuminating, as many of the issues they are dealing with (privacy, insurance) act as barriers to improving their patient experience. But using my 8-step technique, the staff members at each of the businesses (a private practice, a chiropractor, and a physical therapy clinic) all were able to make changes that improved their patient experience.

They report that this has improved their bottom line (number of patients in a week, increased referrals) as well as making it a nicer and more relaxed place to work, which helps with staff retention. One warmed up their waiting room with better magazines and a water/herbal tea station to make the wait more pleasant.

I've written before about Jungle Roots Children's Dentistry in Chandler, Arizona. I first heard about them through a talk that Joe Pine gave (available on his website) and then visited them and interviewed them for my book. This dentist instinctively made a lot of great decisions to create a different kind of office for kids, one that would reduce the scariness and make it fun to visit.

I also featured the offices of North County Ob/Gyn, and all the friendly, warm touches they added to their spaces that make patients feel cared for.

Recently I heard about a "mystery shopper" service for doctors called Examine Your Practice (great name). Their service provides highly trained "patients" who review the experience at a medical practice, hospital, or clinic, and then presents a scorecard to the practice (at their request). I think this is a great way for medical offices to get feedback. How it's different from my approach is that I involve all the staff members in a self-evaluation. They feel like they're part of the solution instead of getting graded (they're also invariably harder on themselves than I am on them). Both approaches are great ways of getting patient feedback.

The Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona offers a nature trail (complete with educational signage) for patients.

And the Cleveland Clinic recently hired a chief experience officer, Dr. Bridget Duffy.

Let's hope this trend continues, as I can think of endless bad patient experiences and so few good ones.

Tip of the day: If you're in the medical field, try to imagine your experience as if you're a first-time patient. Do your processes make sense from their point of view, or just from yours? How can you make their experience nicer, quicker, and more comfortable? And, if you know of a medical practice that can use this post, jot the address down and email it to them.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday's Signpost

I spotted this helpful, and creative, sign at the Oakland Airport. Because it's large, and mounted on an actual suitcase, it catches your attention and gets their message across.

Tip of the day: If you have an important message to communicate, can you use an oversized prop or play with scale to make your point?
Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, January 25, 2008

Applying the experience economy to museums

This month's theme looks at how the experience economy is being put into practice at a variety of business types. This week I'm looking at museums. How are they thinking about their experiences? Are they making the most of this experience economy trend?

As a field they are definitely paying attention. Joseph Pine was the keynote speaker at the American Association of Museums conference shortly after his book The Experience Economy was published, and spoke there this past May on his new book about authenticity. When I speak at museum conferences, many people have read his book, or at least have heard about it. But is it actually in practice? Since my work focuses on creating great experiences, and I frequently work with museums, I am always interested to see what's happening out there.

Exhibit design and development is generally the department farthest-forward into the experience economy. Designers are great at creating amazing, immersive environments utilizing many senses and appealing to a variety of learning styles. Museums are getting more and more hands-on, and new technologies are being explored.

The Florida Aquarium

Museum stores
are often excellent at creating a great shopping experience that supports the educational mission by generating revenue. When stores make the connection between merchandise and the collections/educational content, something magical can happen.

The shop at Filoli Center

The restaurant/cafe: At their best, they are
  1. mission-driven (whether that's themed food or providing information about "green" practices that support a conservation organization)
  2. comfortable
  3. staffed by people who enjoy food
  4. serving delicious, appropriately-priced options.

DeYoung Museum cafe

Guest services/ticketing: When done well, this welcoming function sets the stage for a great experience. It's handled smoothly, with a smile, and begins the visit with a positive impression.

Franklin Institute

What I don't often see, however, is the integration of all these functions into one cohesive experience. They might have great exhibits but a terrible restaurant and restrooms. Or have wonderful amenities but no seating (see Nina Simon's post on couches). Or they're missing that friendly customer service connection. I've posted about the well-integrated experience at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. One of the reasons I wrote my book, and developed my 8-step approach, was to make connections between these focal points in museums. If you have examples of museums or informal learning sites that have an integrated experience overall, I'd love to hear about it.

Tip of the day (concept from The Experience Economy): Next time you visit a museum, park, zoo, or similar venue, look at it as if it were a stage performance. What is the opening act? How are the cast members dressed? What sets the stage? How does the story end?
Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday's Signpost

What's wrong with this picture?

XYZ Car Wash
Accumulate points from your wash and use them to earn a free one.
Get a loyalty card for $2.00
We no longer accept 10 receipts.
Ask for details.

This car wash had trained customers to expect 1 free wash after 10. You turned in 10 receipts for a free wash. It took a long time (for me at least) and I had to keep them in my wallet. But eventually I got a free wash, which felt good. It also meant I never ever washed my car anywhere else.

Then one day, they changed the program. Now you have to buy a "loyalty card" in order to get the discount.

Tip of the day:
Be thoughtful in setting up loyalty programs, as customers will come to expect them. What will the long-term cost be to you? Is it the best way to build long-term customers? If you change them later, be aware of how it will feel and seem to truly loyal customers. Is the change worth it to irritate people who have been loyal?
Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Applying the experience economy to libraries

This month I'm talking about how the experience economy might apply to your business. First up: libraries.

In previous posts I covered the Cerritos Public Library here in Southern California. Cerritos has won many design awards and also hosted one of the Pine and Gilmore annual ThinkAbout workshops.

What I love about this library is how they completely rethought every aspect of what a library could and should be. The architecture can be exciting. It can offer fun activities. It can be high-tech. It can be user-friendly.

