Can a country have a customer experience?


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I’m back in the office, after two weeks of sun, fun and Kiwi culture in New Zealand. On the plane on my way down, my seat mate and I got to chatting about our work. She heard about my book Domino, and then asked in a heartbeat, “Can a country have a customer experience?”

Now, I’ve been in lots of conversations about how defining a target experience, then using it to drive daily decisions across any kind of organization can strengthen performance — large and small firms, product and service companies, for profits and social sector organizations. A country?

I say yes. Like your organization’s customer experience, it may not be one that was chosen or planned. Yet the experience each person has is making or costing countries money and reputation as I type. Visiting or living in a country is a “customer experience.”

Let’s unpack this idea. I’ve said before that every experience starts with a person who has a need they would trade something of value (typically money, but time, trust, and reputation are other currencies that count) to have solved. About 6 months ago, I realized my need: to get that ‘good tired’ feeling that comes from being active outdoors all day, and to reset my attitude by surrounding myself with people and vistas that simultaneously make me feel special and insignificant.

Just as your employees and culture have a a big impact on how your customer experience is delivered, Kiwi culture is a huge enabler of the experience I had as a visitor. Kiwis are open, honest, self reliant, love and respect their environment, and don’t take themselves too seriously. When I learned that New Zealand has 1/10th the number of lawyers per capita as the US, a Kiwi (as residents are called) told me “We believe in the dictionary definition of the word “accident.”

From the country’s official business & tourism site: “Today, Kiwis are as likely to visit an Asian restaurant or modern art gallery as they are to attend a rugby game or milk a cow!”

This was my fourth trip to New Zealand, so I breeze through the experience steps of learning about options to solve my need and trying them out. To solve my need, I choose to base camp one week at two places: Near Nelson we have a special love for Bronte Country Estate, run by 4th generation owner Daniel Fraser. In the Bay of Islands we enjoy the The Boathouse.

My flight from LA kicks off the solve step of my experience.

Check out the safety video on Air New Zealand. Pure glee. It was created in anticipation of New Zealand hosting the Rugby World Cup this year. And this time, like every time I fly AirNZ, the captain’s welcome is “All of us in New Zealand and AirNZ welcome you to our country.” Ever heard a US airline welcome you to the States? I haven’t either.

We land in Auckland, and straightaway I notice that entry is as much about “bio-security”- protecting the environment – as it is about customs and immigration. Because we forgot to declare our golf shoes on the entry form, we’re pulled aside. We wait a few minutes while a lab does a soil test and the washes our shoes. Later, three times during our trip, I was given something I purchased in a reusable bag. Number of times this has happened to me in the US? Never (at best I can purchase one.)

You won’t find cruise control in any rental car. The vistas change in an instant, unrolling before you on curvy roads that climb and fall, and climb and fall with regularity that makes cruise control worthless. About the third time you gasp “wow” because of what you see when you turn a curve, you realize driving in NZ is more like nature’s Disney ride than it is simply moving from point A to point B.

All that wonderful vista and diverse activity means Kiwi’s eat healthy. Cafe takeaway is much more likely to be lamb pie or spanikopita and a salad than a burger. Guides are often REALLY local: Rod Stuart of Abel Tasman Charters sold his successful water taxi business to guide 1-day trips through the park and sea where he was born and raised.

The solve step of any customer experience ends the moment a customer knows if their need was indeed solved – and how well. For me, this moment was New Year’s Eve. At Daniel’s recommendation we wandered our way to the Upper Moutere Inn.

As we watched the sun set behind the hills around 9:30pm (SO nice for we sun-starved Yankees) we enjoyed local beer, fish and chips, and the music of The Gypsy Pickers. We brought cards and played Gin, and chatted with our Kiwi picnic table mates. My need, oh so solved.

How would you describe your country’s customer experience?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Linda Ireland
Linda Ireland is co-owner and partner of Aveus LLC, a global strategy and operational change firm that helps leaders find money in the business performance chain while improving customer experiences. As author of Domino: How to Use Customer Experience to Tip Everything in Your Business toward Better Financial Performance, Linda built on work done at Aveus and aims to deliver real-life, actionable, how-to help for leaders of any organization.


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