Critical Thinking: Where are you on this new customer time paradigm?


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Many years ago, I read a book that changed my life, The Experience Economy by Joe Pine, founder of Strategic Horizons. As a pioneer in the experience movement, Pine has a new customer strategy concept that we discussed on a recent podcast, so I thought I would share what we learned here as well.

Time Well Spent

Pine developed the Time Progression with his collaboration partner and colleague Dave Norton, founder of Stone Mantel and Insights Consultancy. Pine says he was inspired by Norton’s article in the Strategy and Leadership Journal when Norton wrote that “experience was time well spent.” Pine thinks people should value the time they spend with you.

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Every company has to align what they charge with what their customers value. Pine says it is time customers are buying, or to be more specific, customers are buying time well spent. Your experience provides that for them.

Pine thinks the most precious resource on the planet is the time of individual human beings. Understanding the nature of time in your business is essential. Moreover, getting them to want to spend time with you is the goal.

Spending time together creates memory, essential to customers wanting to spend more time with you. So, with what we know about memory, Pine says it is necessary to design an experience that rises to a climax and then comes back down again.

Time Well Saved

Another critical idea here is that services are often time well saved. Pine picked up this idea from a speaker at a conference where Pine was also giving a presentation. He sees organizations that provide services are doing things for customers so they can do something else. Moreover, Pine says they are paying you to do it better than they could themselves.
Pine also says that people want goods and services to be commoditized. Buying goods at the lowest possible price and getting things done at the greatest possible convenience allows people to spend their hard-earned money and harder-earned time on the experiences they value.

For my part, I don’t know of a company that measures customer time. They measure how long the agents spend on the phone, and they also know how long it takes to do a delivery and other details like that, but not how long it takes for a customer to do something in an experience. It is a significant hole.

Pine says that while he also doesn’t know of a company that does that, he does know companies that recognize the value of spending time with customers. Zappos thinks that any time they spend time with a customer, it isn’t that one time. For example, if a call comes into the call center, it’s not a standalone moment; the interaction is part of a more extensive relationship.

Moreover, some organizations are moving to more proactive experiences. In many ways, anticipating what a customer will do saves time.

Unfortunately, other companies are taking a different and less customer-centric tack. For example, self-service at a McDonald’s kiosk often takes a lot more time for customers. Plus, you lose human interaction.
Instead of providing a better experience, it’s worse and less personal. So, sure, the workers can be more productive by not having to take orders, but at the same time, it is because now they are taking up the customer’s time.

Time Wasted

Pine says the worst thing you can do is waste customers’ time. If you waste your customers’ time by getting them to do something, Pine says the amount they’re willing to pay you goes down. By contrast, you can charge a premium if you provide time well spent or saved.

So, you don’t want to waste their time, but companies always do it. Pine’s favorite example is going to the doctor’s office, hospital, or emergency room in the US, and the first thing they have you do is fill out a form. Most patients are like, “Really? Right now, with the forms?”

Time Well Invested

Getting beyond the time well saved and spent is the highest level of time progression. This level is time well invested, which describes how customers may have to invest some of their precious time, but the experience you provide pays them dividends now and in the future. Pine says these experiences are not ordinary; they are transformative.

This progression of time is an overlay in the progression of economic value. So, time well invested corresponds to transformations. These experiences are a distinct economic offering where you use those experiences as raw material to guide people to change.

Pine wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review called “The New You Business,” along with Dave Norton, Jim Gorman, and Lance Betancourt. It describes how to use experiences to run an experience that makes people healthy, wealthy, or wise. Pine says these experiences go beyond thinking about themselves as a service.

These organizations should ensure the transformation takes hold and that it lasts through time. Getting customers comfortable with these changes is essential to the transformation process.

Getting SMART About Time

Pine and Norton authored another article for HBR called, “Are Your Digital Platforms Wasting Your Customer’s Time?” Pine says they bring up a point about going from SMART products to genius platforms. Smart products like thermostats or smartwatches can sense and respond to their surroundings. However, Pine and Norton wonder about the power of a platform that understands the entire ecosystem that could do more than sense and respond. Could it anticipate what customers want to be done next?

This functionality could multiply the jobs that SMART technology could do for people. Pine jokes that it could be like getting superpowers.

For example, the generative AI I talk about uses large language models (LMS), scooping up all its information from the internet.

But if you, what if you train it on a personal language model? What if it could intake all my interactions with companies and other people and then use that to customize it? The generative AI could be my butler for everything that I want to be done. My representative in the virtual world if you will.

However, there are greater possibilities for enhancing time progression. It wouldn’t waste my time because it handles things that don’t need my time. Also, it would save time by taking care of the stuff that usually would require my time. Additionally, it provides time well spent by knowing what I want from Amazon or my music pod at a given moment. It could play music based on who is in the room. Is it me and my wife, or are the grandkids over? Same with TV. That’s what Pine would like to see Smart Things progress.

So, What Should You Do with This?

Pine recognizes that this genius interaction is far off for now. Practically speaking, he thinks organizations should analyze the time their customers spend with them. They should do ethnographic research and consumer insights to determine their time with you. In addition, determine how they value that time on this progression from time wasted, time well saved, time well spent, and time well invested. Moreover, he says that as you move up that progression, you can create much more economic value, yielding significant value for your business.

Pine invites anyone to connect with him on LinkedIn or visit his company’s website at Strategic Horizons. You can find his certification class and frontline video training program there. If you visit Discover and Read, you will find a blog called Thoughts, including one on the genius platform he envisions for the future, that can be helpful, too.

If you have a business problem that you would like some help with, contact me on LinkedIn or submit your pickle here. We would be glad to hear from you and help you with your challenges.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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