Since then I've learned about other libraries, some new, some renovated, who are experience- based. Like the new Seattle Public Library, described here on the arcspace blog.

The Imaginon, a hybrid library and children's theater in Charlotte, NC. Check out many great pix on Flickr. I can picture lots of cool hybrid buildings, like a children's museum+library, a garden+library, an elementary school+library, etc.

And the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which was rethought in terms of wayfinding by the team at MAYA Design. Read a great post from This Place Is.

Tip of the day: As you are out and about, try to find one example from another business that you can apply to yours, all in the quest of improving the customer experience.
Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

January's theme: How does the experience economy apply to you?

You may have heard about a book by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore called The Experience Economy (Harvard Business School Press, 1999). It's a fantastic concept that's spawned many blogs (like mine), other books, and helped define a strong cultural trend.

Some well-known examples of experience economy businesses are Disney and Starbucks. Starbucks has gone through some challenging times recently, as their strong desire for growth and expansion has watered down, in the words of Chairman Howard Shultz, the key aspects of their business. In fact, as Joe Nocera reports, Starbucks' stock is down because of their relentless pursuit of growth at the expense of the experience.

This month I'll look at why you might want to shift your thinking towards experiences, including what your customers (or visitors, or patients) might be looking for. Whether we like it or not, the experience economy is here to stay. Here's hoping you can stay ahead of the curve.

Tip of the day: Next time you're in a Starbucks, see how the experience measures up. Are they slipping? What's not working? Perhaps you can learn from a mistake they're making. And please do email me or add a comment here about the Starbucks experience as it currently stands.
Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Client spotlight: Descanso Gardens, part 2

In my last post I introduced a project I did for Descanso Gardens. In this one I'll show you some of the fun side effects that occurred as a result of this project.

One issue was the need for a portable stand for flyers. The flyers advertise upcoming programs. Having this information available during special events and evening classes was important. This was the flyer rack before my visit. It was located in an unfortunate position (on the right side on the way INTO the garden, long before people might actually need or want the information). It also blocked the wheelchair storage, and didn't allow people to find the flyers during special events.

We brainstormed options while I was there, and they set out to create a new flyer kiosk. This is the result: a simple and elegant solution that has enough presence to attract attention. It's in a central location that everyone passes on their way out of the garden, after they've been sold on wanting a reason to come back.

Next up was orientation. This location, at the end of the entry passage was perfect for orientating people to the garden overall. At the time it offered "what's in bloom" information instead. I showed them how it could be turned into a simple wayfinding device, getting people out to the areas of interest.

They went a step further and created a brand new wayfinding/you-are-here map in this location. Perfect! They moved the "what's in bloom" information farther along the path, where it better fits into the visitor's decision-making process.

Last, they asked for my ideas for their gift shop, which wasn't getting enough business despite a good location on the main path just past the garden's entrance. (The door to the shop was behind the hanging green "gift shop" sign, around the corner.) While the location was good, I felt the store was blocked by the large planter and display in front. It wasn't clear where the door was. The planter had an additional negative: visitors often sat on it, clogging up the traffic flow.

As we brainstormed, the staff started asking each other whether it would be possible to remove the planter, allowing more space for displays. Then they thought of moving the door of the shop itself to the front wall, completely opening up the shopping experience! Empowered by the brainstorming, they went ahead and made it happen, as you see here:

They now have plenty of room for changing displays which can also draw shoppers into the store.

Overall, the staff were thrilled with the changes and pleased with the result during their special event last spring.

Tip of the day: Sometimes asking the question, "What if we could...?" will open up new ideas that really ARE possible.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, January 11, 2008

Client spotlight: Descanso Gardens

Hello readers, and happy new year! I come back refreshed from a nice long break with a new direction for the blog. I'll start with a new feature, the client spotlight.

This month's client spotlight is Descanso Gardens, just north of Los Angeles. Descanso contacted me about a year ago while planning for a large month-long event. They knew that their front entrance was inadequate to handle double the traffic flow during their busiest month. They wanted me to help them think through how this special event might work and some affordable ideas for their front entrance and ticketing.

I started the process with a virtual site review. I sent them instructions and they sent me a whole series of photos of the area in question. After looking at their photos I had some good ideas for them about how the front entrance could function better with no renovation, utilizing some new signage, banners, and taking advantage of the right-hand bias. (Other consultants and architects had quoted $10,000 as a minimum to get started.)

I used their photos and added digital imagery to explain my ideas. I suggested they dress up their parking lot with colorful banners that highlighted both them and their event partner.

Here is what they did:

Their event partner wanted the tickets trailer to the left of the main entrance, which would have created bad cross-traffic issues. I suggested the trailer go on the right, and showed what it might look like in this slide:

Here is what they did, in the location I recommended.

From the parking lot their entry blended into the trees. I suggested in this slide how the existing entrance could handle the special event crowd, and suggested they trim back a tree limb to help make the pretty building stand out better.

Here is what they did:

I also helped them analyze the number of people they could expect, and what the ramifications were for return-ticket holders during this busy time period. This helped them think through some issues they worked out with their event partner, to the benefit of both.

In my next post I'll show some of the "spillover effect" of this project. As the staff members got more excited and empowered, they made additional great changes!

Tip of the day: Creating great traffic flow doesn't have to involve huge expenditures and renovations. Sometimes all you need is a pair of fresh eyes, some visual aids, and to ask the question, "What if we...?"

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,